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ISSUE164

AUGUST20

SAVE LIVE COMEDY IVAN THE TOLERABLE JAM JAR CINEMA BASE CAMP TIPPS

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PREVIEWS 4 AUGUST PREVIEWS

ISSUE164

AUGUST20

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New releases from Luci Saint, Nice Guy, Victoria Owsnett, To Kill A Nation, Dylan Cartlidge, Kema Kay, Laurie Shepherd, The Creep Void and more; plus livestreamed shows courtesy of Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Tracks’ Mini Mish Mash and Meat Factory at Alphabetti online. Several of our region’s arts venues reopen their doors, plus there’s live performances at Virgin Money Unity Arena, The Stand comedy club, Gosforth Civic Theatre and Salt Market Social, not to mention art exhibitions galore, both online and in the flesh. Get amongst it!

INTERVIEWS 18 BASE CAMP 19 JAM JAR CINEMA 20 SAVE LIVE COMEDY

The future of live comedy is in crisis; comedian and writer Si Beckwith talks to some of the region’s clubs and comics about the importance of supporting the scene

To paraphrase The Kinks (or, if you like, Conchita Wurst), where have all the good gigs gone?! Oh, haven’t you heard? We can host performances indoors from 1st August, and there’s all those really cost effective and profitable outdoor event opportunities too, because the weather’s going to be AMAZING until at least, like, October. A virus, you say? Countless thousands still unable to get back to work and a government who’re just letting us get on with it? DON’T BE DAFT, you can go to the beach and the pub, and leave your shit all over the countryside, what are you complaining about?! And...relax. Sorry, needed to get that off my chest. How are you doing? I think you can tell I’m teetering on the edge. On a serious note, we’re thrilled to bring you news of live music and comedy this month and, as venues get to grips with new rules and regs, we’ll bring you news of even more in the future both in the mag and online at www.narcmagazine.com. We’ve got used to a very immediate society since lockdown began, so I would urge anyone planning events to get in touch with us nice and early so we can shout about what you’re up to. As I mentioned last month, we’re holding off printing NARC. for the time being, mainly out of consideration and respect for our distribution outlets – many of them pubs and venues who have enough to get to grips with right now – and to give music and cultural events a chance to get back up and running with confidence. For now, you can get the digital copy of the magazine delivered straight to your inbox by joining our mailing list – just email me at narcmedia@gmail.com.

22 WARPED FREQS 23 HEAT DEATH OF THE SUN 24 PSYDOVE 25 JOHN SCHONEBOOM 26 SHEILA GRABER 28 BENJAMIN BELINSKA 29 TIPPS 30 IVAN THE TOLERABLE 32 GALLAGHER & TURNER

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

Cover Design Vicky Markham Contributors Si Beckwith / Paul Broadhead / Paul Brown / Kristopher Cook / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Caitlin Disken / Laura Doyle / Lee Hammond / Francoise Harvey / Tracy Hyman / Eugenie Johnson / Jason Jones / Beverley Knight / Ben Lowes-Smith / Kate Murphy / Robert Nichols / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Nicola Owen / Paul Ray / Helen Redfern / Damian Robinson / Elodie A. Roy / James Russell / Steve Spithray / Jamie Taylor / Martin Trollope / Robin Webb / Ali Welford

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

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

REVIEWS 33 DEMOS Featuring fresh sounds from Dan Ward, Torn Apart By Lisa, Yes Chef, Bloomsfield and Heaven Below

34 TRACKS New singles and EPs from local artists including Philth Like, Leopard Rays, Prince Bishops, Cache-Cache feat. Elizabeth Liddle, SQUARMS, Darling Cannibal and more

35 ALBUMS Reviews of new releases from Biffy Clyro, Matmos, Shitkid, Erasure, The Morning Shift, Kid Dad, A. Swayze & The Ghosts, Liv.e, James Dean Bradfield, I Like Trains, Ulver, Samia and more

39 MIXTAPE Comedian and podcaster Ian Todd talks about some of his favourite songs

Next Issue Out 25th August

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PREVIEWS

MUSIC

DYLAN CARTLIDGE RELEASES YELLOW BRICK ROAD EP

Words: Claire Dupree Here in the North East we’ve long been wise to the talents of Dylan Cartlidge. The Redcar rapper and multi-instrumentalist has been gaining fans

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across the pond as well as in the UK, with BBC 6Music and Radio 1 support, not to mention climbing the US Alternative Radio Chart. Dylan’s passion for music and skilful genre subversion is at the fore of his new Yellow Brick Road EP, due for release on 14th August. The title track is a funky groove-laden paean to overcoming fear and self-sabotage, while recently released single Cheerleader tackles self-esteem and not conforming to stereotypes, complete with Dylan’s trademark lyrical manipulation, fast beats and hip-shaking

rhythms. Dylan’s ability to touch on raw subjects with sensitivity and poise is just one of the things that makes him so special; a deft lyricist, unafraid to lay his soul bare, his music demonstrates a profound respect for what’s gone before while being unafraid to rip it up and start again. This EP is surely only the start of what’s certain to be a stratospheric career, get on board now. Dylan Cartlidge releases the Yellow Brick Road EP on 14th August via Glassnote Music www.dylancartlidge.com


PREVIEW

STAGE

BIFF: THE GLOBAL HEARTBEAT OF A SMALL TOWN

Words: Helen Redfern Since 1965, the Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance (BIFF) has been bringing together artistes and admirers of dance, heritage and culture from all over the world. For more than 50 years, they’ve been joining nations together through the power of dance, and this year is no different. OK, so it will be different in format to Billingham’s celebrated dance festival: the global pandemic

has meant performers and audiences are unable to unite this year in person to experience the joys of live dance theatre. However, Artistic Director Olga Maloney and the festival’s organisers have come up with an extra special project that brings people together in a novel way that will “bring a sparkle into people’s lives during these uncertain times.” The Global Heartbeat Of A Small Town is a collaboration between BIFF and Balbir Singh Dance Company, and will showcase dancers from across the globe performing live from their own kitchens and living rooms. United through the love of dance, followers of the festival can view performances that provide a special insight into their unique cultural heritage from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Georgia, Japan, Mexico, Northern Cyprus, Peru, Russia and the

UK on the BIFF Facebook and Twitter pages. Expect as always lively movements, colourful costumes and mesmerising skills as this wonderful virtual festival takes place from Saturday 1st-Sunday 9th August, concluding with a video montage of the community artwork created throughout The Global Heartbeat Of A Small Town project. The Global Heartbeat Of A Small Town is broadcast via BIFF’s Facebook and Twitter pages from Saturday 1st-Sunday 9th August. See the website for full listings www.facebook.com/ billinghamworlddancefestival www.twitter.com/BillFest www.billinghamfestival.com

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PREVIEW

Bisola Bella as Mary Seacole, image by Eliot Smith Dance

STAGE

ELIOT SMITH DANCE: SEACOLE + NIGHTINGALE ONLINE PERFORMANCE

Words: Helen Redfern When it comes to research and development, North East contemporary choreographer Eliot Smith is second to none. He’s insatiably curious. Each time he creates a piece of work, he listens, learns and immerses himself in the back story. Only then does he lean into the choreography. “It has been a continued passion of mine to look at historical contexts with fresh eyes,” explains Eliot Smith, “to show their relevancy today, and allow the characters involved to speak through the medium of dance.” In his latest project, due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artistic director of Eliot Smith Dance has moved beyond live dance performance to create SEACOLE + NIGHTINGALE, a multi-media presentation of the nursing legacy of Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale that shines a light on today’s NHS frontline staff. Inspired by the lives of heroes past and present, this interdisciplinary documentary is a new departure for Eliot Smith and his company, and will combine music by composer Adam Johnson, original artwork by Bernadette Koranteng, a poem by children from Seaton Sluice Primary School, and interviews with Trevor Sterling from the Mary Seacole Trust, David Green from the Florence Nightingale Museum and staff from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, intertwined with passionate performances by Eliot Smith Dance.

