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ISSUE169

FEBRUARY21

MAXÏMO PARK KATE FOX REALI-T FELT NOWT PICASSO BABY

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RELIABLYINFORMED


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PREVIEWS 4 | FEBRUARY PREVIEWS

ISSUE169

FEBRUARY21

FREE

RELIABLYINFORMED

Featuring new releases from Faithful Johannes, Kylver, Girl From Winter Jargon, A Festival A Parade, Ten Eighty Trees, John Michie Collective and Infinite Arcade; plus livestreamed gigs courtesy of Darlington’s Tracks collective; a series of performances from North East musicians beamed direct to your screen from Gosforth Civic Theatre; interactive art projects courtesy of ARC Stockton; collaborative zine making from Cobalt Studios; livestreamed performance at Dance City and Newcastle University stream some insightful virtual lectures; plus there’s new work from under-represented voices via Alphabetti’s online programming; a music-themed art exhibition from Workplace gallery online; Middlesbrough’s Pineapple Black gallery goes virtual, along with loads more!

INTERVIEWS 15 | REALI-T 16 | NORTHERN STAGE 22 | MAXÏMO PARK

The Tyneside art rock band return with a new album this month; Leigh Venus talks to Paul Smith about nostalgia, melancholia and embracing being in the moment

18 | BUTTERJUNK 19 | SIMON TAYLOR

Hello! Welcome to the first edition of 2021. I’m a bit gutted that our first issue of the year is a digital-only one, but hey...whaddya gonna do? It’s alarming how easy it is to get used to the turmoil of modern life right now. As lockdowns continue and our lives are put on pause, we continue to reach for the things that give us solace; nice food and drink, distracting telly, absorbing sounds and elasticated waisted trousers (just me?). Be assured that Spring is on its way, and the hope of longer days and less freezing weather is just around the corner. Hang in there… On that note, and while you wait for the seemingly unceasing rain to end, take a delve into the North East’s inspirational music and culture worlds, and you’re bound to find something to take your mind off the (shit) storm. This month we bring you tales of hip-hop princes and kings, an exciting comedy cooperative, thoughts on activism and amplified queer voices, innovative approaches to creating thought-provoking theatre, artists who overcome personal barriers to create intriguing sights and sounds, and much more besides. Who needs to go outside anyway?

20 | KATE FOX 24 | HOWZAT TV 25 | FELT NOWT 26 | MUST-SEE STORIES: REIMAGINING PRIDE 28 | THE GLOBE NEWCASTLE 30 | UNIVERSITY CHALLENGED 32 | PICASSO BABY 34 | RICK FURY

Editor Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com Website David Saunders narcmagazineonline@gmail.com Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com

Contributors Chris J Allan / Bobby Benjamin / Paul Broadhead / Kristopher Cook / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Laura Doyle / Mollie Field / Mark Grainger / Lee Hammond / James F Hattersley / Jon Horner / Tracy Hyman / Paul Jeffrey / Beverley Knight / Ben Lowes-Smith / Tom McLean / Jay Moussa-Mann / Kate Murphy / Robert Nichols / Michael O’Neill / Ikenna Offor / Johno Ramsey / Paul Ray / Damian Robinson / Elodie A Roy / Steve Spithray / Jamie Taylor / Leigh Venus / Amy Wardley / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Maria Winter / Cameron Wright

Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine NARCmagazineTV

NARC. Magazine, Tel: 07748 907 914 Email: info@narcmedia.com Web: www.narcmagazine.com Published monthly by NARC. Media. Printed by Reach Printing Services, Middlesbrough. Distributed by CSGN 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

REVIEWS 35 | DEMOS

Demo reviews of Dr Moon, The Spacebunker Tapes, PADDY, Panthers and Bobby Latheron & Janine Brown

36 | TRACKS

Our newly expanded singles and EP review section for local artists features coverage of Elephant Memoirs, Komparrison, Jamie Ainslie, Wild Spelks, Pete Beat, MARQ Electronica, Pink Poison, Docksuns, The False Poets, Jen Dixon, Charlotte Grayson and Don Coyote

38 | ALBUMS

Reviews of new albums from slowthai, Karima Walker, Django Django, Virginia Wing, Bodies of Water, Cloud Nothings, Blanck Mass, Mush, The Hold Steady, Pale Waves, Femi & Made Kuti, Francois & The Atlas Mountains, John Carpenter, Mogwai, Andy Champion & Graeme Wilson and more

42 | MIXTAPE

Beccy Owen introduces her Changemaker’s Chorus project, and chooses songs that have fundamentally changed her

Next Issue Out 1st March

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PREVIEWS

Leyla McCalla by Rush Jagoe

MUSIC

BACK ON TRACK

Words: Claire Dupree Always to be relied upon for excellent train-based puns, Darlington music collective Tracks are celebrating the receipt of some Arts Council funding by putting on a series of tasty online events. Kicking off this month, their Back On Track project features several strands which focus on supporting local musicians and providing some much-needed entertainment. Their Noisy Daughters initiative, which aims to shine a light on female artists in the North East, will be

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hosting a series of workshops for womxn in the industry and were so popular they were fully subscribed within a matter of hours. Audiences can get involved with the latest HARK! event though, taking place on Sunday 31st January the online evening of music and poetry has been inspired by the works of writers Langston Hughes and Ted Hughes, and will feature performances from US-based multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla, whose sound is deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun, Haitian and American jazz and folk music and musical storyteller Bird Radio, with a third act TBC, plus a poetry recital from Teesside writer, performer and former BBC Tees DJ Bob Fischer. There’s more musical excitement in the coming

weeks as some of the region’s hottest rappers will deliver a brand new series of cyphers. Rather than a traditional group performance, North Beats will take the form of three socially-distanced filmed performances in locations around the North East, with videos expected on YouTube from early February. Beats will be commissioned from top local underground producers including Freddy & Kv$shnoodle, with six rappers offering up their best lines. Curated by BBC Tees Introducing host Rianne Thompson, it’s guaranteed to be a showcase of some of the region’s most exciting hip-hop talent. Keep an eye on Tracks’ socials for updates and jump on board! www.facebook.com/tracksdarlington


PREVIEWS

OCTOBER HIGHLIGHTS

Image by Andy Lochrie

MUSIC

GIRL FROM WINTER JARGON RELEASES DOUBLE A-SIDE SINGLE

Words: Maria Winter This month County Durham’s talented Girl From Winter Jargon is set to release a limited edition 7” featuring two new songs, Song For The Waves and Matilda. With live performances described as a “one girl loopaganza”, Girl From

Winter Jargon’s atmospheric alternative edge shines through in this release. Thanks to local Darlington label Butterfly Effect Records, whose recent singles club has seen releases from the likes of Jodie Nicholson and Ceiling Demons, an exclusive 7” will enable fans to get their hands on a lovingly made physical edition. Each song was written, performed and recorded by Girl From Winter Jargon and mixed with the assistance of Rob Irish. Song For The Waves is said to be inspired by “social ghosting, disillusionment and the healing power of music”; emulating the immense energy transference made possible by various waves, the track includes intricate musicality from

squealing guitars to theatrical vocals. Matilda on the other hand, is a rhythmic and harmonious ballad about “loyalty, love and advocacy”, loosely inspired by characters in the Roald Dahl novel. With proto-grunge and neoclassical influences, Girl From Winter Jargon’s work not only includes traditional instruments but also eclectic sounds of dolphin vocals and pot smashing – it’s safe to say we can expect something quite unique. Girl From Winter Jargon releases Song For The Waves/Matilda via Butterfly Effect Records on 21st February www.girlfromwinterjargon.com

gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk | @GoCivTheatre

GCT LIVE Live Music from Gosforth Civic Theatre delivered to the comfort of your own home Friday 29 January, 7pm

CORTNEY DIXON Friday 12 February, 7pm

ME LOST ME

Friday 26 February, 7pm

MANY MOONS

Friday 5 March, 7pm

LIZZIE ESAU

Watch live, for free, on Gosforth Civic Theatre's YouTube Channel

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PREVIEWS

Cortney Dixon

MUSIC

GOSFORTH CIVIC THEATRE LIVESTREAMS

Words: Ali Welford Is anybody else missing gigs far more than they did during the first lockdown? Personally, I blame that late summer/early autumn mirage – a period where things, while by no means rosy, did appear to be moving in the right direction – before our calendars were cruelly and abruptly wiped once more of anything remotely classifiable as ‘fun.’ Livestreams, then, remain the order of the day for the foreseeable future; and one venue doing its bit to bring us our culture fix is Gosforth Civic Theatre. From Friday 29th January the community space will host a series of virtual Friday night shows from some of the region’s finest emerging names, kicking off with a set from hotly-tipped South Shields singersongwriter Cortney Dixon. She’s followed on Friday 12th February by Me Lost Me – one of

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many local artists denied a proper album launch for last year’s stunning second effort, The Good Noise. Many Moons – the outfit led by Bangor-born musician Patrick Kelly – are next up on Friday 26th February, while London-cum-Newcastle performer Lizzie Esau takes centre stage on Friday 5th March with her own full band outing. Each virtual event begins at 7pm and can be streamed for free over on the Gosforth Civic Theatre YouTube channel, with no need for tickets. Spice-up those sofa-bound evenings and set yourself a reminder! www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk

STAGE

WHAT SONGS MAY DO @ DANCE CITY ONLINE

Words: Laura Doyle Have you ever been minding your own business, in a shop or perhaps in a taxi with the radio on, and heard a song that’s taken you back? That’s the vibe of award-winning choreographer Mathieu Geffré’s latest

production, What Songs May Do. Inspiration strikes in unusually specific places, which is maybe why this performance’s setting features a 1970s jazz festival, Nina Simone and the inclusive story of two men trying to amend their fractured relationship. It’s quite refreshing to see this take of an imperfect LGBTQ+ love story: these relationships are after all the same as any heteronormative relationship, yet they’re often deified to the point of unrealism in media. Perhaps this is part of Rendez-Vous Dance’s mission to tell LGBTQ+ stories from the past and present, as they help us uncover the tales from under-represented communities which have been their backbone for decades. And, while 2021 may not feel as different to last year as we all wanted it to just yet, it comes with a key difference – we’re getting used to these new parameters. Postponed since last May, Dance City finally hosts the now-online premiere of this ground-breaking performance on Saturday 13th February to be enjoyed in full. Rendez-Vous Dance present What Songs May Do via Dance City online on Saturday 13th February www.rendez-vousdance.com


PREVIEWS

Matt Hoss

EVENTS

INSIGHTS VIRTUAL LECTURES FROM NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Words: Claire Dupree While we remain in some form of lockdown or other, it may be tempting to learn a new skill or educate ourselves by hearing from diverse voices (in between home-schooling/working and despairing at the state of the world, of course). Newcastle University’s INSIGHTS series of lectures can always be relied upon to tackle topical subjects in an accessible and insightful manner, and this year’s virtual lectures are no different. Kicking off on Tuesday 9th February with a highly relevant discussion from Dr Sophia Gaston, director of British Foreign Policy Group, which ponders whether President Biden’s term as US president will be a clean slate, a correction to the norm or ‘more of the same’. Continuing every Tuesday and Thursday until 20th May (with a brief gap in April), further lectures will focus on a range of topics including LGBTQ+ literature (Is The Gay Novel Dead, with journalist and author Paul Burston on Thursday 11th February); how the pandemic will change capitalism (with economist and author Grace Blakeley on Thursday 18th

February); the crucial roles of the arts and humanities in the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ (Thursday 25th February); writer and director Marc Jobst ponders the job of directing character-led action films (Thursday 11th March); director of Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) Iman Atta OBE discusses the increasing problem of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime (Thursday 18th March); Prof. Helen Carr looks at the unsettled history of Britain and Europe (Tuesday 23rd March); author and activist Zion Lights explains why geographers need to stand up for the planet (Tuesday 27th April); writer and journalist Patrice Lawrence gives a speedy A-Z run-down of being a Black British children’s writer in a publishing industry still working on diversity (Tuesday 11th May); and to end the series, Prof. Joan Beal outlines the history of accent prejudice in Britain and discusses why it’s still a problem in the 21st Century. All lectures are free to attend and start at 5.30pm via the Newcastle University website. www.ncl.ac.uk/events/public-lectures

COMEDY

MATT HOSS & FRIENDS ONLINE COMEDY SHOW Words: Claire Dupree Coming up with original comedy ideas during a worldwide pandemic can’t be an easy thing to

do, but Darlington-born comedian Matt Hoss has managed to entertain himself and a host of fans thanks to his congenial manner and a plethora of comedy pals. Over the last ten months he’s livestreamed gameplay on Twitch via his @MattHossComedy page and set up the Castival podcast, in which he’s joined by special guests – including the likes of Dane Baptiste, Justin Moorhouse and Lauren Pattison – to pitch their dream music festival. His debut hour-long show, which got a highly-acclaimed airing on Zoom back in December, is an emotionally honest and hilarious show which tackles the knotty subjects of romance, awkward sex and falling in love. He’s now turning his hand to monthly online comedy shows, in a bid to highlight the plight of the comedy scene as well as keep his fans entertained, and God knows we could all do with a laugh at the moment. The handpicked guests will perform a blend of old and new material, with the show held together by Matt as the masterful MC. Coming up on Saturday 13th February is a star-studded show filled with recognisable funny figures, including Laura Lexx, Mark Simmons, Athena Kugblenu and Joby Mageean. Tickets are a mere fiver, and the show takes place on Zoom. Matt Hoss & Friends takes place via Zoom on Saturday 13th February www.matthosscomedy.com

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PREVIEWS

PBVArts

ART & LIT

PINEAPPLE BLACK LAUNCHES PBVARTS

Words: Claire Dupree The world of online art exhibitions are by no means a new thing, but innovation in the field of virtual spaces is coming on leaps and bounds, and it’s vital for arts-based businesses to adapt. Teesside-based virtual gallery Dovetail Joints have worked alongside Middlesbrough art space Pineapple Black to launch a new extension to their versatile art space. PBVArts will be a virtual rendition of their gallery space which viewers and interact with their programme of work. They’ll be launching the space on Friday 5th February with the first UK exhibition in almost a decade from photographer and filmmaker Mitchel Proctor. His collection, entitled planes, is an in-depth look into the cohabitation of humans and their environment, drawing on Proctor’s time spent in the US. “It’s an exciting chapter for Pineapple Black and for us as curators. Over the last year we’ve not been able to do what we love doing.” Says Stephen Irving, Pineapple Black’s co-director. “This new venture is great because it means we can get back to curating shows and working

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with artists again. It allows us to explore new and fantastical ideas that would not be possible in reality. And when we can get back to hosting physical exhibitions – this will serve as an excellent extension of our programme.” As Dovetail Joints’ director Connor Clements puts it: “The creative possibilities available in the virtual medium far exceed what could ever exist IRL. It really extends the limits of what a gallery can be,” and for businesses like Pineapple Black to embrace such routes to their audience will ensure they will not just survive, but thrive. planes by Mitchel Proctor opens on Friday 5th February via PBVArts www.facebook.com/pineappleblackarts

MUSIC

THE JOHN MICHIE COLLECTIVE RELEASE NEW ALBUM, HIGH VIBRATIONS

Words: Michael O’Neill If not for the press release I have to hand, I’d be forgiven for assuming that John Michie was an otherworldly being who fell to Earth, absorbed

the last 60 years of underground culture, and then spewed out this gloriously bizarre, kaleidoscopic carnival of sound. Indeed, High Vibrations is a universe unto itself. The record, in his own words, explores “personality, truth, beauty, inspiration and euphoria in the form of guitar-based psychedelia”; it’s a very safe conceit, and one that undersells the sheer maverick force of the LP, which revels in being relentlessly unpredictable and multi-faceted, cunningly avoiding the classic pitfall of sounding like yet another third-rate S.F Sorrow. Instead, High Vibrations is an enthralling and head-spinning exercise in avant-garde acid-soaked splendour. More often than not, the record sounds like a pummelling descent through a tilted hall of mirrors, with a plentiful supply of galvanising left turns allowing the LP to remain enthralling and relentlessly entertaining. Michie wisely avoids letting the sheer audial cacophony overwhelm the quality of his songwriting, making for one hell of a refreshing experience. It’s an utter delight, and a bold new frontier for psychedelia. The John Michie Collective releases High Vibrations on 12th February www.thejohnmichiecollective.com


PREVIEWS

L-R: Emma Barnett, Nikesh Shuklar

EVENTS

DARLINGTON HIPPODROME LIVESTREAMS

Words: Mollie Field Darlington’s treasured Hippodrome, legendary home of the arts since 1907, reminds us this month that although we are all still tucked up at home, the show must go on. “We are offstage, but not offline”, their website proclaims. Having kicked off a series of A Night In With… in January, the livestreamed talks and performances come from an eclectic variety of

authors, activists and comedians. On Wednesday 3rd, A Night In With Nikesh Shukla is imperative viewing. Expect a lively exploration of racism and feminism, parenting and the concept of home. In celebration of Nikesh’s latest must-read Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home, expect a provocative, humble and honest evening from this multitalented author and leading voice on diversity in the arts. The ever sophisticated and remarkably witty Raven Smith brings some laughter to our living rooms on Wednesday 17th. Dubbed as ‘Instagram’s funniest man’, Raven’s thoroughly modern social commentary is a joy. If his Sunday Times best seller Trivial Pursuits is anything to go by, we are in for a treat!

On Thursday 18th, join Nicky Campbell, ITV’s treasured TV personality, in an intimate exploration of his own journey through loss and abandonment. In the honouring of his courageous memoir One of the Family, expect some raw storytelling. The month ends with an event for fans of fantasy fiction, as New York Times Bestseller Sarah J. Maas is in conversation with Katherine Webber on Sunday 20th February; getting down to the nitty gritty of her fiercely anticipated sequel A Court of Silver Flames. More events are promised throughout the spring, so keep an eye on the venue’s website. www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk

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PREVIEWS

Faithful Johannes by Leslie-Ann Spence

MUSIC

FAITHFUL JOHANNES RELEASES NEW EP, ...IS HOPEFUL

Words: Ben Lowes-Smith After a terrific debut record in 2018’s Thrills and Bills and a string of Christmas singles, Faithful Johannes returns in February with four-track EP ...Is Hopeful. Johannes says that this is his “most personal collection of songs to date”; tapping into the mundane detail of childhood to scintillating poetic effect – a tapestry of small poetic detail making a record that is packed with pathos. Whether he’s recognising his dad’s face in his own during a Skype call, ruing a misspent youth being perfectly behaved and succumbing to internalised guilt, or watching dead skin settle on an unplayed instrument, Johannes’ eye for detail and jet black sense of humour make ...Is Hopeful an incredibly compelling listen. Johannes’ has self-deprecatingly referred to his music as ‘barely rap’, but the new EP displays his knack for rhythm and flow impeccably; these songs

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wouldn’t sound out of place on an Anticon Compilation. The EP is bolstered by a spooky remix courtesy of Me Lost Me and features artwork from Middlesbrough’s one man music factory Oli Heffernan. Faithful Johannes...Is Hopeful is released digitally and on a very limited run of transparent 8” vinyl via Win Big Records on 5th February www.faithfuljohannes.bandcamp.com

MUSIC

INFINITE ARCADE RELEASE DEBUT SINGLES

Words: Ali Welford As artists continue adjusting to the repressive whims of a global pandemic, 2021 seems set to offer a fresh cluster of projects born from perpetual cycles of isolation. This would certainly appear to be true of Infinite Arcade, an anonymous new guise from a musician who’s COVID year has evidently been spent in pursuit of fresh creative pastures.

Debuting on Friday 26th February alongside accompanying videos, curtain raising tracks I Will Make You Better and Sparrow share a strikingly minimal tone, yet equally hint at the disparate strands underpinning their maker’s imagination. Sensual and multifaceted, the former could score the most intimate of on-screen dramas, while the latter’s taut, foreboding beats would perhaps prove better suited to an intense psychological thriller. Stylish and mellow in tone, each piece represents a rich, wholehearted embrace of bedroom electronics; awash with warm, fluid textures and atmospherics dictated via bass synth swells and evocative found sounds as opposed to overbearing beats or melodic motifs. With a pair of contemporaneous yet contrasting EPs set to follow come Springtime (and… who knows… maybe even a couple of live shows?), these twin initiations pitch Infinite Arcade as an artful and intriguing addition to the North East’s thriving electronic community – one whose post-pandemic face already feels markedly different to that which entered. Infinite Arcade releases I Will Make You Better/ Sparrow on 26th February www.facebook.com/infinitearcade


PREVIEWS

Kylver: The Plague Tapes recordings by Philip Gray

ART & LIT

COBALT STUDIOS LAUNCH THE ZINE SOCIETY FOR CHALLENGING TIMES

Words: Caitlin Disken Whilst 2021 may not have begun the way we’d all hoped, Ouseburn’s Cobalt Studio and its sister venue Ernest have two new projects bound to wipe away those winter lockdown blues. With their staff working tirelessly over the new year, within a few weeks we’ll see the projects come to fruition: Cobalt Studio’s The Zine Society For Challenging Times workshops commence on Thursday 4th February, and new deli shop Ernie opens at the end of January. Both projects show a commitment to creating a sense of community. The Zine Society For Challenging Times is open to anyone across the UK, with each participant submitting work to produce a communal zine. Only a way of making black marks is needed, as those taking part will receive all other materials in the post. The internet isn’t necessary, making the project accessible to all, yet Cobalt will be hosting demonstrations on Zoom workshops. Each workshop will be centred around a different lockdown theme: ‘Joy’ on Thursday 4th, ‘Ritual’ on Thursday 11th, ‘View’ on Thursday 18th and ‘After’ on Thursday 25th February. Meanwhile, over at sister venue Ernest, their deli shop Ernie will be opening round the back of the venue. Initially a lockdown survival project, it has evolved into a venture that seeks to work directly with producers, emphasising the local. Out of 1196 products, 313 are super-local, which

means they are from within 20 miles of the venue. Ethical produce is paramount at Ernie, and they are working directly with 91 producers to ensure high-quality produce which is kind to the planet. Visit their social media for info on how to book tickets for The Zine Society For Challenging Times. www.facebook.com/cobaltstudioscic www.ernieouseburn.com

MUSIC

KYLVER RELEASE THE PLAGUE TAPES

Words: Beverley Knight During a slightly sweeter-spot of our lockdown, under the kind summer sun of August 2020, instrumental progressive rock/metal four-piece Kylver accomplished the mysterious phenomenon of actually being able to enjoy a few rehearsals together. Following this, the recording of their new project, The Plague Tapes, was possible at their treasured and favourite Ouseburn utopia, The Cluny. The initial idea was to produce their third record, but with the trials and tribulations that the pandemic caused, the formation of Plan B arrived. Seven tracks are presented as a live performance, and although there is no audience in tow, the outfit believes this is the next best thing to an authentic, all-encompassing Kylver show. Aptly named The Plague Tapes, this collection offers versions of the band’s two previously released studio albums, The Mountain Ghost and The Island, which showcases their colossal vibe and mighty force through tracks such as the urgent and thrilling The Dance Of The Mountain Ghost and The Great Storm of

1703. Also included are two unreleased tracks, Allghoi and a building and technically appealing The Frozen Sands. Kylver brings a slice of much-wanted drama, thrash and sonic theatricality to 2021. Kylver release The Plague Tapes on 5th February www.kylver.com

FILM

VALENTINE’S EVE 2

Words: Claire Dupree Having tasted success last year with his short horror film Valentine’s Eve, local film producer Dean Midas is reprising his popular character for a sequel this month. Based on the fictional character of Eve Valentine, a serial killer who terrorized Durham in the 1950s, Dean’s short films centre around Eve’s ghostly return on 13th February to wreak havoc at the West Manor hotel. “In the first film, a local police training unit stop at West Manor to raise money for a local charity,” Dean explains, “they know about the legend, but the last thing they expect is for Eve to turn up.” The sequel will be filmed once again at The Manor House Hotel in West Auckland, and Eve will be played by North East singer and X Factor finalist Sam Lavery, whose ‘day of the dead’ style as the ruthless killer has won over fans. The film’s DIY style, shot on a mobile phone on zero budget, has seen it win awards and media coverage, so Dean’s hopeful the sequel will find just as many fans. Valentine’s Eve 2 will be released via YouTube and social media on Saturday 13th February at 7pm www.dollyveve.co.uk

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PREVIEWS

Ten Eighty Trees

MUSIC

TEN EIGHTY TREES RELEASE NEW SINGLE, BORN FREE

Words: Laura Doyle Songwriting is a tricky job, and I for one do not envy it at all. Writing something catchy with enough meaning to be relatable and philosophical but without disappearing up one’s backside is a delicate balance. North East rockers Ten Eighty Trees have accepted this challenge for their new single, Born Free. No, it isn’t an homage to that 1960s film about a partially domesticated lion cub. Instead, it’s a brutally honest take on personal ambitions versus social expectations. Rich guitar riffs and intricate basslines reiterate this band as one of the most exciting ensembles to come out of the region in recent years. And although the lyrics “I’m begging for your uterus walls” are a brave choice for a ‘wish I’d never been born’ synonym, their intent is loud and clear. Because let’s be real for a second: us lot born and raised in the North East have drawn a short straw; we’re underfunded, undervalued and under-represented, so it’s no surprise really that this anthem for the underestimated comes out of our region.

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Ten Eighty Trees have the opportunity here to write a bit of their own destiny – maybe we should all take a leaf out of their book and do the same. Ten Eighty Trees release Born Free on 5th February www.teneightytrees.bandcamp.com

STAGE

LISTEN UP @ ALPHABETTI THEATRE ONLINE

Words: Claire Dupree There’s no doubt that the events of the last year have given many people pause for thought in the way they run their businesses, and Newcastle’s independent theatre Alphabetti are no different. They’ve announced this month that they plan to do away with the ‘artistic revolving door’ programming model in order to focus on building stronger, more lasting relationships with artists. Four-week blocks will focus on one programmed production, with greater accessibility for those needing captioned or audio described performances, and a relaxed Saturday matinee. They also confirm that all their shows will be ‘pay as you feel’, further

enabling a wide audience to access their programming. News of what’s to come will be imminent, but for now they’re showcasing the results of their Listen Up project, with nine short plays written by under-represented writers in the North East kicking off from late January and available indefinitely on their website. Already on the site is an exciting audio thriller There’s Nothing To Worry About, by Julie Burrow, shortly to be joined from Monday 1st February by Elijah Young’s Contactless, a heartfelt comedy drama about growing old and dealing with loss; James Piercy presents Transmission, his queer love-loss story with a twist on Monday 8th; Laundry is a comedy drama audio play by Assad Zaman (Monday 15th); and emerging writer Beth Nolan debuts her heart wrenching drama Jigsaw (Monday 22nd). Kicking off on Monday 1st March is Richard Boggie’s play about voices, Hearing Voices; Hannah Sowerby’s character Janet takes herself off on an unusual bus journey in Mystery Tour (Monday 8th); Julie Tsang’s short audio play is about loss, honour and childhood friendships (Monday 15th); and to round off the season on Monday 22nd March, Jaz Craddock-Jones’ Roots Food sees a terminally ill Windrush migrant teach her British-born daughter some precious Jamaican recipes, with emotional results. www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk


PREVIEWS

Matt Stokes. Prelude to Cantata Profana: Paroxysm’s rehearsal room, Kassel, 2010. Light-jet Print, Diasec Mounted. 171.4 x 120 cm. Edition 1 of 5 plus 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Workplace

ART & LIT

COME TOGETHER @ WORKPLACE GALLERY ONLINE

Words: Claire Dupree Gateshead art gallery Workplace is set to host an online exhibition from Thursday 18th February in support of the Music Venues Trust. Come Together will see work by eleven artists displayed online, with part of the proceeds from the sale of works donated to the music charity. Each of the artists comes to the exhibition with an innate connection to music and the industry. Working in a variety of media and with different approaches to their practices, artists taking part include Laura Lancaster, whose found imagery paintings are collected from anonymous analogue photographs and film; Joel Kyack, whose work takes a dysfunctional and chaotic social context; painter, performer and sculptor Susie Green; animator and painter Rhys Coren; James Bartolacci, whose compositions draw from personal experiences of queer nightlife in New York and other cities; Matt Stokes’ often context specific work stems from inquiry into musical subcultures; photographer, designer and filmmaker Hassan Hajjaj; artistic duo Sophie Hastings and Hannah Quinlain, whose work centres around film, drawing, installation and performance; Hardeep Pandhal, whose cartoonish work unpicks identity and empire; moving image maker, writer and sound artist David Steans; and Glasgow-based visual and sound artist Sue Tompkins. Workplace as a gallery is no stranger to collaboration and showing solidarity across art forms; they previously ran an alternative exhibition space from 2009-2012 in iconic Newcastle record store Alt Vinyl, and they’ve hosted events at TUSK alternative music festival as well as occasional gigs and events in

the gallery space. Come Together further shows what it is the North East’s creative communities need to do in order to succeed in this most challenging of years. Come Together is at Workplace Online from Thursday 18th February www.workplace.art

MUSIC

A FESTIVAL, A PARADE RELEASE EXPANDED COMPANY EP

Words: Maria Winter Newcastle alt. rock band A Festival, A Parade will release an expanded edition of their Company EP featuring new tracks Area Man and Running Man, compiled on a limited edition blue and white marble 12”. Company was previously released in July last year as a digital-only EP. A culmination of both alternative punk rock sounds and more chilled out vibes consolidate the release, and the two additional tracks more than live up to the EP’s well-regarded reputation. Area Man is about “feeling claustrophobic and kind of swallowed up by your place of work”, the notion of living a double life is explored intricately through the track’s lyrical content and musicality; apparent in moments of pause, contrasting with heavier breakdowns. Running Man, meanwhile, expresses the harmonious relationship between guitar and vocals through interesting tonal qualities. Starting with a prominent drum rhythm which continues throughout, the track is reminiscent of bands like Interpol and The Twilight Sad, who remain firm influences. A Festival, A Parade release the Company EP 12” on 26th February www.afestivalaparade.co.uk