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Filmed in some of Britain’s most beautiful forests, you can expect natural beauty, courage and devotion. SEACOLE + NIGHTINGALE will premiere free of charge from 7.30pm on Thursday 13th August via Eliot Smith Dance’s website www.eliotsmithdance.com/ seacoleandnightingale

ART & LIT

VAGABONDS BY RICHARD BAKER

Words: Eugenie Johnson Emerging from a pit of sadness and despair, Middlesbrough band Wraiths forged their own form of self-styled ‘hell metal’, drawing on influences from Black Sabbath to Acacia Strain in order to portray some of the darkest recesses of human consciousness. Fusing together a raging maelstrom of formidable and unforgiving riffs, the likes of their 2012 EP provided intense shockwaves of full-blooded doom rock. Now, former drummer Richard Baker has reflected on his experiences as part of the band to bring his first book, Vagabonds, to fruition. It’s a gritty collection of true stories from his time in Wraiths, as they took their visceral and raucous shows on tour across the UK. The anthology documents some of the realities of life on the road as a band grasping for success, from sleeping on floors and bathing in swimming pools to arguing with promoters to get paid. This is a first-hand look at what it’s really like to be a band with big dreams on the road. Vagabonds is published on 1st August in both a limited edition paperback with exclusive artwork and as an eBook.

MUSIC

NICE GUY RELEASE DEBUT SINGLE, FAKE LEATHER

Words: James Russell Fake Leather is the debut single from Nice Guy, a four-piece alt. rock outfit hailing from the land of the Tees. Expertly crafted vocals sit atop pulsating drums and raw, frenetic guitars to create an indie rock anthem that is as refreshing as it is banging. This one promises to go down a storm with the sweaty masses once gigs return. With inspiration coming from unlikely places, such as “those gold necklaces that said ‘fuck the Tories’” and “Deirdre Barlow’s neck muscles”, Fake Leather has more in common with The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Maximo Park than the power of an aging soap star’s neck, which is ultimately a good thing. Recorded and produced by Goosed Records’ David Todd and Nigel Crooks, this is an exciting introduction to Nice Guy, who bear all the hallmarks of a force to be reckoned with in the indie rock world. Mathematics, recorded and produced by Teesside’s Luci Saint, is the perfect B-side to Fake Leather, and leans towards stripped-back melancholy over indie dancefloor-filling madness. This feat is deftly achieved without compromising the style or personality of this versatile and talented bunch of Smoggies. Nice Guy release Fake Leather on 2nd August www.soundcloud.com/weareniceguy


PREVIEW

The Creep Void by Graeme Baty

MUSIC

GOSFORTH CIVIC THEATRE GIGS

Words: Claire Dupree As we all know, it’s pretty tough to be a live music venue or performance space right now, and it’s even harder for those who additionally have charitable elements to their businesses. Gosforth Civic Theatre, which is run by disability arts organisation Liberdade, have more hurdles to face than many, but with a typically forward-thinking attitude and dedication to their customers and those they support, they’re taking tentative steps back towards doing what they do best. Safety is at the forefront of their concerns, of course, so their newly announced live gigs (which kicked off in late July) are taking place in the intimate courtyard space outside the venue on Friday tea-times. Their support of local artists continues, and has seen performances from folk duo Janice Burns and Jon Doran, blues guitarist Memphis Gerald and Shields frontman Rich Sutton take place already, with many more exciting acts to be announced for August. Their indoor cafe will reopen at the beginning of August, with all safety measures taken into account, and the live shows are free to attend but tickets must be booked in advance (available weekly, keep an eye on their website and social media – @GoCivTheatre – for updates). As CEO Rob Huggins explains, GCT’s priorities are geared towards creating a comfortable and supportive space for all to enjoy. “Like all arts organisations we want to change the world, we want to bring people together to create understanding, we want to decide what is the new normal by being extraordinary, and we want to shape our community by telling our stories

and providing a home for everyone to enjoy. This is who we are, we will survive, we will support those that need us, and we will open our doors again for everybody to come together.” www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk

MUSIC

the loss, the gain. I’m letting the audience into my world. More than I ever have before.” Kema Kay releases Not Anymore EP on 9th August www.facebook.com/kemakayofficial

MUSIC

KEMA KAY RELEASES THE CREEP VOID NEW EP, NOT ANYMORE RELEASE NEW SINGLE, SICK OF ANGELS Words: Claire Dupree Not content with receiving major plaudits for his performance in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, writing and producing his debut solo theatre show, Shine, at Live Theatre last year (where he became an associate artist) as well as working with young people to develop songwriting and rapping skills to build their confidence, Kema Kay unveils yet another project which further demonstrates his talent. The Newcastle-based rapper’s new EP, Not Anymore, takes the listener on a journey through Kema’s life; from facing adversity, racism and tragedy, Kema’s eloquent lyrics describe how he’s overcome the trials of his life to become a confident and self-assured young man. The title track’s rhythmic beats and stabbing strings are a particular highlight: “They used to count me out and that used to bother me, but not anymore”. The EP switches between genres, from grime to hip-hop, pop and Afrobeat; Let’s Drive shows a softer side, while Standard’s whispered intro belies the barely restrained anger of the lyrics and Woes’ glitchy synths and honest introspection demonstrate Kema’s lyrical prowess. “There’s a lot of unexpected songs on the EP. People will get to hear a side of me they haven’t before.” Kema says of the release. “The passion, the anger, the sadness, the happiness, the fun,

Words: Claire Dupree The Coronavirus pandemic has basically screwed up every band’s plans so far this year, and The Creep Void are no exception. The Washington-based alt. rock band had been gearing up to release new single Sick of Angels back in May, but due to obvious complications the release was put back and plans put on hold. It’s now finally getting an airing, and it’s been more than worth the wait. The band’s trademark fuzzy riffs are in attendance; a rollocking rock tune, it’s a thrilling four and a half minutes of energetic vocals, propulsive rhythms and spirited melodic guitar lines which hardly let up. The band recorded the track just before lockdown at Blaydon’s Inheartstudios. “The song itself is quite self explanatory. [There’s] a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. The song is about those people who exploit the bad stuff for their own personal gain. Influencers, social justice warriors, people who try to police other people if they don’t agree with their opinion. They portrait themselves as angels when in fact they are nothing but self indulgent parasites feeding on the misfortune of tragedy.” The Creep Void release Sick of Angels on 22nd August www.soundcloud.com/thecreepvoid

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PREVIEW

COMEDY

THE STAND ON DEMAND & LIVE SHOWS

Words: Claire Dupree Over the last few months we’ve all had to get used to adapting our lives and reassessing our expectations of the things we love. Some are better at this than others, of course, and when it comes to Newcastle comedy club The Stand, the idea that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has never been so apt. Since lockdown began The Stand have been livestreaming stand-up comedy every Saturday night, with top flight comics and local favourites performing from their homes. In addition, from both the Newcastle venue and their Edinburgh headquarters they’ve masterminded ‘behind closed doors’ livestreams and have managed to bring the warmth, energy and laughs you’d enjoy in a room full of strangers directly onto your computer screen. They’ve handled the challenges they still continue to face with ingenuity and aplomb. The Stand have also recently launched an On Demand website, which hosts exclusive content from brilliant comedians available to rent for a few quid. Currently available (although regularly updated, and not everything is available forever) are shows from Miles Jupp, Carl Hutchinson, Matt Reed and Jonny & The Baptists. From August they’ll also be bringing actual real-life live comedy back to their Newcastle venue, the intimate shows will be hosted in their outdoor courtyard and will feature local favourite Carl Hutchinson. Check out the venue’s website and social media pages for more info on tickets.