ART & LIT

THE PEOPLE’S PALACE OF POSSIBILITY @ ARC

Words: Laura Doyle In the national effort to provide arts and culture entertainment in a time of seemingly endless lockdowns and restrictions, one issue of accessibility has been all but entirely overlooked: internet provision. Not everyone has Wi-Fi, and more still have an unstable connection, effectively excluding many from participating in anything our beloved venues and organisations put on. ARC Stockton’s collaboration with interactive arts company The Bare Project might go a little way to remedy that, with their project The People’s Palace of Possibility. Presented as an opportunity to delve deep into the concepts of change and democracy, and to dream of alternatives to our status quo, participants will be privy to an immersive, explorative experience akin to mystery boxes and escape rooms, encompassing both theatre and storytelling as they’re asked to radically reimagine the world. The best part? There’s no internet connection required, with challenges delivered to your door, and telephone alternatives for any bits that do suggest digital access. If you’ve found yourself twiddling your thumbs over this latest lockdown and are blessed with a TS postcode, or if you’re reading this on our site and have a relative or pal running up the walls without social media to scroll through, this could be the ideal opportunity to get your cogs turning and our society moving. The People’s Palace of Possibility begins on Friday 19th February and will run for four weeks www.arconline.co.uk

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PREVIEWS

Saturday 13 February 2021, 7.30pm

A digital premiere

RENDEZ-VOUS DANCE

VISUAL IDENTITY

dancecity.co.uk / 0191 261 0505

DIGITAL DESIGN

PRINT DESIGN

UNIFIED BY DESIGN. design.el-roboto.co.uk 14


INTERVIEWS MUSIC

REALI-T

Image by Jay Dawson

ALL I DID WAS ASK MYSELF HOW I COULD BE DIFFERENT – THAT’S ALL I’VE EVER WANTED TO BE

ALI WELFORD TALKS TO TOMILOLA AYILARA ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM, FILLED WITH EXUBERANT BARS AND HONEST PERSPECTIVES Reali-T’s second album Commercial Break begins in much the same fashion as its predecessor, with a scene setting Intro segueing into statement opener The Black Guy Is Back. A direct follow-up to Black Guy In Your Neighbourhood from 2017’s Stay Tuned, the track offers a fresh account of Hackney-born, Newcastle-based rapper Tomilola Ayilara’s life in a predominantly Caucasian community; offsetting a slew of stark truths with his endearing tongue-in-cheek grin. “I think people tend to take in serious messages when they have a bit of humour to them,” he contends. “Take a comedian like Dave Chappelle – every stand-up he does has an important theme, but because he sprinkles in humour, they’re easier to digest. Living up North can be a culture shock – I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t had people ask things like ‘What are you doing here?’ in the street, or pull down their car windows and shout ‘Pogba.’ But I’m a natural joker – I can’t be serious all the time. And if I was preaching, a lot of people would be like: ‘Woah! We’ve had a serious year, let’s not start 2021 like that as well!’” Accordingly, Commercial Break is another richly entertaining showcase of Reali-T’s credentials; 12 tracks of exuberant bars showcasing an MC as keen to expose his own flaws (Disconnected) as he is to flip tired gangsta cliches (Water Guns In My Car). In our interview, he’s likewise eager to talk-up his peers, and with guest verses from 40, Sutherland and Jamilah among others, there’s little disguising the album’s distinctly North East flavour. “You always need a couple of friends who’re going to be honest with you – to say

things like ‘Nah, that’s rubbish, you’ll embarrass us all!’ This time they told me that a lot of the tracks sounded more commercial than Stay Tuned. The one with Jamilah [Playback] in particular we’d been planning for a while, to go all-out and see if we could get on the radio.” While this goal is reflected in the record’s buoyant tone, for Reali-T himself Commercial Break contains an ulterior connotation: “I took a break!” he acknowledges. “When you’re in it, you don’t know... It’s like when I was younger and the neighbours used their dogs to chase Black and Asian kids down the street, and only when we grew older did we realise: ‘Wait a minute, that’s racism!’ This time, I began to think: ‘Hang on… I was in bed all day, telling my girlfriend I was going to work, not even writing music or getting joy from doing the things I love… that’s depression!’” The temptation, then, is to label Commercial Break a redemptive album – though crucially a sense of perspective is something this qualified pharmacist has never lacked. “All I did was ask myself how I could be different – that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be,” he concludes. “When I go on-stage, I wear a suit. I just want to stand out! I grew up listening to violent rappers like 50 Cent, Tupac and Biggie, but I didn’t live that life. I’m my mum’s favourite rapper, so eventually she’d have heard what I was rapping about and thought ‘Is this the son I’ve raised?’ As soon as my mum pulls the plug, my rap career’s over!” Reali-T releases Commercial Break on 5th February www.soundcloud.com/realrealit

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INTERVIEW

STAGE

Natalie Ibu by Mathieu Ajan

NORTHERN STAGE CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS WITH NORTHERN STAGE’S NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ABOUT HER VISION FOR THEIR SPRING SEASON, THE IMPORTANCE OF ARTIST DEVELOPMENT AND RECONNECTING WITH AUDIENCES “I’ve known I wanted to be an artistic director since I was 17 because it spoke to my desire to be a connector and broker of people, of ideas, of conversations.” Natalie Ibu, the new Artistic Director and Joint Chief Exec at Newcastle’s Northern Stage, joined the company in November. For some, launching an entire Spring season mere weeks into the role during the height of a pandemic, and while the theatre industry desperately attempts to keep its head above water, might seem a daunting task, but Natalie’s vision for the company and her passion and optimism is infectious (in the best way). “For me, the role of Artistic Director is about being of service to artists, audiences and a place. Being useful is the thing that gets me up in the morning so the scale and potential reach of an organisation like Northern Stage has me jumping out of bed.” Previously the Artistic Director of tiata fahodzi, the only Black-led theatre company in the UK with a sole focus on new work, she’s a passionate advocate for artist development. Natalie’s desire to tell stories, strengthen artist development and connect with communities has clearly been the driving force behind Northern Stage’s new programme, boldly titled THIS IS US. At a time when just surviving is tough enough, Northern Stage admirably strengthen their commitment to nurturing new talent with their Spring season. “Joining the organisation and the region in a pandemic has intensified my desire to stop, reflect and think about what talent development looks like in a post-pandemic world. As part of THIS IS US, we’re holding space for some active deep

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listening and thinking with our artist community.” Part of this process includes joining the nationwide conversation about theatre and the arts, Devoted & Disgruntled (alongside Alphabetti, ARC Stockton, Live Theatre and Theatre Royal), on Thursday 25th February, where North East artists, companies, venues, funders and agents can ask about the future of talent development and what artists need to ensure their careers recover. Following on from this, Natalie will host So Good To Zoom You, a series of interviews with a different artist every day in March to try to make up for the ways 2020 has kept people apart. “There will also be round tables and opportunities to re-connect with each other and the building. I’m an advocate for artist development, yes, but I’m mostly a champion of supporting artists with what they need to thrive and we can’t do that without asking the question. So let’s ask the question first.” The theatre’s Spring season is undoubtedly a response to the world we live in. “This season is an experiment – demanded by the moment.” Natalie says. “It’s not what I thought I’d be doing so quickly and not what I thought would be my first season, but it does share my unwavering commitment to radical generosity, to meeting audiences wherever they are, to Northern Stage being a place that collaborates with artists and with place and with the personal.” THIS IS US takes the form of three strands: CAN WE COME IN? meets audiences in their homes, with micro-stories and digital plays streamed on demand (with many of them free to access) and kicking off with Scroll, an antidote to ‘doom-scrolling’, the series of


INTERVIEW

T-B, L-R: Duckie by Manuel Vason, This Grief Thing by Fevered Sleep, Manchester 2019. Still by Adam Lewis, Silent Disco in the Sky by Daniel York Loh, The Guitar, Nighttime Visions by Sampira Says

I THINK THERE CAN BE NO GOING BACK – WE CAN’T WITHDRAW WHEN THINGS ARE ‘BACK TO NORMAL’, WE MUST BUILD FROM HERE digital story interventions are intended to replace those moments of mindless scrolling (Wednesday 27th January-Wednesday 10th February); six writers have been commissioned to write letters of hope in Dear Tomorrow – Hope From Home, with monologues delivered by actors including Ameet Chana (Eastenders), Ann Akin (I May Destroy You) and Vera Chok (Chimerica) delivering uplifting stories (Monday 22nd-Saturday 27th February); for those missing the pub (that’ll be all of us then), Gareth Farr’s Shandyland: Pint Size is a love letter to the Northern boozer, after the 2020 premiere and tour of Shandyland couldn’t go ahead due to the pandemic, this new short film will wet audience’s whistles and introduce Shandyland’s loveable characters (Friday 12th February); Tyneside-born film and theatre director Richard Beecham presents The Guitar, a bittersweet story about being Jewish and Geordie (Monday 8th February-Friday 25th June); Grief Gatherings is an open invitation to take part in small conversations which address the silence of grief (Tuesday 9th & Tuesday 23rd February); and there’s family-friendly glitz and glamour for half term, as cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat reimagines Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, in Duckie (Tuesday 16th-Saturday 20th February). The second strand kicks off in March, and takes the programme out into the city. “OUT ON THE TOON is about meeting audiences in their new hyper local footprint, using the city as a canvas and playing with scale.” Natalie explains. Expect performance and installation on the city’s streets, from Milk’s High Vis, where members of the LGBTQIA+ community will be invited to anonymously record celebratory declarations of queerness in one part of Newcastle, and have these broadcast via Milk’s loud and

proud hailer on the other side of the city; Street Art Opera blends opera, street art and animation in a double bill of outdoor video projections (Thursday 18th-Friday 19th March); Northern Stage’s exceptional Young Company will meet young people where they are for a series of Walk And Talks and Doorstep Music returns to the streets of Byker, as musicians play live while residents are encouraged to listen, make requests and sing along. The final strand, entitled HOUSEWARMING, will be an emotional one, as Northern Stage welcome audiences and artists back into the theatre once it’s safe to reopen. The first production to tread the boards will be an adaptation of HG Wells’ sci-fi classic The Invisible Man (Monday 26th April-Saturday 8th May). Natalie says of the programme: “I hope it says, to audiences, we’re still here, with and for you – meeting you in different ways and in different places, in different forms and different times. You can rely on us, no matter what.” As we’ve become accustomed to accepting over the last year, nothing is guaranteed and everything is changeable, and Natalie is committed to embracing diverse ways of interacting with audiences and artists. “For me, the pivot to digital and embracing online programming has been essential for connecting with audiences whilst our building is closed, but it is also a vital part of our future as it allows us to reach more and different kinds of people beyond the boundaries of geography. What great potential. I think there can be no going back – we can’t withdraw when things are ‘back to normal’, we must build from here.” www.northernstage.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

BUTTERJUNK DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO NEWCASTLE’S DREAMGAZE TRIO ABOUT THEIR DEBUT EP In an age where most of us, certainly me, suffer from some form of instant gratification syndrome I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for an artist to have to wait before they can release their next artistic statement; particularly if that art speaks to the moment it was conceived. Clearly I’m not as zen as Newcastle’s dreamgaze trio Butterjunk… “These songs have been ready for a little while, I think something close to eighteen months of waiting, then perfecting, and then waiting to record, and then releasing,” laughs core Butterjunk songwriter Ben Ayres, “but to be honest, rather than getting focused on the delay I’m just happy that they’re ready now. I’m even happier that the reaction to the music has been really positive. You don’t mind waiting if people enjoy the music.” Their debut EP, Normalised, is released this month and has already garnered comparisons to the likes of art rock/shoegaze greats like Diiv and Slowdive, but there’s much more at play here; venture deeper into Normalised and you can hear the types of strong melody lines and deep grooves traditionally associated with indie and rock genres. “I think we have a unique sound but it was certainly influenced by the indie gigs we went to when we were 15 and 16.” Ben admits.

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NORMALISED SOUNDS LIKE A BAND INTENT ON CAPTURING THE MOOD OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS; OPTIMISTIC ONE MOMENT, ANXIOUS THE NEXT

However they arrived at it, Normalised sounds like a band intent on capturing the mood of the past twelve months – their music reflecting the swings of emotion from the quiet reflection of Little Alien to gentle optimism on Melter – optimistic one moment, anxious the next. “It’s really strange because the music was written pre-Covid and pre-lockdown, so at first I was worried that the message and the sound was going to be dated or behind public consciousness,” continues Ben, “yet somehow the times today seem more in-line with the music than when they were first written. In some ways the EP could have been written about current times.” Remaining optimistic about his band and his art, the immediate intent for Butterjunk is to carry on full steam ahead, following up the EP with additional artistic works (“we’d like to get some videos out soon to support the EP and then to follow with new music as quickly as we can”) and then to get into the live setting as soon as possible. “We’d have liked to have played some live shows to launch the EP but they’ll come, and when they do we’ll really try to make some noise around the EP and let people hear the songs live, which is really where they work best, when we’re all playing together.” After that, well, there’s new music already in conception. “There’s maybe four or five things ready to go, which I’ll take to the boys and we can work through as soon as we can.” And who knows, it may be that when the next Butterjunk material arrives, they’ll inadvertently capture the sound of that period as well. Watch out for Butterjunk – the band who are 18 months ahead of us all. Normalised by Butterjunk is out now www.facebook.com/butterjunkmusic


INTERVIEW

SIMON TAYLOR

BEVERLEY KNIGHT DISCOVERS THE HEARTBREAK AND HEALING WHICH LED TO THE NEWCASTLE SONGWRITER’S NEW EP

MUSIC

Image by Jon Forster As a teenager advancing to a young man, Simon Taylor dabbled in poetry and played the guitar a little. However, it was not until the age of 24, following challenging mental health problems, that musical thought started to arrive with ease, along with a wish to take the subject more seriously. “Writing helps me to articulate things that I might suppress both within myself and to others in real life.” He says of his craft. Over twenty years, Simon has retained the essence of his style yet inevitably added elements along the way. “From the start, I had a desire to mix Latin and Anglo-Saxon influences and create my sound. This remains the same, but I have also started to write more chorus-heavy rock and pop songs recently.” He is affected by his immediate environment in terms of devising, allowing his surroundings to lead his art. “I have written songs based on my travels that convey the feel of where I was at the time – songs like Ibiza Nights on the EP. These ‘travel’ songs can be more laid-back than songs I’ve written in the more intense, urban environment of Newcastle.” New EP Under The Volcano features material from a peaceful period, which can be heard in the lyrics of opening track Ibiza Nights: “Hope, hope, made it back alone”, although the song has a more melancholic beginning, written as a necessary method to stay connected to music after a desperate situation. “I had a breakdown in 2018 and it ended up changing my life. I wasn’t fit enough to continue with my band, but I still had many songs that I wanted to record. I developed a home recording set-up and decided to record the songs I had written during my solo travels before I became unwell. The inspiration for it was to simply get back to recording my