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While it’s hoped live performance may return in a safe and controlled way very soon, we get the feeling The Stand aren’t done innovating just yet. www.ondemand.thestand.co.uk www.thestand.co.uk/newcastle

MUSIC

TO KILL A NATION RELEASES NEW EP

Words: Beverley Knight Ground-breaking novel 1984 by George Orwell was revisited by musical project To Kill A Nation during lockdown, where the phrase ‘The Destruction of Words’ called out to him, and was selected as an ideal title for his new EP. Commencing three years ago, the Billingham producer’s canon already boasts an EP, Homeland, and debut album This Is All We Have. There’s a wide range of influences cited, including New Order, Nick Drake and Bill Callahan, and a keenness to soak up and interpret as many genres as possible. All recorded at his home, The Destruction of Words is To Kill A Nation’s most personal creation and a reflection of his mood captured in art. Starting with a nod to Air’s percussion, As The Sun Goes Down focuses on its brass leading to the denser arrangement of The Darker Side Of You, with its brooding guitar work and strings. Touch The Light shows its understated style, while Hold The Fear has an animalistic feel. The instrumental EP ends with the aptly titled We Are Falling Apart, layering samples and alien-like effects. All five tracks together present a luxuriant ambiance.

Laurie Shepherd To Kill A Nation releases his new EP, The Destruction of Words, on 28th August www.facebook.com/tokillanation

MUSIC

LAURIE SHEPHERD RELEASES NEW SINGLES

Words: Claire Dupree Continuing her impressive work ethic, this month sees the release of two new singles from Newcastle songwriter Laurie Shepherd as she builds up to an album release in the autumn. An artist whose connection to the region’s landscape is an intrinsic part of her sound, it comes as no surprise that first single Wild Land is an evocative ode to longing for nature – something we can likely all identify with given our recent confinement. Drawing on imagery of the ancient forests which once covered the British Isles, gentle strings and soft piano sounds underpin Laurie’s wistful vocals. She says of the song: “I think there are many good things about technology and the modern world, but I also think it can have a numbing effect on us. Cities are great, and they can be also be wild places, in a different way, but we need that other kind of wildness. It’s part of what makes us human.” Footsteps, due for release later the month, changes tack entirely although is no less affecting. A paean to the Suffragettes and the fight for equal rights, handclaps provide rhythm as a funky guitar line carries the track to a chorus of multi-tracked vocals. Laurie Shepherd releases Wild Land on 5th August, followed by Footsteps on 19th August www.laurieshepherd.co.uk


PREVIEW

Pit Road with Telegraph Poles and Lights © Norman Cornish Limited

ART & LIT

BOWES MUSEUM REOPENS

Words: Nicola Owen Barnard Castle’s beautiful Bowes Museum will once again reveal its treasures to the public as they reopen on 1st August. The hugely popular Norman Cornish painting exhibition has been extended to January, so if you haven’t caught the

art of one of the famous Pitman Painters yet you have a few more months to visit. The collection includes a number of previously unseen pieces and tells the story of the artist’s enduring career. The museum also has a contrasting exhibition by the 19th Century Pre Raphaelite school which is enticingly described as an “exploration of the world of medieval myths and legends and of tales of heroic deeds and chivalric honour”. Work by Rossetti, Millais and Burne Jones depict knights who were, for the most part, lovers as well as fighters. Running until mid-September is a commercial exhibition from Judy Hurst’s

intricate illustrative works, and winning entries from the Bouts Art Competition for young people will be on display in the grounds. The museum continues to engage a younger audience with events planned throughout August which include a bird and bunting workshop, a knights and dragons craft event and a day of Medieval Mayhem where kids and adults can create their own shield and coat of arms. Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle reopens on 1st Agust www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk

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PREVIEW

Salt Market Social by Kathryn Fergus

EVENTS

SALT MARKET SOCIAL

Words: Claire Dupree Delayed or postponed events are hardly news these days, but for Salt Market Social they’ve had to wait practically an entire year until they were finally able to throw open their doors. An industrial landmark on North Shields Fish Quay, the former Cosalt Factory will now be home to a street food, craft beer and music emporium which seeks to support the best of the region’s independent traders. Opening for their first weekend from Friday 14thSunday 16th August (and again over the bank holiday weekend from Friday 28th-Monday 31st August), Salt Market Social will feature much-loved North East food pop-ups including taco makers Lobo Rojo, Pan Asia, Med Head and Hatch 76, plus crafty brews courtesy of North East breweries including Wylam, Errant, Northern Alchemy and Allendale among others. Given the large space their industrial setting affords them, it’s a perfect location for socially-distanced fun, and punters are encouraged to book their 90-minute time slot in advance (although walk-ups are available). Entertainment is provided in the form of DJs, and we’re assured live music is on the cards in the future. Co-founder, Jim Mawdsley (who eagle-eyed readers will know from his former job as CEO of music support agency, Generator) says: “After the last few months we all need something to look forward to, and we’ve worked hard to make the space as exciting and safe as possible. People can feel reassured that our social distancing measures and hygiene protocols are right up there with the best. We’re lucky that we have a huge space, so haven’t had to compromise on the experience and atmosphere we want people to get from our Socials, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”

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Salt Market Social takes place at 1 Liddell Street, North Shields Fish Quay from Friday 14th-Sunday 16th and Friday 28th-Monday 31st August www.saltmarketsocial.co.uk

STAGE

MEAT FACTORY @ ALPHABETTI THEATRE ONLINE

Words: Eugenie Johnson Shirley Dobson is a proud businesswoman. She’s the owner of a payday loans company, Dosh Ltd, and she’s won both North East Business Woman of the Year 2016 and the National Business Award 2019 (oh, plus she was awarded an OBE too, you know). So, what’s next for Shirley? Well, she’s getting back to the grind (perhaps a bit more literally than intended). A darkly satirical play, Meat Factory follows Shirley as she embarks on her next undertaking. She’ll be pitching to the government and her fellow big-wig business buddies to help launch the latest business proposition as part of Quick ‘n’ Easy Meat-Based Products (and if you’re thinking that ‘meat-based’ is quite vague, you might want to hold on to those suspicions). Originally a short play featuring in the 2015 award winning performance The Rooms, Meat Factory is now being reimagined as a short film, working alongside videographer Adam Goodwin. An online performance will be available on Alphabetti Theatre’s website indefinitely from Wednesday 19th August, so it’ll be possible to join Shirley in a virtual meat-based venture. Meat Factory is screened via Alphabetti Theatre’s website from Wednesday 19th August www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk

MUSIC

MINI MISH MASH ONLINE

Words: Claire Dupree Despite recent circumstances, Darlington’s Tracks music collective have kept true to their ethos of giving musicians in Teesside a helping hand, from organising livestreams during lockdown to serenading shoppers with busking sessions from some of the region’s finest musicians. One of Tracks’ key successes is in making music accessible to all, and they’ll continue in this vein with Mini Mish Mash, a virtual family-friendly festival which will be livestreamed via Facebook and YouTube on August Bank Holiday Sunday. Mish Mash was an initiative launched last year which saw music and entertainment take over Darlington’s Market Square. While the location may be different, the festival still puts musicians at its heart, with local artists paid to either perform exclusive shows or deliver workshops. The event opens with a singing workshop from Claire Willmer, followed by a family-friendly hip-hop workshop with rising local rap star Kay Greyson, who will also perform some of her music. Further performances will come from Darlington’s foot stomping gospel blues band The Deadseat; gypsy jazz group Andy Lawrenson Trio and headliners Los Capitanes, whose high energy Spanish-influenced sounds will delight music lovers of all stripes. Mini Mish Mash is broadcast via the Tracks Facebook and YouTube pages from 3.30pm on Sunday 30th August www.facebook.com/tracksdarlington www.bit.ly/TracksTube


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PREVIEW

Crimson Bloom by Peter Grant

MUSIC

CRIMSON BLOOM RELEASE NEW ALBUM

Words: Laura Doyle Sometimes, in searching for a new sound, we find ourselves instead rediscovering old favourites. Crimson Bloom’s new album is ideal

for anyone hankering for the 90s’ resurgence of 60s’ guitar rock. They’ve been busy since their eponymous debut back in 2018, and now are ready to unleash its follow up, Finer Times In Other Worlds. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is clearly North East indie pop band’s motto; refining their equal parts psychedelic/jangly sensibility to produce sure-fire results. Their mellowed approach to some of modern life’s most irritating quirks is

good for those of us who are mad, but also don’t want to raise our blood pressure too much. For those who were around back in the day and want to reminisce, or those who wish they’d been born a decade or two earlier, Crimson Bloom is worth a look in for some authentic vintage rock vibes. Crimson Bloom release Finer Times in Other Worlds via Lovestone Records on 14th August www.crimsonbloom.bandcamp.com

ESTON ARTS CENTRE Jane Burn

Imagine your words August 1-31

WELS 176-178 High Street Eston Middlesbrough TS6 9JA

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PREVIEW

NewBridge Project - image by Uma Breakdown

ART & LIT

REOPENING ARTS VENUES ROUND-UP

Words: Claire Dupree August will mark the reopening of some of our region’s arts venues as lockdown restrictions are eased; while many venues (particularly those who usually host performances) remain closed, our region’s museums and galleries are tentatively welcoming back their customers. You’ll find information about reopenings and exhibitions peppered throughout this issue (including at Bowes Museum, Laing Art Gallery, Pineapple Black and Jam Jar Cinema). In addition, Tyne & Wear Museums & Archives have published reopening dates for their venues including South Shields Museum & Art Gallery (13th August), Shipley Art Gallery (23rd August), Discovery Museum and Great North Museum: Hancock (both 1st September), with Hatton Gallery hoping for an autumn reopening. Life Science Centre will reopen on 1st August with their new Dino Experience LEGO exhibition; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art will open their ground floor gallery on 10th August which continues to show the Abel Rodriguez exhibition; Ouseburn’s Biscuit Factory reopens on 1st August, where their excellent Contemporary Young Artist Award exhibition continues; Sunderland’s Museum & Winter Gardens are in the process of a phased reopening; The Word in South Shields is open for return and collection of pre-booked books; while Stockton’s ARC have committed to an early September reopening. Musicians keen to work off their lockdown rustiness can book rehearsal space at First Avenue Studios (1st August) and Polestar (27th July) in Newcastle; while Bunker Studios in Sunderland, Rocking Horse Rehearsal Rooms in Durham, Stockton’s Boom Boom Rehearsal Rooms and Redcar’s Backstreet Studio are all currently now open.

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This is, of course, a work in progress list, so keep an eye on your favourite local venue, museum, gallery, cinema or art space to see what they’re up to. And if they’re not opening yet, consider how you can help spread the word of their online content – they need your voice now more than ever.

ART & LIT

THE NEWBRIDGE PROJECT LAUNCH NEW WEBSITE AND CREATIVE CALL OUT

Words: Claire Dupree The NewBridge Project’s goal of creating a dynamic and welcoming place for pioneering contemporary artists in the North East extends to the virtual world as well as the physical. While their studio spaces in Gateshead and Newcastle are currently closed they’ve been busy revamping their website and planning ahead for future work. Launching in August, their new website will more accurately represent the work and ethos of the artist-led organisation, and will feature newly commissioned digital artworks by six local artists ranging in medium from audio pieces to toolkits for artistic development and video and prose works. Visit the site to see exclusive work from Uma Breakdown, gobscure, Rebecca Jackson, Imo Jeffes, Lady Kitt and Rosie O’Grady. In addition, NewBridge Project are on the hunt for new artists to work with on their Collective Studio development programme for early-career artists, recent graduates and creative practitioners. Providing space to test out ideas and experiment with the support of a critically engaged community, The Collective Studio offers an invaluable opportunity for people of all backgrounds, with the project running from

October 2020 to August 2021. See the website for more information. www.thenewbridgeproject.com

MUSIC

LUCI SAINT RELEASES FALSE IDOLS EP

Words: Kristopher Cook Self care is at the crux of the new EP from musician and producer Luci Saint; self care and camaraderie in the face of isolation. Last year’s Something You Want was a quality introduction from this iteration of the Teesside producer, an animated mix that made use of the expansive space provided – on False Idols you’re getting a bit of a 180, with a lot more emphasis placed on the current state of mind of the lad himself. The EP’s title track could easily find its way onto a Chase & Status record circa 2011 — a stomping DnB banger that doubles up as a PSA against the need for artificial role models. Vibe heavy Ragnarok is a whisper at the end of the world, Saint’s interpretation of relationships and the limitations that come with strings attached. EP closer What You Saying is probably the most direct of the trio, one which imprints a hypnotic, reeling feeling. False Idols is in many ways a coping mechanism for Luci Saint; a way to express himself without borders in hope of inspiring others to follow suit when going through the ringer that is anxiety and depression – you know, personal shit, the kind most tend to keep concealed on their person at all times – making for an honest and relatable listen. Luci Saint releases False Idols EP on 31st July www.soundcloud.com/lucisaint


PREVIEW

ART & LIT

TRANSMISSION @ WORKPLACE GALLERY ONLINE

Words: Nicola Owen Imagine for a moment if you will the haunting sound of Joy Division echoing through the ghost of a damp and decaying concrete building; this gives some idea of what awaits you with Transmission, an eclectic and vibrant group exhibition hosted online in the now digital depths of what was the Get Carter car park in