THE INSPIRATION FOR IT WAS TO SIMPLY GET BACK TO RECORDING MY SONGS AGAIN AFTER A FRUSTRATING PERIOD WHEN I HAD BEEN UNABLE TO songs again after a frustrating period when I had been unable to.” The resulting EP features four low-key, calming songs, warmed with a Spanish flavour. Formentera Dream is lighter in mood as he finds peace on the isle, and Bolero Loco’s pretty time signature acts as the waves of the Mediterranean sea gently brushing the shore. The EP’s closing title track is a compelling number that adds variation to the three before. “The EP features nylon string guitar and percussion amongst other sounds to create that Spanish flavour, but the title track is quite different. The song itself came from a place of some distress as I wrote it when I found myself effectively stuck on the island of Tenerife mentally unwell after I had unwisely decided to travel there by myself. Recording that song was a cathartic process.” Appealing to listeners with an interest in World music, Latin vibes and cool jazz, and sitting comfortably alongside some of the region’s revered acts including The Baghdaddies and Weekend Sun, Simon’s sound is nonetheless resolutely his own. Simon shares a goal: “My aim is to one day perform my music with myself on piano alongside an orchestra. I can’t really play piano yet, so I’ve got a busy few years ahead!” Simon Taylor releases Under The Volcano EP on 5th February www.simontaylor1.bandcamp.com

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INTERVIEW

KATE FOX

CAMERON WRIGHT TALKS TO THE POET, COMEDIAN AND BROADCASTER ABOUT HER NEW POETRY COLLECTION, CONFRONTING NORTHERN PRECONCEPTIONS AND THE SPIRIT OF CATHARSIS

Kate Fox’s fifth collection of poetry, The Oscillations, was predominantly written throughout lockdown and reflects upon the unprecedented changes we underwent, while dealing with themes Fox often ponders throughout her poetry. One of the most prevalent themes in Fox’s work is her Northern identity, and she talks candidly about the preconceptions that surround ‘the North’. “I feel like there are two very separate ideas here. The way Northerners see the Northern identity is one thing, it’s a cultural way of life, with a charm and flair attached to it. The way the Northern identity is seen by Southerners is another matter; Southerners can often use Northerners to promote Southern ideals – the North becomes a tool to advocate the old-fashioned ideas of a ‘smarter’ or ‘cleaner’ life down South. They need us. In many ways, we need each other. We’re opposing forces that can work together. What I found a powerful moment during this pandemic was Andy Burnham stepping up and raising his voice. It has been a long time

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since the North has had a mouthpiece to catch attention and raise so many key issues.” As reflected on throughout The Oscillations, the North of England has been cast in a dark cloud during the pandemic, leaving it to the residents to raise their voice. “When I do stand-up gigs and read my poetry to an audience, I can’t hide the fact I am Northern, my voice is a dead giveaway! I speak with a very strong Northern accent and it’s not something I can escape from, so instead I chose to play with it. As a female poet I guess I am already challenging certain stereotypes, but I do feel I need to utilise my platform and address the Northern image and challenge the preconceptions people have. I do have issues with the stereotypes, and it is nice and necessary to be able to stand against them.” Ruminating on the rippling effects of the pandemic, The Oscillations in a beautifully real and human depiction of the experiences it thrust at the world. Originally planned before the fierce outbreak,


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

MY POEMS ALWAYS ASK, ‘HOW CLOSE CAN WE ALL BE TOGETHER’, AND NOW MORE THAN EVER THAT IS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION TO BE ASKING the book had to be adapted, as Kate remembers: “The emotions attached to the original poems had changed, as had the world. Our relationship with ‘normality’ had changed and it’s reflected in the book. I kept the poems that had the greatest weight and truth to them.” Breaking the collection into ‘Before’ and ‘After’ sections, the earliest poems now read as a wistful meditation on the gifts of connection and the world. The poems that touch on the pandemic do so with a delicacy and poise which reads as cathartically accessible and human. “For me it was a very unusual, yet fun experience,” says Kate, while reflecting on the emotions connected with exploring such an affecting muse. “Often when I write, I’m writing from the perspective of a minority, yet now suddenly I am living in a situation that is affecting everyone. There’s a binding sense of community that’s occurred now we are living through this one trauma together. The challenge was, since it is a trauma, it’s not something everyone wants to dwell on or remember. My poems always ask, ‘how close can we all be together’, and now more than ever that is an important question to be asking.” That essential question is fleshed out in detail across The Oscillations beautifully, as it puts words to the worry and confusion that swooped the globe. As the poems touch on loneliness and loss, there is hope. As poignant as the poems can become, there is a catharsis to be had in the warm understanding that Kate provides, walking through the pain with the reader. “Honestly, I couldn’t not write about it. I always have an urge to connect with people and as a comedian I’ve often shied away from showing vulnerability on stage, yet what you find is that vulnerability can be instrumental in building connections.

Embracing the frailties can be so crucial, especially in these times.” By balancing her welcoming and friendly voice with her literary prowess, Kate can articulate the emotions of a nation into the lyrical expressions she presents, elevating the miserable images of the pandemic into something expressive and profound. “I did a collaboration with the photographer Colin Postig that we called 12 Days of Lockdown. It had a series of his photos, set to a poem of mine. I would often draw inspiration from what he sent me; I would see a tree stump with roots growing out and it would spark an idea in me that would unfold. Walking around I would see things, like police tape marking off public benches, and it would weigh on me. I’m not often a visual person, but the images of lockdown had really stuck with me.” The poise demonstrated through the poems, which weave the mundane and the overwhelming with such ease, is a skill Kate has acquired through her career, saying “BBC Radio 3 has a show called The Verb which I love to appear on because you’re able to mix references and talk freely about everything you want, balancing aspects of pop culture with the more studious and literary parts. Reflecting that balance in my poetry has been fantastic. It certainly helps that on The Verb you are in the company of the great Ian McMillan, who personifies that warm, funny Northern soul.” The Oscillations may delve into the dark and daunting themes of the pandemic, yet there is a pleasant humanity that emanates from the collection, resulting in a monument to the enduring human spirit. Oscillations by Kate Fox is published on 18th February via Nine Arches Press www.katefoxwriter.wordpress.com

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COVER FEATURE

MUSIC

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WE HAVE LOTS OF DIFFERENT INTENTIONS IN LIFE, YET WE CAN’T QUELL OUR TRUE NATURE. THAT EXTENDS INTO THE IDEA OF NATURE AND WHAT WE DO TO OUR PLANET. NATURE TENDS TO HAVE THE LAST LAUGH

COVER FEATURE

MAXÏMO PARK

THE TYNESIDE ART ROCK BAND RETURN WITH A NEW ALBUM THIS MONTH; LEIGH VENUS TALKS TO PAUL SMITH ABOUT NOSTALGIA, MELANCHOLIA AND EMBRACING BEING IN THE MOMENT Picture, if you will, a fast-paced travel montage as Paul Smith races home from Manchester to save his wife from a lockdown-imposed juggle of work and homeschooling. Leaving behind filming a video for their new single, the frenetic front-person of alt. indie rockers Maxïmo Park lands back home in the North East as snow sweeps in and a flurry of armed insurrectionists lays siege to the United States Capitol building. “I just couldn’t sleep without watching American democracy under threat, and now I’ve spent all morning searching for 3D shapes around the house with my daughter, our maths task for the day!” With nary a moment between family, work and the collapse of Western democracy, if Paul Smith’s last twenty-four hours don’t encapsulate the early 2021 mood, nothing does. Yet the local lad is nothing if not adaptable – acting as a herald for live culture in the face of near-total adversity last year, Maxïmo Park delivered an unforgettable show at the UK’s first socially distanced music venue. “It was a moment of release. The people we tour with have had to look at different ways of being employed, so it was such a celebratory event. These are people’s livelihoods, and our fans are passionate about the music. People used to gigs have been starved, so I knew people would be up for it. I put on a show, and if it’s a big stage, I’ll fill it and reach people without a doubt. Being back and giving people the pleasure they get from our music was amazing.” Over twenty years before this gig, you’d have found the band recording their first single in a Fenham flat. The passing of time looms large on new album Nature Always Wins, and with the songs more affectionate towards the past than ever, are the band chasing down nostalgia or facing down melancholia? “Nostalgia has so many negative connotations. We’re all susceptible to it. Melancholia links me to W. G. Sebald’s writing, that idea of looking at the past to assess it, to look at its poetry, rather than wallowing. There are songs throughout our catalogue that wallow in a feeling, so that melancholy aspect has been there from the start.” The inevitability of time and the power of nature underscore the new album, and the idea of facing who we are looms large. “We have lots of different intentions in life, yet we can’t quell our true nature. That extends into the idea of nature and what we do to our planet. We build on it, we pave over it, and it’ll come back to haunt us, this short-termism of our society and our whole way of being. Nature tends to have the last laugh.” Nature brings new life too, and when Smith’s child arrived in 2016, nascent parenthood compelled a reflection on songwriting, and a desire to avoid pat sentimentality. “I don’t want to start writing loads of soppy songs, but my way of writing is quite specific. It has universal qualities because it discusses being a parent – the constraints, the joy, the love, this kind of overwhelming power you get – and questions that. You’re given prescribed feelings to feel about lots of things, and parenthood is no different. What if you don’t? What if you feel conflicted?” As child-rearing brings fresh fuel to Smith’s fire, Nature Always Wins finds the lyricist in rude form, expertly bottling that rush of feeling

that makes Maxïmo Park so perennial and emotionally-driven. “We deal with pop art in our band, and whatever that feeling is you want it to be unleashed every time somebody listens to the song. With the live music, it’s my job to tap into what the song is about and put it out for people in the moment. Rather than looking backwards or looking forwards too far, it’s about the moment.” The story of our time looms over the album too, whether in the political sting of Child Of The Flatlands – an assuredly post-Brexit song – or ever-changing Covid restrictions forcing the band to learn new means of production. “We were going to Atlanta to record in April, and it became apparent in February that that wasn’t going to happen. We were with producer Ben H. Allen because of his work with Deerhunter and Animal Collective, and he’d worked through a couple of songs with us, so we were excited and raring to go.” With the album written before the pandemic hit, lockdown precipitated a head-first dive into telerecording. A bracing deviation from the norm, Smith initially wondered if it was even worth having such a prestigious producer, yet recalls when the new album – and new process – truly came together. “Ardour came back with strings and a beat Tom had worked out with Ben that transformed it. That was a point in this long process where I thought it’s clicking, it’s going to be alright, the intimate moments are intimate, and it’s going to rock out when it needs to.” An outstanding achievement born from the still-warm ashes of 2020, Nature Always Wins is sweeping yet comfortingly familiar, a deft fusion of nostalgia, yearning and giddy rock. Late-night synth-fueled road trip Meeting Up and bitingly acerbic bopper The Acid Remark are about processing the past, looking back at former friends, lovers and even selves, asking have we changed, and should we? The St. Elmo’s Fire-tinged opening and panoramic nostalgia of Versions Of You transported me back in time to hazy, sweaty memories of seeing the early Maxïmo Park at legendary venue Bulletproof and listening to the tunes down by the Tyne on a crisp winter’s day, the sense of place conjured through Smith’s accent and lyricism still shine brightly through all these years on. The imminent release leaves Smith with a surprising amount still in the tank. Writing constantly for Maxïmo Park, new projects and the sheer joy of it, a record with Rachel Unthank is on the horizon as the local icon faces 2021 with his own brand of positive pragmatism. “Me and Rachel love singing together. I love folk music, and we’ve made this fairly darker version of it, so I’m hoping to get it out sooner rather than later. There’s light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic. The progress will be incremental compared to what was promised by politicians who want to play politics with it, who want people to feel good, so I suppose the best way to feel good is to listen to Nature Always Wins!” Maxïmo Park release Nature Always Wins on 26th February via PIAS www.maximopark.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

HOWZAT TV

Jamie Cook (& Martha Hill) by Adam Goodwin

DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO JAMIE COOK ABOUT HIS LIVESTREAMED MUSIC SHOW WHICH BOASTS A WEALTH OF REGIONAL TALENT I often fall out with one of my best mates about the best way to watch live music; I prefer to be at the gig, and he prefers to stream it. Although we try, we don’t really meet in the middle very often; I’ll give him the TV cameras at Glastonbury, and he’ll give me any situation involving The Wildhearts. We do both agree, however, that the formula of watching live music through Howzat TV works very well; although it’s remote, I get the advantage of watching a gig that is truly live and beamed back from one of my favourite venues. “I think one of my favourite things behind what we do, maybe aside from the fact that we try to pay musicians properly for their time, is the fact that the shows are completely live,” agrees Howzat TV host, producer and performer Jamie Cook, “and playing live does come with that type of danger which only a really live show can bring.” Forming Howzat in the wake of a raft of comedy/gaming streaming work created in 2020, Cook was keen to move from producing streaming shows to live events; his background in working at comedy stores proved invaluable. “It’s really strange how Howzat has come about because life has almost come full circle for me. I played live music, and I enjoyed working in live comedy, and that has

PLAYING LIVE DOES COME WITH THAT TYPE OF DANGER WHICH ONLY A REALLY LIVE SHOW CAN BRING 24

mixed now with the production work I’ve done to end up in a live music show where it’s almost an amalgamation of everything.” Deciding to apply for an Arts Council grant to fund Howzat also meant he now had the ability to support the local scene. “As lockdown went on further and further I really wanted to do something to help the North East’s scene, so the grant has helped me be able to push the show a little; using local venues and local acts, and being able to pay them properly. It’s so sad to see what has happened with some of the local venues and how they’ve just had to suddenly stop and stay dormant. If Howzat can help raise the profile of not just the artists but also the venues then I feel like good can come from a bad situation.” Beamed live from Ouseburn’s Cobalt Studios, February’s sessions feature the likes of Americana-tinged folk artist Poor Moi (previously known as Memphis Gerald) on Sunday 14th February and contemporary folk trio The Cusp on Sunday 28th February, all complete with live music, skits and virtual audience participation. Previous shows have seen performances from the likes of Martha Hill, Bertie Armstrong, Grey Tapes and Balter, with sessions available to view on Howzat’s YouTube channel, alongside regular interactive phone-in game shows with plenty of hilarity streamed throughout the month. “It really does feel like a dream that I can work with the very best artists from the region whilst at the same time feeling like it’s giving them a platform for them to be heard.” Cook beams. www.howzattv.com


FELT NOWT

INTERVIEW

AMY WARDLEY FINDS OUT MORE ABOUT THE NORTH EAST’S NOT-FOR-PROFIT COMEDY COOPERATIVE

COMEDY

Lee Kyle performing for a Felt Nowt show Like everything else in the creative world, comedy has taken a bit of a battering. Seemingly never-ending lockdowns and social distancing has meant live stand-up is forced online, with often mixed results. Much like the endless parade of songwriters performing from their bedroom, virtual comedy (aside from the excellent output from Newcastle club The Stand) has suffered a similar lack of originality. However, if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that where there’s a bunch of creative and talented souls, there’s a way out of the awkward online hole we find ourselves in. North East comedy agency Felt Nowt is a not-for-profit community interest company, run by comedians for comedians. Local comedy stalwart Lee Kyle is one of the company’s founders, alongside Gavin Webster, Hal Branson and Lauren Pattison among others. “The idea came from desperation to be honest! We realised that we’re very lucky in the North East as there are enough good comedians that, if we work together, we can generate more work. It also helps that we broadly all get on pretty well.” The name, Lee explains, has its roots in North East comedy legend. “The name came from the character The Hard, who was played by Wavis O’Shave on The Tube in the early 80s. ‘Felt Nowt’ was his catchphrase. He was a parody of hard men, taking it to ludicrous extremes. We chose it because we wanted something that reflected the history of North East comedy without being too ‘Eeeeh! Aren’t Geordies all dead canny!’ about it.”

COMICS CAN SEE THAT WE’VE DONE THINGS PROPERLY AND THAT THE NON-PROFIT COOPERATIVE MODEL IS THE WAY OUT OF THIS

Felt Nowt’s aim is to provide quality gigs for local comedians, and to offer the audience an experience as close as possible to being at a real-life performance. The comedians perform on stage at Alphabetti Theatre, professionally lit and filmed, and they interact with the audience online. For Lee, the medium provides not just the audience with high quality entertainment, but regional comedians with a much-needed source of income and a pathway to sustainability. “Luckily, comics can see that we’ve done things properly and that the non-profit co-operative model is the way out of this.” Off the back of a series of highly successful New Year shows, Felt Nowt are branching out into fortnightly ‘weekend club’ style shows and solo shows from well-known local acts, with highlights including solo sets from Carl Hutchinson (Friday 5th), Lee Kyle on Tuesday 16th February, Scottish comedian and actor Rachel Jackson presents her Slutty Little Goldfish show on Friday 19th, also on Friday 19th there’s late night chuckles with Gavin Webster. Felt Nowt Fridays offer up a plethora of talent all in one place, making it the perfect option for alternative weekend entertainment, Friday 19th sees sets from Lost Voice Guy, John Whale and Julian Lee among others, hosted by Hal Branson. There’s a lot in the pipeline for Felt Nowt, as Lee explains. “Once ‘all this’ is out of the way, we have some huge news about a permanent venue somewhere in the North East. We are also launching a membership scheme where comedy fans pay a fiver a month and receive discounts and free tickets as well as access to a subscription channel (tentatively called Nowtflix), with loads of shows that will be both a source of funny stuff and a way to help North East comedy thrive.” www.feltnowt.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

MUST-SEE STORIES: REIMAGINING PRIDE

JAMIE TAYLOR TALKS TO THREE ARTISTS WHOSE WORK RESPONDS TO THEIR EXPERIENCES OF PRIDE, AND DISCOVERS ACTIVISM, INCLUSIVITY AND QUIETER VOICES HAVE INCREASINGLY BEEN LEFT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION Must-see Stories by Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums is a digital editorial platform which explores diverse stories from the region and paves a way for oral histories. The platform kicks off with a collaboration with Curious Arts, commissioning six LGBTQIA+ artists to respond to their experiences of Pride. As an outsider looking in, Pride has always been an event that I’ve thought of as a celebration of inclusivity, but after speaking to three of the creatives involved in the project, it’s clear that view isn’t quite as universal as I

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expected. My education began when I sat down with ‘not quite drag artist’ and theatre producer JG Tansley (aka Dandysocpic) to talk about their piece, IN//OF BLOOM. JG has written a collection of poems, stories and essays which look at ‘quiet pride’ and the secret ways queer people have communicated their existence ‘on the down low’. The title draws its inspiration from the way flowers have been used in the past to signify queerness and their work explores the idea of


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT WHEN YOU INVESTIGATE THE ROOTS OF PRIDE YOU FIND OUT THAT THE FIRST PRIDE WAS A RIOT. PRIDE WAS ABOUT ACTION AND THERE’S STILL THINGS TO FIGHT FOR

L-R, T-B: Chantal Herbert, dandysocpic, Laura Crow reclaiming slurs such as pansy and lavender that are used to belittle gay men. I was curious, with JG’s work focusing so much on the subtleties of communicating sexuality, how a big brash event such as Pride sat with them. “For me it’s a really conflicting thing,” JG tells me. “All the Prides that I’ve lived through have been a corporate, capitalist thing and I’ve got some feelings about that. When you investigate the roots of Pride you find out that the first Pride was a riot. Pride was about action and there’s still things to fight for.” As JG points out, nice as it is to get a D-list celebrity to do a few songs, there’s something missing. After all, “where’s the riot? Where’s the anger?” Laura Crow’s work taps into many of the same issues that JG raises. While their work deals with the understated nature of queerness, Laura’s is much more in your face. Referencing the idea of the pink pound, she has created three bank notes that explore how Pride’s commercialisation has had a homogenising effect on the LGBTQIA+ scene that has lead to many people feeling left out. Her work, rooted firmly in Newcastle, seeks to show the less palatable side of Pride while also claiming some space and visibility back for the city’s gay women. For her, Pride has lost its way. “It annoys me that you see brands like Primark, Nando’s and Skittles say ‘we’re proud to stand with the LGBTQIA+ community’ but what are they actually doing?” As she explains, many of these companies aren’t quite so proud when it comes to working in countries were the LGBTQIA+ community is openly persecuted. For her, Pride is an unwelcoming experience,

made worse by the decision a few years back to remove its women’s tent. “I don’t feel that there’s an exclusive space for me as a lesbian there,” she laments. This is made worse by a lingering sense of cultural exclusion. “As a gay community we’re very limited as to what we can do,” she explains. “Unless you want to get pissed and listen to crap music, there’s nothing for you.” Pride in that respect, certainly doesn’t offer an alternative. That in itself is a shame because you feel that by including more passionate voices like Laura’s would only make the event even richer. Exclusion is a theme that comes up time and time again as I talk to Chantel Herbert, an audio producer and one half of creative agency Tits Up Creative. Her audio collage focuses on the experiences of Black and minoritised people and their experiences of Pride. You get a real sense of the influence her years as a DJ must have had on her work as she brings together sound effects, music, poetry and words and turns them into something new and powerful. Though the people she interviewed for her piece often spoke of their own pride, it also gave many of them the opportunity to talk about some of the all too depressingly familiar themes that have coloured their feelings of the event. “Black and minoritised people aren’t included in Pride and there’s a lot of racism in the LGBTQIA+ community,” Chantel tells me. “There’s also a lot of gender politics and women are often left out of the conversation.” As a Black woman, these are all issues that have directly affected her. “I don’t go to Pride if I’m being honest. I went once and I felt really uncomfortable.” For Chantel, the booze and loud music means that there’s just not the sense of pride there that she hoped to find. “For me, Pride is about activism and making it a safe space for everyone regardless of your skin colour or religion and I currently don’t feel that is the case.” Instead she’s left with a nagging sense of not fitting in and not feeling safe. Talking to all three artists it’s clear why this type of programming from Tyne & Wear Museums And Archives is so important. While times change and communities evolve, it’s important that the things that make Pride so special and meaningful to a lot of people don’t get forgotten. I think that is one of the great things about Must-see Stories; it gives a platform to artists like JG, Laura and Chantel – whose work appears alongside writer and creative producer Bridget Hamilton, filmmaker and digital storyteller Julie Ballads and textile artist Richard Bliss – to remind us that there are still battles to be fought, barriers to be broken and prejudices to smash. Must-see Stories: Reimagining Pride goes online from Tuesday 2nd February stories.twmuseums.org.uk

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INTERVIEW

THE GLOBE

Jon Doran & Janice Burns

DAVE PARKER AND ROB HERON FROM THE NEWCASTLE VENUE TALK TO JONATHAN HORNER ABOUT LIVESTREAMS, THE CO-OP COMMUNITY AND THEIR PASSION FOR SUPPORTING MUSICIANS Late Autumn on Tyneside, 1950, a shrill cry goes up around Newcastle’s famed Scotswood Road. Not one of the many singers that gave the area its fine reputation, but a bairn. A baby born immersed in music, in The Globe. Fast forward to 2020 and baby Tom McConville is a man grown, a renowned fiddle player, singer and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician Of The Year winner. He has come full circle, back on Scotswood Road, back in The Globe. His cries are less shrill now and make a bit more sense. Whether with the help of providence or serendipity, the call back to his birthplace was made by one of the finest jewels in Tyneside’s musical crown, The Globe – the first music venue in the UK to be owned and run by a co-op. The Globe is owned by its 230 members with a voting system of one member–one vote, regardless of the size of their contribution (from the £200 minimum all the way up to £20,000). Their aim is not to make profit but to support music. They hark back to their inspiration, The Jazz Cafe and its legendary owner Keith Crombie, who sadly passed away in 2012, in this goal. As Dave Parker, co-chair explains: “Many, many people had learned their trade at The Jazz Cafe, myself included. We couldn’t bring Keith back but we

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could try and carry on the work that he was doing.” Events Manager Rob Heron (yes, that Rob Heron) echoed that this sentiment runs right through everything they are doing: “The board and the members of the Jazz Co-op and the Globe are doing it for the music, which is all that matters!” The idea came about, as many do, after a few drinks, but these few drinks were at the wake of the Geordie Jazz Man himself and the idea was not just idle fantasy. One thing that is clear from Dave, Rob and the whole Co-op is their determination and commitment to this project. They are keen to stress that this is not an exclusive club either. They are always actively looking to grow their community, whether as fully paid up members or even just audience members, all are welcome. The Globe provides a fine selection of jazz in its Sunday night sessions, with the likes of Wandering Monster (Sunday 7th), Peter Morgan Trio’s reimaginings (Sunday 14th) and The John Pope Quintet’s improvisations (Sunday 28th February), but it doesn’t stop there. The Globe is also committed to providing a variety of fantastic music. Rob explains: “If you have an eclectic schedule and people get to know a venue from what they might like, they eventually


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

L-R, T-B: Sir Jacs Bantamacs, Wandering Monster, Washboard Resonators

WE’RE DETERMINED TO BE HERE TO SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC. THE MORE PEOPLE THAT COME TO SHOWS AND PAY FOR THE LIVESTREAMS, THE MORE MUSICIANS GET PAID explore other things there too. Hopefully people who like the Saturday night rock gig, might give the Sunday night jazz gig a shot because they like The Globe and get into new music that way.” The venue have been running livestreamed shows for several months, with at least three shows per week. Performers coming up over the next couple of months include the likes of blues, ragtime and swing duo The Washboard Resonators (Friday 5th), indie four piece Mt. Misery (Saturday 13th), rock ‘n’ roll/rockabilly group Sir Jac’s Bantamacs – featuring Rob himself (Saturday 20th) and folk duo Janice Burns and Jon Doran (Friday 26th March). Eclecticism is key, and there’s spoken word and rap from promoters Born Lippy (Wednesday 10th February and Wednesday 24th March) and classical music with virtuosos Alexandra Raikhlina and Liubov Ulybysheva (Sunday 21st February). “Bands are jumping at the chance just to play. It’s possibly been a year since they last performed. We need the fans to be just as eager.” Rob says. Play a man a bluegrass tune and he’ll have minutes of fun, but teach him how to play bluegrass guitar and he’ll have fun for a lifetime. The Globe believe strongly in this (slightly adapted) proverb, as Dave states: “Providing education has been one of the key objectives since day one.” The Globe provides 10 different courses, which originated as jazz-based but has grown to include bluegrass, finger-style guitar, community choir and women’s only courses. The Globe has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic, however Dave has seen some good come out of this enforced break.

“It has given a pause for thought, to ask those big questions, ‘What are we doing this for?’” They have fully embraced the new platform of livestreaming and through grants from Power to Change and the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Fund were able to refurbish the venue. They have new lighting and sound systems along with four cameras and are able to provide unparalleled quality in their livestreams, with streams continuing even after crowds are allowed back into venues. Livestreamed shows cost £7.50 to view and Dave explains that this fee is not for their benefit but for the artists. “This is how musicians get paid. You wouldn’t play a gig for free, why should you do a livestream for free? The best way of losing the least amount of money would be to stay shut but we’re determined to be here to support live music, not to pay our shareholders. We don’t actually care if it doesn’t make money. As long as we don’t lose huge amounts of money, we’re going to keep doing it! The more people that come to shows and pay for the livestreams, the more the musicians get paid.” This is a refreshing philosophy in an age when musicians and artists are becoming more accustomed to giving their art away for free, just to be seen and heard. If you would like to be a part of this fantastic community, just hop on to their website and follow the links to buy shares, make a donation or just buy a ticket for a livestream or, when circumstances allow, a live show, and be a part of the magic. www.theglobenewcastle.bar

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INTERVIEW

UNIVERSITY CHALLENGED

STEVE SPITHRAY TALKS TO PROLIFIC MIDDLESBROUGH POLYMATH OLI HEFFERNAN ABOUT HIS LATEST COLLABORATION

The sheer work rate of Middlesbrough’s musical polymath Oli Heffernan is to be admired for sure, but it is the exceptional quality of his output that impresses the most; he’s already readied and released a number of albums and EPs under his solo guise as Ivan the Tolerable in the last year. However, the cosmic out-rock of latest project University Challenged is another fully collaborative effort which sees Oli team up with long-time King Champion Sounds collaborator Ajay Saggar and Bo Ningen’s Kohhei Matsuda for a double vinyl release of organic drones, subtle electronica and occasional bird noises. Often a genteel bassline and Eastern aesthetics subtly fill the background; a gentle cacophony, like a collection of ambient wanderings through a Chinese tea garden, while an assortment of expertly selected spoken word samples also marks University Challenged as quietly political. I tracked Oli down in a virtual beer garden somewhere in Middlesbrough, as a kindly whiff of pale ale and roll-ups filled the digital air, to find out all about it… “Ajay and I have worked together a load over the past decade, we both like to keep busy and work constantly on stuff so it’s a good fit. I was booked on a flight to Amsterdam to spend a week in the studio recording this LP and the next King Champion Sounds one

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with him when COVID struck and I couldn’t go, which was a massive shame. As time passed it became clear I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon so we decided to do University Challenged remotely. The three of us started bouncing tracks around until we had enough stuff and then Ajay spent two months shaping and editing it in his studio in Holland. It has come out way better than I think any of us thought it would. When we’ve played together in the past it’s always been about the feel and sound of us playing together loud in a room, so it came out different to how we expected but I think we hit upon something really nice.” With musical connections all over the world, working remotely is not something Oli is too bothered about in the short term. “We’ve all been recording remotely for years for various other things we do. It’s a good way to work without distractions and you can work at your own pace,” - which for Oli is usually fast – “plus you have access to all your own gear rather than whatever KLM allow you to shove into a plane locker!” That’s not to say playing live is out of the question for University Challenged, “we played a few live improv shows together in Holland in 2019 which was the first time we played with Kohhei [who had just moved to Amsterdam] and it sounded great almost instantly. We planned to do a few shows in