Gateshead. More formally known as Trinity Court, the brooding Brutalist masterpiece was demolished in 2009 to make way for a much less foreboding but bland and branded precinct of shops, community facilities and a cinema. The regeneration of the crumbling Trinity Court into Trinity Square also included the erasure of 34 Ellison Street which was Workplace Gallery’s first exhibition space. The space has now been resurrected through clever technology and visitors can log on to enjoy new and recent work by artists Simeon Barclay, Marcus Coates, Jennifer Douglas, Louise Giovanelli and Laura Lancaster. Now based on Gateshead’s West Street

(although currently not open to the public), Workplace was initially founded out of the Northern artist led scene by Paul Moss, Richard Forster and Miles Thurlow. From its Gateshead base the gallery rapidly became the leading commercial and contemporary art gallery outside of London and regularly takes part in major international art fairs, collections and exhibitions worldwide. Their evident ability to evolve and innovate is what makes the gallery, and this exhibition, such a thrilling prospect. Transmission is available to view via Workplace’s website until Saturday 5th September www.workplacegallery.co.uk/viewing-room/ transmission

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PREVIEW

MUSIC

THE UNATTESTED RELEASE VERSUS EP

Words: Laura Doyle There are few obstacles that can’t be beaten with a little bit of a can-do attitude – and a can-do attitude is just what Newcastle-based hard rock band The Unattested have. They’re not about to let a measly national lockdown get in the way of the release of their new EP, Versus. It’s not immediately clear who they’re up against, but if their foe is unproductivity, it’s safe to say they’ve kicked its backside. Versus got a headstart in the studio: their new vocalist found her feet there alongside some drum tracks, but the rest had to be recorded and produced at home. The result is perhaps a bit more rough and ready than it otherwise would have been; operatic vocals lie over grimy guitar hooks and gritty bass in Zombie Boogie, while We Drew Blood gets spruced up for the EP release and it’s a glo-up not only in production (goodbye boxy echo-chamber, hello crystal clear tunes) but also in confidence. The Unattested look like they’re

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finding their feet, ready to jumpstart their music ASAS (As Soon As Safe.) The Unattested release Versus EP on 14th August www.soundcloud.com/theunattested

ART & LIT

TUHUTZS @ PINEAPPLE BLACK

Words: Claire Dupree Middlesbrough’s Pineapple Black gallery will welcome a new solo exhibition from Saltburn artist Tuhutzs this month, taking a sharply critical look at our wasteful habits. A collection of nine oil works on calico, the artist’s work is typified by bold, bright blocks of imagery which when exhibited together create a large-scale depiction of throwaway culture, from the bewildering variety of food packaging and the inevitable bin it’ll end up in. Tuhutzs (aka Karl Bauer), explains his concept: “The subject matter on each changes though the content ranges from hamburgers, soda drinks, bins, tropical

Artwork by Tuhutzs landscapes and faces. Throughout the work my narrative of choice is always an expanded view of subliminal culture; present objects we interact with, without much thought as to why. I feel a need to produce the element of ‘cool’ in my work, picking a range of items that feel genuinely culturally cool and presenting them, allowing the viewer to question why such subject matters have been chosen.” The paintings were created over the last two years, and in bringing them together in one exhibition Tuhutzs hopes it’ll give the work a new perspective. “It is practically impossible not to produce some form of waste multiple times per day from something you interact with or consume. We are victims of design, choice, private profiteering and unstable global management.” He says. “We all require basic food and water, but do we really need the thousands of options and designs, left solely upon an end choice that is: what can you afford to buy?” Tuhutzs’ exhibition takes place at Pineapple Black, Middlesbrough from Friday 31st July-Saturday 8th August www.tuhutzs.com www.pineappleblack.co.uk


PREVIEW

Suzanne Hart

ART & LIT

ICE CREAM & INDIE MUSIC BY SUZANNE HART

Words: Nicola Owen Durham writer Suzanne Hart’s debut novel Ice Cream & Indie Music is published this month, and it’s likely to strike a chord with musicians and music fans alike. The novel takes us on a journey with Charlie, a small town Norfolk girl whose life revolves around school, work and watching her favourite band, Projects. To celebrate the end of her A-levels Charlie and her friends Ryan and Dot agree to accompany the band on their tour of the UK. In true indie style the trio buy an old ice cream van to travel, sleep and live out of and go on to realise their teen dreams of touring the UK while supporting their rock star idols. Naturally, feelings between the trio begin to complicate matters. Suzanne’s experiences as a bass player in “umpteen groups who did two rehearsals at First Avenue and were never heard of again and bands who played two towns in the same month and declared it a national tour” make her highly qualified to write about the trials and tribulations of being a fledgling band attempting to make their name. “They say write about what you know, and owning a bass gets you into almost any band for a good couple of months until the rest of the band realises you can’t actually play it,” Suzanne laughs. In order to promote the book – and since a traditional meet and greet at a book shop is out of the question under the current circumstances

– Suzanne has taken the ingenious approach of sending the book itself on a tour of the North Eastern venues played by the band in the novel. People are invited to take a copy and read it and then pass it to a friend once finished and share a photo of their roaming tome on Instagram. Ice Cream & Indie Music is published on 28th July. Follow the book’s tour on Instagram @ suzannehartwrites www.suzannehart.org

MUSIC

VICTORIA OWSNETT RELEASES NEW SINGLE, THRONES

Words: Laura Doyle Remember the HBO series Game of Thrones, where everyone battled to the death for the right to sit in a spiky chair? Then it turned out everyone who was fighting for the spiky chair was a bit of a knacker, and you were probably better off chilling at the Wall or riding horses through the desert? That’s kind of the moral of Gateshead artist Victoria Owsnett’s first foray into her new solo project (she’s also a member of synth popsters AXLS). Thrones is a delightfully sparkly electro pop tune, with deep bass beats chiming off Owsnett’s quietly assertive vocals. Of course, the song is significantly less grisly than George R.R. Martin would make it, but it thankfully doesn’t fall into juvenility. It can be so easy to regress when considering things like popularity contests, but Owsnett’s conclusions – that no one is any better than anyone else beyond a fancy facade – are suitably uplifting and mature. If you’re going to

sit down in the middle of quarantine and work out some thoughts via the medium of music, then you could do worse than the personal breakthrough of Thrones. Victoria Owsnett releases Thrones on 5th August www.facebook.com/victoriaowsnett

EVENTS

TYNE THEATRE & OPERA HOUSE ONLINE EVENTS Words: Caitlin Disken If you’re missing an evening out at the theatre, then look no further than the Tyne Theatre & Opera House’s online events. Following on from their livestreamed events in July, the venue are back this month with a new schedule which will be broadcasted on Twitch and YouTube, filmed direct from the venue. Kicking off on Saturday 1st August with Live From The Tyne: A Geordie Sing Alang, the streamed events will be broadcast as part of the theatre’s fundraising campaign to secure their future. Although the streams are free, donations are encouraged. Saturday 8th August sees a particular highlight, as an evening of comedy returns to the venue. First livestreamed in July, this follow-up show will see the return of host Carl Hutchinson alongside revered local comedians Jason Cook, Brennan Reece, Rachel Jackson, Scott Bennett and Phil Ellis for a fabulous night of comedy. The brilliant Chris Ramsey will also feature, making this an event you don’t want to miss. www.tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk

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PREVIEW Launching on Friday 14th August and running until Saturday 5th September, Middlesbrough’s Pineapple Black gallery celebrate their reopening by hosting the No Show Art Show (see what they did there?), providing a showcase for rising creative talent from the area. Featuring work submitted through an open call to students in the Tees Valley, a broad spectrum of creative media will be on display, from fine art to fashion, textiles to music. Plus, as Pineapple Black is one of the largest gallery spaces in the region, social distancing at this real-life, physical exhibition will be a piece of cake (but rest assured that they’ll have all of the necessary health and safety precautions in place too). The students will get the exhibition they’ve all been working towards, and you’ll get a glimpse of creative ‘ones to watch’ in the process. The No Show Art Show takes place at Pineapple Black, Middlesbrough from Friday 14th August-Saturday 5th September www.pineappleblack.co.uk

ART & LIT

CORNERSTONE COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE LAUNCH WEEKENDER

S.O.S by Evelyn De Morgan (1914) © De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

ART & LIT

WILLIAM AND EVELYN DE MORGAN: TWO OF THE RAREST SPIRITS OF THE AGE @ LAING ART GALLERY

Words: Jamie Taylor When you consider art history’s great power couples you might think of Gilbert and George or Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. You might not think of the rather unassuming Evelyn and William De Morgan. Described by Sir Edward Pointer, President of the Royal Academy as “the rarest spirits of the age”, this exhibition at Newcastle’s newly reopened Laing Art Gallery explores what made the duo so special. It seems somehow apt that the work of Evelyn De Morgan heralds the reopening of the Laing. Painted in a very different time in response to a very different danger, her work is replete with a relatable sense of hope. Lux in Tenebris is a striking example which greets you as you enter her section of the exhibition. Its glowing portrayal of a women, shinning through the darkness to offer us peace, is a reassuring reminder that there are better times ahead. While William’s work doesn’t carry the same

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socio-political message of Evelyn’s, his designs are pure arts and crafts escapism. His father was a famous mathematician and his influence can be felt through the geometric patterns of the ceramics. Another influence was Thomas Bewick, whose History of British Birds can be seen alongside the swan plates that it inspired. William and Evelyn De Morgan: Two of the Rarest Spirits of the Age is on show at Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle from Monday 10th August to Saturday 26th September www.laingartgallery.org.uk

ART & LIT

NO SHOW ART SHOW @ PINEAPPLE BLACK

Words: Eugenie Johnson You’re a student in the creative arts. You’ve been working throughout college or university to perfect your own style and develop your specialism in a particular medium, all leading up to that final show where you can display your finest work. And then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, there’s no final show any more, no chance to proudly display what you’ve achieved like those who came before you. Well, despite the challenging conditions, there is still a chance to see works from final year college and uni students across Teesside.

Words: Claire Dupree Darlington residents and artists Louise Maddison and Pete Nicholson have keenly felt the loss of a permanent, dedicated arts centre in the town and the community spirit such a place can nurture. When the opportunity came up to take over the old Marks & Spencers building, they jumped at the chance to occupy the massive shop unit and repurpose it to serve the needs of the local arts community. Despite the considerable challenges lockdown has presented, Cornerstone Community Arts Centre is now ready to become a hub of creativity run, as Louise so succinctly puts it, “by the people, for the people”. The centre will have multiple, flexible gallery spaces, performance space, areas for teaching and workshops and will host several artist studios, not to mention housing community radio station Darlo Radio. Plans for an outdoor stage and onsite cafe are also in the works. To celebrate the centre’s completion, a launch weekend will take place over the August bank holiday, featuring exhibitions from artists including The Northern Echo’s cartoonist Cliff, aka John Longstaff; illustrator Brian Lee; mother and daughter artists Mary and Merlyn Griffiths; sculptor Andy Boylett and Darlington film company Broken Scar Productions will screen their short film, The Curator. Throughout the weekend a variety of events and workshops will be on offer, with a multitude of artists demonstrating their craft. The launch of such a space will be a real game changer for artists based in Darlington, providing a creative home for practitioners and art lovers alike. Cornerstone Community Arts Centre’s launch weekend takes place from Friday 28th-Monday 31st August at 70 Northgate, Darlington www.facebook.com/cornerstoneartsdarlington


PREVIEW

MUSIC

T-B, L-R: Bill Bailey, Maximo Park, Supergrass

VIRGIN MONEY UNITY ARENA AS OUTDOOR LIVE PERFORMANCE MAKES A TENTATIVE RETURN, CLAIRE DUPREE CASTS HER EYE OVER THE WORLD’S FIRST SOCIALLY DISTANT VENUE Anyone who works in the entertainment industry across the world right now are likely to be asking themselves a similar question: where do we go from here? Despite the government declaring the entertainment sector ‘open for business’ from 1st August, many of our region’s spaces are struggling to figure out how to operate safely and profitably. There’s no doubt we’re clamouring for live performance to return, but there are so many caveats as to make it an extremely daunting prospect for all involved. That is unless you’re SSD Concerts, the Tyneside promoters who over the last decade have brought some of the world’s biggest stars to the region and who have – since April no less – been figuring out how to bring socially distanced live music back to the masses. Unlike the ill fated Live Nation drive-in events scheduled for Teesside Airport, which were cancelled back in July apparently because of the “latest developments due to localised lockdowns”, the Virgin Money Unity Arena will set up camp at Gosforth’s Newcastle Racecourse throughout August, September and potentially beyond, and looks to be a major fixture of the region’s live programme. The line-up at the time of going to press is, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a sausage fest. Although we’re assured more names are being added (including some local representation), it’s a shame that over the course of 20 dates there’s not one female act, and we’re hoping diversity is a key area to be worked on for future announcements. Moaning aside, the line-up is pretty indie-heavy, which is great if that’s your bag. Among the highlights are Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club, who kick proceedings off on Saturday 15th August; followed by everyone’s favourite 90s indie scamps Supergrass on Saturday 22nd; vocal star Tom Grennan performs on Thursday 27th; Carl and Pete stop bickering for long enough to pull a Libertines set out of the bag on Saturday 29th; rock legend Van Morrison performs on Thursday 3rd September; North East indie rock icons Maximo Park will play what’s certain to be a barnstorming set on Saturday 5th; and DJ Craig Charles brings his highly regarded funk and soul show on Wednesday 9th. Comedy is represented too, with stand-up sets from such household names as Adam Kay (Sunday 16th August), Jason Manford (Sunday

AT AN UNDOUBTEDLY DIFFICULT TIME FOR THE INDUSTRY THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT EVENTS SUCH AS THESE ARE WELCOME INDEED, PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY’RE OFFERING LOCAL PEOPLE MUCH-NEEDED WORK 30th), Jimmy Carr (Monday 31st) and Bill Bailey (Tuesday 1st-Wednesday 2nd September). Elsewhere, there’s family-friendly fun with RuPaul’s Drag Race (Friday 28th August), Boyzone smoothy Ronan Keating (Friday 11th September), inexplicably popular crooner Alfie Boe (Thursday 10th) and plenty of daftness courtesy of Bongo’s Bingo (Saturday 12th). Plus there’s a handful of tribute shows and collaborations too. So how does it work? The ‘parking to platform’ experience essentially means you’ll park your car and be directed in a safe and socially distanced manner to your very own platform, which you’ll share with members of your own bubble. Food and drinks can be pre-ordered and there’ll be a one-way system in place for the use of facilities. Shows are individually priced, but you’ll need to factor in an additional £20 fee per platform (not per booking). At an undoubtedly difficult time for the industry, when musicians, sound techs, crew, promoters and the assorted eco-systems that keep the music scene grinding away are facing an uncertain future, there’s no doubt that events such as these are welcome indeed, particularly when they’re offering local people much-needed work. What remains to be seen, and from a wider perspective, is if audiences will embrace this new way of consuming big-name shows and if, frankly, this is as good as it gets. The Virgin Money Unity Arena is located at Newcastle Racecourse, Gosforth. For full information, tickets and COVID-related info, visit the website www.virginmoneyunityarena.com