INTERVIEW

WE ALWAYS WANTED IT TO BE MORE ABOUT DRONES AND REPETITION, AND FINDING RHYTHMS THERE RATHER THAN HAVING TRADITIONAL BEATS

MUSIC

December last year but it wasn’t to be again and, with so many plans having already been shelved, I reckon its sensible to just wait until the light at the end of the tunnel is a little bit brighter. But, when it is safe to do so, it’s definitely something we are planning to do, and once I get my head round how it’s all gonna work with Brexit but that’s a whole other conversation!. I’m not really into streamed gigs, they do nothing for me so I’d rather not play gigs until we can do them properly.” University Challenged is more ambient than any of the three players’ usual material so I wondered how difficult it was to restrain themselves in order to keep things more minimal, but Oli was typically nonchalant in response. “I think it just naturally came out that way. We made the decision to not have any drums on the album which definitely helps keep things more minimal. We always wanted it to be more about drones and repetition, and finding rhythms there rather than having traditional beats, so we focussed on the stuff that usually gets lost in the mix and bringing that to the front and centre. We are all big fans of Ash Ra Tempel and Popol Vuh so it naturally went down that avenue a bit, but we also all like Robbie Basho and John Fahey so a lot of that comes through too.” The eight mostly instrumental tracks have musical narratives within,

so there are clear themes on tracks like Choppers Over Negril and Shibboleth whose dark mariachi undertones and Malcolm X samples create a storied feel, but again Oli was keen to stress that everything happened more organically. “All the samples were added at mixing stage so there wasn’t a theme as such. The shaping and editing was a massive task and Ajay did all that. It took a few months but he did a great job in pulling it all together into a really nice, eclectic and coherent record.” So, with the record finished releasing it was just a formality, right? “Once it was all finished we didn’t really know what to do with it and wondered who was going to release a double album at a time when nobody can tour or go to gigs?! But we sent it to a couple of labels we trust to see what they thought and Marc Teare from Hive Mind loved it and was super into putting it out and when a label that has released a Sonny Sharrock album offers to put your album out, you don’t hang about!” University Challenged release Oh Temple! via Hive Mind Records on 29th January www.universitychallenged.bandcamp.com

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INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

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Image by Loucey Bain


INTERVIEW

IT USED TO BE THAT YOU WENT ONE PLACE TO SEE A PUNK BAND, ANOTHER PLACE TO DANCE TO ABBA. YOU WENT TO ONE PLACE TO SEE AN EXHIBITION AND ANOTHER TO SEE DRAG. WE JUST WANTED TO CREATE A PLATFORM WHERE YOU COULD DO ALL OF THE ABOVE

PICASSO BABY MIDDLESBROUGH-BASED ARTIST AND CURATOR BOBBY BENJAMIN EXPLAINS THE GENESIS OF HIS COLLABORATIVE PROJECT, PICASSO BABY

Imagine you got a great big bowl and poured in all your favourite cereal – Frosties, Cheerios, Coco-Pops – how good would that be? Would that even work? Well that’s Picasso Baby, except instead of breakfast cereal we serve up our favourite art, music and culture. The project was founded by myself, an artist and owner of Middlesbrough’s contemporary arts space Pineapple Black, and John James Perangie (Creative Factory Artist of the Year 2019), with the intention to not only celebrate creative talent from the region and beyond, but to get them working together too, with tangible outcomes. Picasso Baby’s feature event is a reoccurring ‘arty party’, hosted by DIY Middlesbrough venue Disgraceland, in which a roster of the area’s creative talent is drafted in and given free rein to do whatever they want – paint the ceilings and furniture, create site specific installations – whatever. Over the course of a week a revolving door of creatives pass through and make their mark, sharing materials and ideas. With each event, the work is added to by the next group of artists to form an ever-evolving collaborative artwork. At the end of each week the Picasso Baby family open the doors and invite everyone round for a party, complete with live music and performance from some of the region’s most exciting acts. As my cohort John James Perangie puts it: “We both have such diverse taste, and the scene up here is so diverse too – we just wanted to see what would happen if we mashed it all together.” Since the pandemic hit, Picasso Baby has gone digital but we’ve been committed to maintaining the same ethos. In 2020 we launched our Digital Issue – a magazine in which creatives are invited to submit a single A4 page with complete editorial control. The result is a digital magazine packed with unique, original artwork. The debut issue featured contributions from emerging and established creatives ranging from the likes of best-selling author Richard Milward, artist Slutmouth, curators Peg Powler and Teesside band Benefits. Issue 2 is slated for a 19th February release, so expect another bumper collection from the extended Picasso Baby family. There is also a weekly takeover on the Picasso Baby Instagram that continues the theme of highlighting artists and offering creative control. Previous collaborators include Enzo Marra, Queensbury, Sophie Ascough (GGAllan Partridge) and Connor Clements (Dovetail Joints). This series will continue throughout the year – with future guests including Faye Hadfield, Mitchel Proctor and Sorry Escalator, who will be chatting to the team and premiering

music for their upcoming EP. In March the Picasso Baby team will be taking over the Pineapple Black window gallery to create a new, site specific artwork in collaboration with over 30 artists. For us, it’s important that our output is broad and inclusive, as John James explains: “It used to be that you went one place to see a punk band, another place to dance to ABBA. You went to one place to see an exhibition and another to see drag. We just wanted to create a platform where you could do all of the above. Whether that’s our live show, our digital magazine, our Instagram, our new exhibition – we just find things that we like and put them together.” In the past we’ve worked with such a broad spectrum of artists and performers, from Eyeconic and Shakk sharing a bill with Factory Reset, James Leonard Hewitson on a bill with Colly Metcalfe – a deaf performer who delivers her set in BSL – to over a 100 artists creating an ongoing communal work at Disgraceland. When it comes to curation, we just see something we like and say “that’s so Picasso Baby”. None of it makes any sense – which is what’s cool about it. While Perangie and I might curate the project, it is the artists involved that really shape it. They are the voice of our social media, they decide what goes in our magazine, it’s their artwork on the walls and their music on the playlist. What we do is try and create a set of circumstances in which interesting things happen and where people can express themselves. With weekly Insta collaborations and performances, artist interviews, digital zines, virtual and physical exhibitions and, eventually, the return of the live event at Disgraceland – Picasso Baby aims to bring a unique twist to Teesside’s exciting underground art scene, and it’s a fun project because we get to shout about all the artists we like and then we get build something with them too. It’s totally artist-led and completely non-hierarchical; it’s just about connecting people creatively and sharing a canvas. As we move into 2021 in a time of uncertainty, one thing you can be certain of is that our eclectic curatorial project will continue to celebrate the best of the region’s creative talent through experimental collaborative projects. Picasso Baby’s Digital Issue #2 is released on 19th February. Keep an eye on their Instagram for further content, exhibitions and performances www.instagram.com/picasso_baby_boro

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INTERVIEW

RICK FURY

NORTH EAST RAP ROYALTY RICK FURY TALKS TO JOHNO RAMSAY ABOUT NEW LP RETURN OF THE KING

MUSIC

“I had a girl message me and she was like I love your music, it’s so good… blah, blah, blah. It’s just such a shame that you never got anywhere,” Rick told me with a bemused smile. “What she means is I should be loaded and super famous…which is great because that means my music reflects that to her. But at the same time, she doesn’t know what I’m doing… I mean, I am broke… but she doesn’t know that! I could be ballin’ for all she knows. I said honestly don’t worry, I’m where I deserve to be – don’t worry about that.” For an artist to call themselves a ‘King’ they either have a huge ego or a whole lot of confidence. In the case of Rick Fury, it’s more the latter. On Rick’s new album, Return Of The King, his claim to a metaphorical throne came to him seemingly out of nowhere. “It’s kind of tongue in cheek, it can be interpreted a lot of different ways,” said Rick. “It was just a temporary title at first, but the king stuff started coming out in my lyrics and it just felt natural. Up until halfway through it just felt like I was trying to piece together tunes and trying to find a theme. Then it all fell into place like a nice jigsaw. This is possibly the best thing I’ve ever done.” Many hip-hop heads in the North East have already crowned Rick the King of North East rap; on the face of it, you might think this album is Rick basking in his own local mythology, accepting the crown that many people have always tried to give him. It more or less is, but it’s more bittersweet and with less braggadocio. Rick comes with his usual slick flows and piercing punchlines on the project, flexing his stylistic range across old school boom-bap and glistening trap beats. Lyrically Rick oozes with confidence but still manages to keep it humble crown and all. With that crown comes the concession that at this stage Rick probably won’t be a world beater. He won’t be a chart topper with

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I FEEL ACCOMPLISHED, I FEEL HAPPY, I THINK I’VE REALLY KIND OF FOUND INNER PEACE millions of streams on Spotify, diamond rings and flash cars. However, with that same crown comes something better than all of those things. “I feel accomplished, I feel happy, I think I’ve really kind of found inner peace. I speak to people and they’ll say ‘but you haven’t done this’, or ‘you’ve got to be promoting this way, make more videos!’ And I’m just like nah, I’ve done all of that in the past. It doesn’t bother me anymore. People that want to hear my music are going to listen to it and I’m totally happy with that. It’s embarrassing for me to be shouting on my about shit.” Rick’s legacy as an innovator and one of the first to really make a name for himself doing hip-hop in the North East is worth more to him than fame and fortune. Rick doing what he did still inspires young artists in the region today and is the reason his name is held in such high regard. Never has the term ‘local hero’ been more apt. “You know The Hairy Bikers,” added Rick. “They were filming just down the road at this bakery. There was a group of people watching and these radgies turned around and shouted ‘IT’S RICK FURY!’ His mate was like WHO? and the guy said, ‘IT’S RICK FURY MAN, HE’S THE REALEST MAN!’ and The Hairy Bikers were just looking like who’s this? They were upstaged by the realest…” Rick Fury’s new album, Return Of The King, is out now www.rickfuryuk.bandcamp.com


DEMOS WE WANT YOUR MUSIC!

IF YOU’RE AN UP AND COMING BAND OR MUSICIAN, AND WOULD LIKE YOUR MUSIC REVIEWED IN OUR DEMO SECTION, EMAIL A TRACK TO INFO@NARCMEDIA.COM AND TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF! WORDS: JAY MOUSSA-MANN

DEMO OF THE MONTH

The Spacebunker Tapes – Anywhere A really beautiful alternative rock track by The Spacebunker Tapes, Karl and Elena predominantly write songs about the end of the world (in their words – how fitting!) The track feels very real and close, with a bit of talking between the band before the music starts, adding even more humanity. Led by guitars and Elena’s gorgeous vocals this is a really addictive,

PADDY – Walls

I love this track. Paddy is an alt. dance artist whose music is inspired by the people and places around him. A child of the 2000s he has found a blend between school dance music of that era and his roots to create something that feels entirely new. “With the track WALLS I wanted to tell a story of confidence and not being shy to be who you are,” says Paddy. The track is incredibly uplifting and unique, using what sounds like vintage keyboards, with driving bass beats and synths to build. The recurring vocals are wonderfully integrated into the music and Paddy’s voice has a really beautiful tone and presence to it, yet the track never forgets it’s a dance track and really does evoke that feeling of late 90s/early 00s dance music. www.paddyr.bandcamp.com

Dr Moon – Endeavour

This instrumental track plays a great balance

soothing song. The harmonies are perfectly balanced against the gentle, careful music production. It’s a love song, reaching out for space; time slows down and we’re all alone again...we travel through the universe. Like most upcoming musicians, The Spacebunker Tapes have struggled during the pandemic but have tried to make the best of it by stocking up on material and recording some home demos (on a 2002 eMac no less). www.thespacebunkertapes.bandcamp.com

between alternative rock and psychedelia, drawing you in with its weird sounds before giving you quite a defined, catchy melody which comes back again and again throughout the piece. I think this would be great in a soundtrack for a sci-fi or action film, as for me, it conjures up images of wild futuristic cowboys riding through dystopian lands. Whatever it makes you think of, it’s a highly visual piece of music, really well produced and polished. www.soundcloud.com/ellis-crowther

Panthers – Memphis

Get ready to boogie woogie with this one! The Panthers are a 50’s rock ‘n’ roll band from the North East featuring swing guitarist Anth Purdy, and though this feels very 50’s rockabilly, it also has a very strong pure country feel to it. With classic rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing, the raspy vocals belt out a different future, one that looks forward to a

new and better life in Memphis where the sun shines every day. The band had an album released last year on a German label, Rebel Records – be sure to check it out! www.facebook.com/panthersboogie

Bobby Latheron & Janine Brown – Song For Everyone Song For Everyone is a heartfelt pop ballad written by Bobby Latheron and sung by Janine, the song is about autism which becomes clear when you listen to the lyrics. “You make us feel like we don’t belong in this world but we’re going to prove you wrong.” It’s a sweet track, reminiscent of 90s boy band hits. The songwriter, Bobby Latheron has also written a book called, My World in My Words, which talks about autism and mental health.

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TRACKS

DOCKSUNS BLEW UP A KISS Words: Paul Ray Sunderland’s Docksuns return with a very big, very melodramatic spaghetti western banger, replete with tremolo guitar picking and thick, creamy fuzz bass. Blew Up A Kiss crackles with energy and momentum, all verses pointing to the chorus with the confident inevitability of any well-constructed pop song. Despite their insistence that Docksuns’ music is “unpolished and intense, visceral and real”, this is a pop song wearing hard rock drag – the production is sparklingly clean, the vocals harmonised and anthemic. It’s a lot of fun (the misguided Martin Luther King sample in the middle-eight notwithstanding), and it made me miss gigs even more than I already do, because this song would absolutely rip live. Released: 29.01.21 www.facebook.com/docksuns

KOMPARRISON DANCING WITH DEMONS Words: Kate Murphy The gorgeous misty chords in this track grab your attention straight away, and set it apart from your average indie pop song. The storytelling is engaging, the vocals rich, smoky and jaded, and the context of its ‘dance away your troubles’ message gives it an edge: “Our favourite past-time is corrupting our lungs”, they exclaim, and a year ago a line like this would have been no more than a passing metaphor; it now juts out of the song with increasing poignancy, and the lines before it become deeply moving: “We’re the troubled youth that the adults frown upon / Just misunderstood and trying to have some fun”. The song’s tingly beginning promises a lot, although I found myself clawing for a bigger, angrier chorus. Released: 29.01.21 www.facebook.com/komparrison

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REVIEWS OF SINGLES AND EPS BY NORTH EAST ARTISTS. WANT YOUR MUSIC FEATURED? EMAIL NARCMEDIA@GMAIL.COM (PLEASE TRY TO GET IN TOUCH 8-6 WEEKS AHEAD OF THE MONTH OF RELEASE)

WILD SPELKS DREAMER (CAFÉ IN BERLIN) Words: Kate Murphy Instantly likeable, with its shuffly-shoed, droopy-shouldered, dangly-armed bounce, this is the kind of song that makes you long for Polaroid cameras and college dorm days listening to Smashing Pumpkins. With lyrics like “I know this feeling / I know this song” and “Though I’ve never been / My favourite place is a café in Berlin”, Wild Spelks sing on behalf of a world fantasising about being somewhere else. The song embodies the high-pitched sigh of someone staring out of their window, half-here and half-not, half given-up and half-not. The lovely post-chorus guitar glistens with hope and resolve, providing the perfect soundtrack to anyone who’s currently dreaming of their own Berlin, or, at this point, anyone who’d be happy enough to just make it to a café. Released: 26.02.21 www.soundcloud.com/spelksmusic

PINK POISON SPRUNG FROM HELL Words: Paul Jeffrey Sprung From Hell, the latest release from Geordie garage punks Pink Poison, is a 62 second burst of rough and ready 21st Century DIY blues that slaps you around the face as it is kneeing you in the groin. Harsher than a broken Stihl saw, it snaps and snarls like a rabid dog hopped up on gasoline and raw meat, building up an imposing cacophony of slashed speaker cones, dissonant drums and whiskey-soaked vocals that sets the world on fire, burning wildly out of control before swiftly hitting a wall marked ‘the end’. Sometimes, as demonstrated here, music doesn’t need to be complicated; sometimes, a large blast of raw intensity is all you really need. Released: 05.02.21 www.soundcloud.com/pink-poison-band


DON COYOTE SOMEBODY Words: Jay Moussa-Mann There’s something really joyful about Don Coyote’s sound and their latest single is no exception. Somebody is upbeat indie soft-rock, full of gleeful guitar rhythms and infused with jazz vibes. I think it’s the first line that draws me in, as lead vocalist’s Sam Wildsmith’s calm, mellow voice drops the phrase: “When everything you do is such a waste of time...” Highly relatable, especially at the moment, but gloom is quickly banished. The track has a happy, live quality to it, with backing vocals dipping in and out sporadically and little flourishes as the band counts in. It’s a delight! And at the heart of it all, is our basic need for connection. “Just think of someone...that makes you happy / And it takes the weight off.” Released: 14.02.21 www.d0ncoyote.bandcamp.com

ELEPHANT MEMOIRS FAIRYTALES Words: Kate Murphy There’s a dreamy stoicism to this track, calling up images of a stormy sea voyage, and a teary-eyed captain journeying fiercely to reclaim his destroyed homeland. It charges forth in an interesting, linear way: we’re not on the ship ourselves, it’s more like we’re watching the events play out from a safe distance, from left to right, and the heartbroken male cries that ride along with it give it the soothing feel of a story being re-told. Some might not be fans of the bounce-back effect on the vocals, preferring instead a more rugged and much less contained sound, but there is plenty of feeling still there, and the track’s heartfelt chaos is a nice hat-tip to Biffy Clyro. Released: 01.02.21 www.soundcloud.com/elephantmemoirs

JAMIE AINSLIE READY FOR THIS Words: Kate Murphy Pure 60s jangle and irresistible bluster, this barges in with a mac on and a fag lit, makes a lot of noise, and is over and done with in two minutes and thirty-nine seconds. I have all the time in the world for it. It’s London when it was swinging, it’s a for-the-hell-of-it hurricane made to be chanted and moved to, it’s London when it was riding high again thirty years later, complete with cocky nasal swagger and the easily imagined, always-nearby muffled cries of “Who does he think he is?!” somewhere in the background. It’s the simplest kind of feel-good, knows exactly what it is and what it’s doing, and champions a style that’s going to outlive us all. Released: 18.02.21 www.soundcloud.com/jamieainsliemusic

CHARLOTTE GRAYSON COFFEE Words: Paul Ray The extent to which you enjoy Charlotte Grayson’s new single will probably be determined within the first two seconds of the song. If you can tolerate the twee “doo-doo-doo” refrain which opens the track, you’ll likely be able to enjoy the winsome folk pop which follows. Coffee details a text-based break-up which causes a bout of insomnia forever associated with the caffeinated beverage. The song is relentlessly bright and melodic, to the extent that even if it’s on the borderline of irritating you (as it is for me), you still find yourself being swept along. It helps that the song doesn’t overstay its welcome – it’s a blast of wholesome acoustic pop which is hard to hold a grudge against. Released: 12.02.21 www.soundcloud.com/charlottegraysonmusic

JEN DIXON WHY DID WE CRASH? Words: Paul Ray Teessider Jen Dixon’s new song is a wintry ballad, centring around suitably doleful piano and an exposed, vulnerable vocal performance. Dixon’s voice is melodious and resonant, perfectly pitched at all times, which is why I wish she had a better song to sing. The song is often let down by fairly clunky, unnatural-sounding rhymes, and the underlying music doesn’t do much to make up for it. To be fair, the interplay between the piano and acoustic guitar is pleasant, providing some much-needed extra colour to the song’s pretty generic chordal structure, but by the time the wash of strings comes in near the end I don’t think many people would think they’re especially merited. A valiant attempt at emotionality. Released: 29.01.21 www.facebook.com/jendixonmusic

THE FALSE POETS GLISSANDO Words: Paul Ray Due to a certain viral pandemic, The False Poets had to record their new single separately, and you can sort of tell. Drums, gritty guitar chords and bass all chug along without ever sounding particularly together, on top of which an entertaining slide guitar performs the titular glissandi with gusto. Chris Riley’s vocal performance is infused with garage-country twang, constantly emphasising flat sevenths, but the song sounds disjointed, messy and demo-like. I’m not talking about the production quality, which is never a guarantor of quality anyway – the songwriting itself lacks confidence, circling around the same meat and potatoes chords without ever obtaining much conviction. Harsh, I know…it doesn’t take itself too seriously, at least, and the slide guitar bits sound pretty cool. Released: 05.02.21 www.facebook.com/thefalsepoets

MARQ ELECTRONICA CRAZY FOOL Words: Paul Jeffrey Shimmering with a lurex-fine pop sheen, this little gem of a track hooks the listener in, beckoning them to dance like no one’s watching – go on, we’re locked down…you’re allowed – the insistent heavy groove providing a great counterpoint to the classic house piano that punctuates the track throughout. Stylistically similar to Erasure, producer Simon Ellis (Brit and Ivor Novello award winner) keeps things on the right side of saccharine, winding the track to a proper hands-in-the-air climax; it’s also a real ear-worm, one play and you’ll be humming it all day. The Sapien Trace frontman may have just dropped a future Balearic classic in the dead of a freezing Northern winter. Released: 05.02.21 www.facebook.com/marqelectronica

PETE BEAT HOMESICK NIGHT Words: Paul Jeffrey The latest offering from Newcastle based singer-songwriter Pete Beat is a brooding and beautiful vignette to dissolution that creeps its way in to your room clutching the terrors of the night-time. Musically sparse and delicate throughout, the reverb-heavy guitars, feather light synth strings and gentle metronomic percussion camouflage the disconcerting dark lyrical content at its core, all delivered in Pete’s insidious broad Geordie baritone that plunges you into a heartbroken black hole from the opening couplet; “It’s getting dark, and this night has nothing for you”. Equal parts Machiavellian and gallows humour, Homesick Night is a substantive celebration of desolation and the after-hours. For fans of Arab Strap/Lambchop. Released: 19.02.21 www.petebeat.net

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ALBUMS 2/5 THE HOLD STEADY OPEN DOOR POLICY (POSITIVE JAMS)

4/5

SLOWTHAI TYRON (METHOD RECORDS)

Image by Crowns & Owls

Words: Ikenna Offor There’s no denying that Slowthai – the Northampton MC born Tyron Frampton – is quite the character. Part cheeky chappie, part anarcho-raver, and possessed of a stupefying penchant for febrile antics, the theatrically vociferous yet wickedly funny and erstwhile ‘Brexit Bandit’ has cut an anomalous figure since cracking the mainstream. Perhaps most strikingly, Frampton’s critically acclaimed debut – 2019’s incendiary, Mercury-nominated Nothing Great About Britain – revealed a deft flair for subversive pastiche. Unflinchingly caustic yet keenly perceptive, his irreverent tirades ran amok over abrasive beats, stridently skewering the British zeitgeist with the ornery aplomb of a seasoned punk vet. Against this backdrop, the raucous first half of TYRON serves as an ostensible refresher for fans of Frampton’s predilection for rampant screeds laced with gratuitous profanity, but also works as an entry point for new ears alike. “Rise and shine, let’s get it / Bomboclaat dickhead, bomboclaat dickhead”, he giddily spits all but five seconds into 45 Smoke’s ominous bombast, detonating a powder keg of turntness that engulfs all in its wake. Zestful assists from Skepta (CANCELLED) and A$AP Rocky (MAZZA) supply simpatico foils, but Frampton’s fiery finesse and boisterous bars remain the main draw. Interestingly enough, for all the explicit polemics of its predecessor, TYRON largely eschews outright politicking for bawdy braggadocio. Though no less compellingly defiant, the sneering jibes vivifying both DEAD and PLAY WITH FIRE are more broadly aimed at personal detractors than any particular authority figure. Swapping out head-banging gusto for earnest introspection, the record’s second half delves into gentler fare, both sonically and thematically. Here, Frampton’s keen knack for writerly candour – distinctly revealed on the heart-rending, autobiographical Northampton’s Child – waxes brightest, his idiosyncratic philosophies unfurled through poetic odes to self-reliance (focus) and resilience (push). The arresting duality of TYRON vividly elucidates Frampton’s push-pull approach to balancing his inner polarities. Candidly laying bare his imperfections and self-contradictions, he flatly rejects the sanctimony of moral one-upmanship, espousing instead that self-awareness of personal fallibility is an underrated strength. Case in point, for all of WOT’s bellicose bluster, it’s the emotional wallop of Frampton’s pensive mumbles on adhd that leaves you punch-drunk and reeling. Released: 05.02.21 www.slowthai.com

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH M. Caye Castagnetto – Leap Second (Castle Face, 05.02) //TV Priest – Uppers (Sub Pop, 05.02) //Lost Horizons – In Quiet Moments (Bella Union, 26.02) //The Telescopes – Song of Love & Revolution (Tapete Records, 05.02) // Camera – Prosthuman (Bureau B, 19.02) //Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview On Phenomenal Nature (BaDa Bing, 19.02) //Tala Vala – Modern Hysteric (Number Witch, 12.02) //The Weather Station – Ignorance (Fat Possum, 05.02) //Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist (Epitaph, 26.02) // Tele Novella – Merlynn Belle (Kill Rock Stars, 05.02) // Aerial East – Try Harder (Partisan Records, 12.02) // Wild Pink – A Billion Little Lights (Royal Mountain Records, 19.02) //Sun June – Somewhere (Run For Cover Records, 05.02) // Mouse On Mars – AAI (Anarchic Artificial Intelligence) (Thrill Jockey, 26.02) // Brijean – Feelings (Ghostly International, 26.02) //James Johnston/Steve Gullick – We Travel Time (God Unknown Records, 26.02) //Corvair – S/T (WIAWYA, 19.02) // Senyawa – Alkisah (Phantom Limb, 19.02) // Wassailer – i, the bastard (Empty Street Records, 26.02)

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Words: Mark Grainger When The Hold Steady released Thrashing Thru The Passion in 2019, it felt like a band rediscovering themselves and having fun, a solid and enjoyable album. Just under two years later and its follow up, Open Door Policy, manages to fall short of that bar. Open Door Policy is less scattershot, and reigns in some of the more familiar themes and musical cues that THS are known for. Unfortunately, it’s to the album’s detriment when paired with flat production that stops it from ever really getting going or even feeling like it’s trying to. To give ODP its due, it is possibly a more mature offering, but bright spots like Heavy Covenant, Family Farm and The Prior Procedure can’t assuage an overall sluggishness. Released: 19.02.21 www.theholdsteady.net

4.5 / 5 FEMI KUTI AND MADE KUTI LEGACY + (PARTISAN RECORDS) Words: Ben Lowes-Smith This is something really rather touching – a father and son passion project in which Femi and Made present a slice of positive, galvanising Afrobeat. It goes without saying that Femi is an old hand at producing kinetic, politicised pop music. His half of the record, Stop The Hate, showcases energetic performances, trademark lilting guitars splattering the record like paint on a Pollock canvas, and he’s as explicit in his message as ever. Arguably it’s Made’s more subtle, modern and expansive take that proves the most exciting; his laconic, vulnerable vocals a really human point of contact throughout. Highlights Different Streets and Higher You’ll Find wade into the jazzier waters of his sound. Playing the two albums back to back is to discover a varied, joyous and salubrious body of work. Released: 05.02.21 www.madekuti.com

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4/5

5/5

4/5

VIRGINIA WING PRIVATE LIFE (FIRE RECORDS)

JULIEN BAKER LITTLE OBLIVIONS (MATADOR RECORDS)

BLANCK MASS IN FERNEAUX (SACRED BONES)

Words: Robert Nichols Synth pop trio Virginia Wing have been forced inwards by COVID realities, digging deep to produce a lockdown masterwork. Songs of impulse, addiction, desperation and shame are exposed in therapy. Lyric rich. Alice Merida Richards’ vocals are to the fore, centre stage and often also in the wings as retorts or musical samples. Soft spoken or sweetly delivered, her voice is set against the alternative 80s clear, clean and bright melodic synth pop. The resultant sound has far more angles than from four square walls and is as complex as life itself. Opener Holding Out is catchy, accessible, chartable even, and provides a way in to a richly rewarding album that gets more illuminating with every play. After the outpouring there is hope: private Life, public triumph. Released: 12.02.21 www.virginiawingmusic.bandcamp.com

Words: James F Hattersley There’s only a few things in this world that I’m certain of. One of which is that Julien Baker remains the most self assessing, brutally honest songwriters of modern times. Documenting her personally exhausting experiences, Baker’s third effort Little Oblivions sounds sonically gigantic compared to her previously stripped-back approach. Swapping in drums, bass and a whole host of instruments, mostly played by Baker herself, the singer-songwriter’s self-produced album is a powerful gut-punch that leaves you emotionally raw. Filled with a vast monumental anguish, Baker puts her pain, despair and self degradation on display for us all to hear. It’s truly a comfort to be reminded that despite feeling like we’re broken beyond repair; we’re still alive. Thank you. Released: 26.02.21 www.julienbaker.com

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice One of the first of what we can assume will be a glut of lockdown albums this year, In Ferneaux (geddit?) also stands a good chance of being one of the strongest. In crafting an anxious, doom-laden mirror to the times, Benjamin John Power also subverts the Blanck Mass formula considerably. Over two side-spanning tracks, Power wields his usual doomsday maximalism with a far lighter touch than usual, with tense found sound and queasy new age arpeggiation occupying as much space as the neon-hued synths of Blanck Mass albums prior. Phase I offers an early soaring high that collapses into mounting dread, but it’s the visceral, all-consuming distortion of Phase II’s aggressive, noise-driven mosaic that lives up to the title. Released: 26.02.21 www.blanckmass.bandcamp.com

4/5

4/5

3.5 / 5

MAPSTATION MY FREQUENCIES, WHEN WE (BUREAU B)

PALE WAVES WHO AM I? (DIRTY HIT)