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INTERVIEWS FILM

JAM JAR CINEMA

JAMIE TAYLOR TALKS TO DAN ELLIS ABOUT JAM JAR CINEMA’S RETURN TO THE HEART OF WHITLEY BAY’S ARTS SCENE While some people may be looking forward to a summer holiday, Jam Jar Cinema’s Dan Ellis is already daydreaming about Christmas. “I can’t wait to sit down with a glass of my Grandma’s mulled wine, stick on It’s A Wonderful Life and just forget 2020,” he sighs. With his shiny new and improved cinema forced to stand idle due to the pandemic, it’s safe to say that this year hasn’t quite gone to plan for Dan. The Jam Jar Cinema has been at the heart of Whitley Bay’s arts scene since it opened its doors in 2013. “We programme based on what people tell us they want to see.” Dan explains. “This can be anything from the latest blockbusters to independent foreign language films. If people want to see it, we play it.” The cinema’s focus on the local community means that they’ve not only built a great connection with their audience, but also that they’re a central part of life in the town. “We’re really proud to be a flag bearer for Whitley Bay,” Dan enthuses. Suddenly being shut off from those connections has been tough. The lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time, so soon after adding two new screens and a lift to the cinema. “Our biggest challenge has been just to keep going and protect the building,” Dan tells me. “We’ve had some support from the British Film Institute, without which we would have struggled to continue.” It’s not all doom and gloom though; the cinema recently won the

WE’RE REALLY PROUD TO BE A FLAG BEARER FOR WHITLEY BAY 18

UK Small Business of the Year Award. “We’re really proud to be a small business. We’ve never wanted to take over the world but this recognition feels like a real feather in our cap.” With cinemas across the world closed, it’s also had a knock-on effect on the studios. Many have delayed releasing summer blockbusters that independents like Jam Jar rely on to fill their seats. For now, this means that they will be showing classics when they reopen in late July, but Dan’s just pleased to be able to screen pictures again. “Showing classics is how we started and it’s great to be able to screen people’s old favourites again.” You might notice Jam Jar looking a bit different when you next visit. Screens will protect the kiosks and the experience is going to be a whole lot less crowded, with strict social distancing in force. As someone who has hesitated somewhat to get back out into the world, hearing Dan tell me about the measures they have put in place gives me confidence that a night out at Jam Jar Cinema is going to be a safe one. Talking to Dan about the cinema’s reopening is like seeing the first swallows of spring; you just know that sunnier days are coming soon. The cinema hopes to be back to some sort of normal in time for Christmas when Dan is already planning their annual festive programme. Until then, they’ll be open during weekends for all your cinematic needs. Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay reopens on 31st July. Help the Jam Jar Cinema by becoming a friend or buy a ticket to one of their shows. For listings and tickets visit their website. www.jamjarcinema.com


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

L-R, T-B: Artwork by Bettie Hope, Slutmouth; Keavey Gamwell, ItsKeavs; Niall Kitching, Kitch22

BASE CAMP

STEVE SPITHRAY TALKS TO THOSE INVOLVED IN REVAMPING AND REIMAGINING MIDDLESBROUGH’S DIY EVENTS SPACE As lockdown eases many people in Teesside are looking towards Middlesbrough’s DIY events space, Base Camp, to see what happens next, and true to form they’ve been busy. As a recipient of the Arts Council’s COVID-19 Emergency funding, at the forefront of their plans are new artist collaborations as the venue continues its mission to reconcile the disparate elements of the creative arts. The venue had already built a reputation for live gigs, independent cinema, art exhibitions and social events, and has now reinvented itself with a range of site-specific commissions by Teesside artists. The project has evolved into something as avant-garde as you’d expect, and features the work of artists such as Niall Kitching, aka Kitch 22, whose artwork has reimagined the vast porch. “Working with Base Camp has thrown up some of the most diverse and intriguing projects I have ever worked on,” he says of his contribution. Keavey Gamwell (ItsKeavs) has created a logo and mural wall for the new rehearsal space and Slutmouth’s Bettie Hope has turned the old post office’s imposing double front doors into something of a psychedelic invitation. She told me of the project: “I wanted to capture the colourful, creative and kooky energy of the venue and staff, and thus, Charlene was born. Charlene enjoys long, slow, shoeless walks in the desert searching for the perfect San Pedro cactus to brew into mescaline for her local community that reside in the Golden Sunset

IT ALREADY NATURALLY HAS THAT DIY BERLINTYPE FEEL AND WE WANTED TO BUILD ON THAT BY COMMISSIONING SOME ONE-OFF ARTWORKS. IT FELT LIKE A FORWARD-LOOKING MOVE AT A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY, AND A GOOD WAY TO SUPPORT SOME OF THE AMAZING FREELANCERS WE’VE MET ALONG THE WAY

trailer park.” Quite. But very Base Camp. Also a new addition to the Middlesbrough venue, the Sidecar Rehearsal Rooms project is run by Sad For Life’s Aaron Lythe. “Previously occupied by Llovers, Cape Cub, Travis Shaw and Swears, I have fully renovated the room, everything from paint to a new back line. Alongside the practice space, I’m putting together a hang-out for the bands that use our space. Something that in time I hope can be used for networking events, quizzes and smaller scale social events for the musicians of Teesside in an attempt to create a new cornerstone for music in the North East that brings the community together more frequently.” Meanwhile, Graham Ramsay from Ten Feet Tall, who manage the venue, was excited about the future and the venue’s plans for an outdoor performance space and courtyard. “We’ve got acres of space and a range of different sized rooms. The layout has sometimes caused us headaches, but now with social distancing we can actually make it work to our advantage. We’ve also got a brand-new outside space called Concrete Garden. “Those first few weeks of the world standing still really allowed us the time to step back and think about what we wanted from the building. It already naturally has that DIY Berlin-type feel and we wanted to build on that by commissioning some one-off artworks. It felt like a forward-looking move at a time of uncertainty, and a good way to support some of the amazing freelancers we’ve met along the way.” Of course, this all depends on government legislation and guidelines which now seem to be moving at speed after months of stagnation and Graham is suitably upbeat. “We’re just putting the finishing touches to the place, including a raft of safety measures to protect staff and customers, then we’ll be back open.” With classes, workshops and plenty more still in the pipeline and to be confirmed expect a busy autumn at Base Camp as they seek to embrace and define the new normal. Base Camp is located at Exchange Square, Middlesbrough www.facebook.com/basecampboro

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COVER FEATURE

SAVE LIVE COMEDY THE FUTURE OF LIVE COMEDY IS IN CRISIS; COMEDIAN AND WRITER SI BECKWITH TALKS TO SOME OF THE REGION’S CLUBS AND COMICS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING THE SCENE I miss comedy. I know, the thought of it seems a lifetime ago, and a room full of strangers huddled close together in darkened rooms sounds more like the latest Tory plan for herd immunity than any form of night out. But it was an incredible night out. Live, at its best, stand-up comedy is raw, honest and exciting. Stand-up comedy has been my life for over seven years as a performer, writer and promoter. My best friends are comics or work in comedy clubs, spending time at shows was my social life and I’ve loved embracing everything comedy has had to offer, even taxi drivers telling me ‘you can have that one’ on the journey home from gigs. Right now, live comedy is in trouble. Comedians have lost income, venues have closed their doors and venue workers, bar staff, sound techs and more are unable to work. The Live Comedy Association’s (LCA) recent survey cemented comedy as an industry in crisis. 77.8% of venues said that they could be forced to close permanently within twelve months and a third of venues said that they could go under within six months. As Lauren Pattison (recently elected as Comic’s Representative for the LCA) perfectly put it, “first and foremost the clubs and venues need to be saved, without anywhere to play we’ll be lost!”