BODIES OF WATER IS THIS WHAT IT’S LIKE (THOUSAND TONGUES)

Words: Robert Nichols Holed up in his studio by the Rhine, Stefan Schneider pared down his equipment and approach. Self-isolated from any collaborators, he raised the drawbridge and dived down deep into his own electronica world. A world we enter through smoking, whirling machines soon morphs into a hum which then flows into a many faceted intensity. No tunes, no dancing here. Synthesised soundscapes are interrupted by occasional bursts of static energy rather than percussive presence. It is calming but never predictable. A quieter Kraut-electronica. For someone often inspired by African and South American folk and sound, there is the essence of African beats on Flute Channels, but for the most part if this is world music then it is not necessarily of this world. Released: 26.02.21 www.mapstation.bandcamp.com

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Words: James F Hattersley To answer your question Pale Waves – you are a more-ish Goth bubblegum indie pop treat wrapped in a nostalgic early 00’s comfort blanket. Throughout Who Am I?, each track is a lament of a desire to be a better person and embrace yourself for who you truly are. Within these candid tales is always an incredibly catchy chorus that will become an echo in your mind, such as the noticeably darker queer anthem She’s My Religion and the pop splendour of Change. The 80’s soundtrack vibe of the band’s previous releases is gone, replaced with a more naked and vulnerable sound. It’s dense but breathes when necessary and does not hold back from delivering an insatiable and infectious experience. Released: 12.02.21 www.palewaves.co.uk

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Once purveyors of the kind of super-sized indie rock favoured by the likes of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, David and Meredith Metcalf return (alongside Alice Lin and Kyle Gladden) with some new percussive twists on Is This What It’s Like. Album opener and immediate highlight Every Little Bird bursts open into desert rock riffs and disco grooves; Far, Far Away delivers on its noirish backroom jazz; and Back In The Canyon rides a sparse rhythm and rippling vibraphone to a state of grace to show a band not lacking for ideas or inspiration. The presence of some more quotidian fare does lead to an uneven listen however: it’s hard not to wish they’d pursued their bolder inclinations throughout. Released: 12.02.21 www.bodiesofwater.net

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ALBUMS

4/5 CLOUD NOTHINGS THE SHADOW I REMEMBER (CARPARK RECORDS) Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Nine years on from their previous rendezvous with Steve Albini on the career-defining Attack On Memory, The Shadow I Remember finds Cloud Nothings doubling down on concision and catchiness in this brief but excitable collection of drill sergeant pop. Dylan Baldi’s ability to mine the detritus of punk and power pop past to find new shapes to throw remains undiminished, and aside from slow burning opener Oslo, the band’s current quartet line-up have fun pushing each song to breaking point, be it the heads down sprint of It’s Love or the frenzied guitar and synthesiser duelling that brings A Longer Moon to a close. Refinement is the name of the game over advancement, but Cloud Nothings are still firing solidly in their second decade. Released: 26.02.21 www.cloudnothings.com

4/5

5/5

MUSH LINES REDACTED (MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES)

BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME (NINJA TUNE)

Words: Tracy Hyman If Weebl and Bob grew up to live in Leeds and form a band, this is what it would sound like. Lo-fi, angular punk rock, from the steady and rhythmic Trump-inspired Drink The Bleach to the more frantic Blunt Instruments, it hooks you in and spits you out onto the dancefloor turned mosh pit. Discordant and melodic, a chaotic mix of frenetic vocals, ebbing and flowing from slow to fast and back again. Enticing chromatic guitar doodlings, both ascending and descending, and the occasional over-indulgent distortion.12 Lines Continued ends the album, an epic seven minute opus, with tempo changes a plenty, scales and arpeggios leading us through the melodic changes. Overall, Lines Redacted is a true dystopian reflection of the current social and political climate. Released: 12.02.21 www.mushband.bandcamp.com

Words: Lee Hammond One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, fortunately though For The First Time easily surpasses expectations. With a complete disregard for genre or style, Black Country, New Road have produced something truly exceptional. Opening with the excitable and sonically epic Instrumental, it sets an incredible precedent. However, their sound continues to evolve, from the coarse sounds of Sunglasses and Opus to the dream pop sensibilities of Track X. There are blasts of intensity and discordance, but they’re mixed with gentle passages, when all of this is coupled with the brilliant observational lyrics For The First Time cannot be faulted. Black Country, New Road stand head and shoulders above so many of their peers and this record solidifies that. Released: 05.02.21 www.blackcountrynewroad.com

3/5

4/5

4/5

THE MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRIES SUNS OUT GUNS OUT (ERNEST JENNINGS RECORD CO)

ANDY CHAMPION AND GRAEME WILSON SHOES FOR LOSERS (NEW JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC RECORDINGS)

MOGWAI AS THE LOVE CONTINUES (ROCK ACTION)

Words: Paul Broadhead ‘Supergroup’ TMVF’s third long-player was recorded over six years and three States, and in many ways it shows. Some standouts, like the high-tempo Sonic Youth-meets-Beach Boys 60 second blast of Betty Ford James and the distortion-soaked The Daily Biscuit, are not enough to rescue an album too bogged down by its lack of direction. Opener MC Modern treads water with its Michael Stipe-at-his-most-dour-esque vocal before making an almighty splash, all wailing guitars and furious drums before retreating back into tepid waters, where it remains for much of the record. After You is a nice urgently melancholic pop song, but for the most part this is just a back-and-forth ferry when what you ideally want is a speedboat. Released: 26.02.21 www.marthasvineyardferries.bandcamp.com

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Words: Michael O’Neill The marvellous Shoes For Losers is one of the first releases from fledgling local jazz label New Jazz And Improvised Music Recordings, a brilliant platform founded to compensate for the pandemic’s effect on the North East’s exceptional experimental music community. The collaborative effort is a wonderful reminder of the thrills of live improvised music, with Champion’s dextrous, unorthodox rhythms providing the perfect foundation for Wilson’s soaring, expansive melodies. The flow of musical conversation always remains unpredictable and delightfully expressionistic, with the title track and standout Sinking Below The Horizon being a brilliant showcase for the players’ refusal to be bound to the conventional parameters of their instruments. Taken as a whole, Shoes For Losers is bold, uncompromising and wildly entertaining. Released: 24.02.21 www.andychampion.bandcamp.com

Words: Tom McLean Scottish post-rock band Mogwai’s eleventh album, As The Love Continues, stands testament to their ability to fire the synapses and pump atmosphere directly into the brain. They haven’t the reliance on lyrics that many have; no care for trends or Tweets. This is their niche, this is their sound, and the undulating rhythms, riffs and percussion of As The Love Continues is unequivocally Mogwai. The album itself is consistently strong, however the warming fluidity of Ritchie Sacramento and melodic synth depth of recent single Dry Fantasy are as good as any. Whether you’re looking for the soundtrack to your next TED Talk or late-night study session, Mogwai might just have the answer. Released: 19.02.21 www.mogwai.scot


ALBUMS

5/5

4.5 / 5

4/5

FRÁNÇOIS & THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS BANANE BLEUE (DOMINO)

KARIMA WALKER WAKING THE DREAMING BODY (KEELED SCALES/ORINDAL RECORDS)

PSYCHEDELIC PORN CRUMPETS SHYGA! THE SUNLIGHT MOUND (MARATHON ARTISTS)

Words: Elodie A. Roy Like the watercolours Fránçois once painted, Banane Bleue is full of shimmers, shadows and hopeful nostalgia. His fifth album for Domino (recorded in Berlin, Athens and Paris) carries us from falsely sunny beaches (Coucou) to congealed, coldwave neon cities (Dans un taxi) – recreating lost harmonies between seasons near and far. Fránçois loses himself in forests and cities, tending to his own secret pop patterns. Banane Bleue brings to mind the esoteric moods of British label él Records (1984-1989). A song begun in Spanish effortlessly continues in French, or English. There are sandy layers of retro synths, pianos, guitars and drum machines. Fránçois’ dreamy, leisurely voice is like that of water. It makes things grow, heals wounds and casually crushes what it seeks to retain. Released: 26.02.21 www.francoisatlas.com

Words: Robin Webb Intimate subtle loops introduce this lush offering from Arizonan artist Karima Walker. Almost entirely self-produced during the pandemic, it floats delicately between the eyelids phasing between awake and hazy dreaminess. The whole album is a desert mirage of sound, her sonic subconscious and airy vocals coalescing effortlessly with hypnotic electronic loops and acoustic instrumentation. The track Window I sways in waves and is stirred by distantly remembered prehistoric oceans forming beautifully desolate backdrops, as her inspiration swims in the landscapes of the Sonoran sands and surrounding mountains. The deeply ambient Horizon, Harbor Resonance with its buzzed out drones and field recordings, sails and builds harmonic crescendos; like much of this gorgeous album it allows your mind to divinely wander. Released: 26.02.21 www.karimawalker.com

Words: Robin Webb A fourth album by the full-on Australian psych rockers, the Crumpets have given themselves space to write mostly as a consequence of the forced pandemic touring hiatus and have produced a melodic noisy blowout. On first listen I was struck by the Sgt. Pepper feel, certainly in the track Sawtooth Monkfish, and when reading founding member Jack McEwan’s thoughts on this release he cites that very album along with Nirvana’s Nevermind. While certainly less grungy, PPC maintain their noise level infused with some genuinely tuneful oomph. Never a band to ponder their shoes too much, the album trundles along in bouncy quicktime, forming a fuzzed-out rock soundtrack to every BBQ this summer...well, in Oz at least. Released: 05.02.21 www.psychedelicporncrumpets.com

4/5

4.5 / 5

5/5

JOHN CARPENTER LOST THEMES III: ALIVE AFTER DEATH (SACRED BONES)

MAXÏMO PARK NATURE ALWAYS WINS (PIAS)

DJANGO DJANGO GLOWING IN THE DARK (BECAUSE MUSIC)

Words: Chris J Allan Alive After Death. Turning the Bones. The Dead Walk. While these could be titles of a new film from horror maestro John Carpenter, they are in fact all tracks from his latest soundtrack sound-a-like release, and they’re just as darkly evocative as you’d imagine. With this being the first album following a world tour by Carpenter, along with accompaniment by his son, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, it’s hard to miss the added driving confidence that fuels its thrashing guitars and duelling synthesizers. His film scores always proved he was a pioneer in the use of electronic music, but this cements his musical renaissance as something to switch on for. Lost Themes III might be chilling, but it’s absolutely thrilling. Released: 05.02.21 www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com

Words: Steve Spithray A reinvention of sorts, Nature Always Wins draws on more classic musical references than previous albums, perhaps not surprisingly with Ben Allen (Deerhunter) brought in as producer. Versions Of You is the first big Maxïmo Park melody, while some abstract BVs from Pauline Murray (on the punky Futureheads-esque Ardour) add an unexpected twist. Familiar themes of relationships and belonging persist but All Of Me, Ardour and a lush Meeting Up are as good as any three track run by the band. The melodic dystopia on Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel reminds us they can also do downbeat beautifully too, and suddenly the odd neo-psych of Child Of The Flatlands makes much more sense at the end of what could be their most coherent record yet. Released: 26.02.21 www.maximopark.com

Words: Kristopher Cook Space and time seem like such meek concepts when breaking down a Django Django record, especially on this fourth LP, which finds the London art-rock outfit scattered across axis for your listening pleasure. Escape entropy is the mission should you willingly accept; bidding bon voyage to despair, constraints, small town life, dreams and even the earth itself. Spirals serves as that blast-off moment, leaving the door wide open for the likes of Waking Up and The Ark to float unrestricted despite appearing off-base. Glowing In The Dark is a fine addition to the Django Django saga, shedding light on what lies as above and so below. Where does it rank in the catalogue? Bobbing somewhere near the top for sure. Released: 21.02.21 www.djangodjango.co.uk

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MIXTAPE WORDS: BECCY OWEN

Now then! I’m Beccy. I sing and write as a solo artist and also with my band The Refuge. In 2016 I founded Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choirs, an international programme bringing people of all ages, backgrounds and perceived musical abilities together to find connection and courage through group singing. The Changemaker’s Chorus is a brand new online programme for 2021 and it’s for anyone working towards a more fair and equal world – I’m really excited about it. In this Mixtape I’ve chosen songs that are either directly about change or that have changed me in some fundamental way. www.beccyowen.bandcamp.com www.popupchoirs.com

NINA SIMONE MISSISSIPPI GODDAM I was 17 and sat on the National Express bus to Newcastle from Yorkshire. My mate shoved a tape in my Walkman (it was the 90s) and said, “check this out”. It was The Best of Nina Simone and Mississippi Goddam was the first song that played. I didn’t understand what I was hearing at the time but I knew it was important. Shamefully, we’d not learned about the Civil Rights movement at school, so this was our entry-level education. Simone’s impatience for racial equality and her call for immediate, radical change are clear in the fury of her delivery and her frenetic lyrical prowess. She was a truth-teller and a prophet. The song was never captured in a studio, so when you hear it, that’s her performing live in front of a mostly white audience. You can feel the charged tension in the room. Listen

LITTLE SIMZ PERSONS This came out on Little Simz’s first album after all the mixtape releases. She was technically astonishing from the off. There’s an energy-to-burn, matter-of-fact power when she sings “women can be kings”. Since then I’ve heard her find

myriad ways of saying, ‘fuck the patriarchy’. Not least on the song Venom from Grey Area, which almost made the list. Listen

ANGELIQUE KIDJO ONCE IN A LIFETIME More circles: here’s Kidjo returning the Talking Heads classic to its Afrobeat roots. An homage to an homage that brings about a new level of understanding. In fact, she re-did the whole of Remain In The Light. Seek it! Listen

LINGUA IGNOTA DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR? This does something to my entire body. It sets me alight. As a fellow sexual assault survivor, listening to Kristin Hayter’s uncompromising rage has become a ceremonial part of my recovery. An almost daily ritual. I used to be afraid of vitriol, I guess because women are conditioned to ‘play nice’, but this song turns something that feels unwieldy into something that’s artful and vivid. That’s a phenomenal gift. I was gonna include Sinead O’ Connor’s version of Queen of Denmark in this list for similar reasons, but: word count. Listen

TIM DALLING A ROUND FOR THE NHS Tim wrote this last year as the pandemic hit, and there’s a lush video of it up on YouTube, with Brad Field on drums and John Pope on bass. It’s an ear-worm and it needs to go viral, not least because of the lyrics, printed here for your convenience: “So let’s remember when we get out of this fine mess/And election time rolls round again/Let’s not vote for the free market men/Who didn’t spend enough, made life tough, with no decent pay rises/For the good old NHS”. Preach. Listen

ME LOST ME WHEN YOU WERE BORN This is one of those songs I’ve known forever, and there’s loads of artists who’ve done it well, but when I heard Jayne’s version on her debut record Arcana this became The One. It’s regularly on a loop in my head, reminding me of the cycle of life and that change is part of nature. The underpinning drone and octave pedal on her voice results in something that’s both unsettling and comforting. I love that kind of circling paradox. Listen

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NARC. #169 February 2021  

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