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The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn emergency arts fund to be allocated later this year throws up both relief and questions. The money is to be allocated by Arts Council England, a body who in the past have deemed stand-up comedy as, bluntly speaking, ‘not art’. In 2015 a spokeswoman for the Arts Council said: “The main reason we don’t fund comedy directly is that it tends to be commercially self-sustaining.” So, essentially; people like it, it’s affordable, sort yourselves out. Stand-up is an industry that has never asked for help, but now we need to hope that a public body that hasn’t deemed us art in the past, sees us as art. Let’s just nip this in the bud: stand-up comedy is absolutely art. It’s also accessible, dangerous, moving, thoughtprovoking, daft, silly and most importantly, funny. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have since confirmed that comedy organisations and venues are eligible for support from the fund. How much and how it’s allocated remains to be seen. Comedy performers are self-employed. There are plenty who fell through the gaps of any self-employed help offered by the government. Throughout lockdown comedians have continued to show creativity, taking to podcasts, Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom, Twitch and


COVER FEATURE

COMEDY

T-B, L-R: Carl Hutchinson at Hilarity Bites Comedy Club, image by Rob Irish; Lee Ridley, Lost Voice Guy by Caroline Briggs; Funny Way To Be Comedy Club; Phil Smith, Shoe Cake Comedy; Dave Johns at Hilarity Bites Comedy Club, image by Rob Irish; Joby Mageean

IMMERSING YOURSELF IN WHAT’S ALREADY OUT THERE ARE THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS SAVING LIVE COMEDY. SUPPORT COMEDIANS. SUPPORT VENUES. BUY TICKETS FOR FUTURE SHOWS. DONATE more to make, create and work, while generating nowhere near the income comedians on a live circuit would. Ever the innovators, comedians are going out and creating work for themselves and trying to support venues whose doors are closed. Carl Hutchinson was an important part of the live streamed Live From The Tyne Theatre shows which took place in July. “It was a tremendous success, the theatre got a good amount of money and all the comedians were able to do an honest night’s work again. I think it’s very important for us to do what we can to keep theatres alive during all of this.” Neil Jollie at Hilarity Bites runs shows across the North East, and having pushed back dates, feels the hit of the unknown future we all face. “We’re hopeful that we can produce some shows in 2020 but I’m not sure if (or when) we would ever get back to running the volume of shows that we were before coronavirus struck.” Our new world is one of short notice, so the trick as a comedy fan is to stay glued to your socials, follow your favourite comics and venues everywhere. Basically, stay alert. In August alone Joby Mageean has a Retro Stream every Monday, Mr Shindig’s Victory Laugh takes place on Wednesday 12th August and online comedy role playing game Novocastria is on Thursday 13th and 20th August. Lee Kyle has been positively prolific during lockdown, writing three brand new hour-long shows from scratch, alongside properly funny family shows, new podcasts and will have more to come. The Stand’s weekly show from their Edinburgh venue

has been superb, with two Newcastle Takeovers boasting wonderful talent from our region, and they’re constantly showing inventiveness in what they can offer, with a courtyard show selling out very quickly and more in the pipeline, they’re a club to seek out and support. Barnard Castle has been a home to amazing comedy shows (and not just the world’s weirdest eye tests) through Funny Way To Be’s comedy club at The Witham; their passion for the comedy they promote means they’ve managed to reschedule all shows rather than cancel any. Ten Feet Tall Comedy were another promoter who had to postpone shows, but still have dates booked in for 2020. Shoe Cake Comedy had to sadly delay their first ever comedy festival at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton, which will now happen next year, and they’ve still got shows lined-up for later this year. Shoe Cake’s Phil Smith and his comedy cohorts from Discount Comedy Checkout take part in weekly online comedy show Prequel Sequel Requel, which can be found on Facebook. Elsewhere in Teesside, alt. nights The Cutty Bang Cabaret Show and GoosePipe Comedy have switched their focus online. There’s podcasts from Matt Hoss, Raul Kohli’s been making videos and there’s Gavin Webster’s Comedy Results. (Gavin’s sitcom and live show are also available online to purchase). Julian Lee has joined forces with other punslinging comedians for the weekly UK Pun Off show. Even podcasts like 10 Things by Benjamin Dickenson and Jason Roberts have seen a whole host of excellent comedians feature, with even more to come. Immersing yourself in what’s already out there are the first steps towards saving live comedy. Support comedians. Support venues. Buy tickets for future shows. Donate. This won’t be an easy process, so to borrow from the name of the open mic night where a lot of North East comedians did their first ever gig seems especially apt now: Long Live Comedy. Si Beckwith is a comedian, writer and podcaster. You can find his new podcast on www.sibeckwith.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

WARPED FREQS DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE PSYCH JAZZ DUO ABOUT THE RELEASE OF THEIR NEW ALBUM Designed and recorded pre-lockdown, there’s something uniquely 2020 about the production/writing cycle sitting alongside Shifting Initiation, the new album from psych jazz duo Warped Freqs, that makes it a piece of art for the moment. Known as much for the way they approach their live music in a jazz freeform style, as they are for the layered texture work of their studio output, Shifting Initiation sees a true reflection of the complete Warped Freqs personality; a piece of art that is both freeform and structured, experimental and tested. “It’s funny when you talk about the history of the band, and our current dynamic,” kicks off multi-instrumentalist Marcus H, “the initial idea was to record everything we did, including our rehearsals, in an almost freeform approach to creation. In a sense, we wanted to capture all of our moments as a band.” Nudged into considering the importance of a live crowd, Marcus admits that the live playing was essential to the finished album. “What we found was that over time, and playing live, the form of these tracks came into a more standard arrangement. Whilst we may play the songs differently when we play, it was only through our live shows and repeating the songs that we began to find their true structure.” Arranged in equal parts jazz, psych, breakbeat and doom rock setting, Shifting Initiation is a considerable accomplishment both in terms of technical playing and also ambition, combining moments of instrumental compositions with a deeply cinematic exploration of

IT’S GREAT TO HAVE THE RECORD FINISHED BUT WE’D NOW LIKE TO GET BACK OUT AND IMPROVISE IT ALL OVER AGAIN 22

the sampled spoken word. “The tracks on the album definitely developed in the live setting,” confirms the duo’s drummer and tech wizard Phil Davis, “and maybe because we have a low boredom threshold we always tend to tinker with them when we play live, but certainly when it came to the recording of them we wanted to go into a studio, press record, get some loops and sounds going and try to capture what we felt worked live.” Overdubbed slightly with later bass and synth parts, the final presentation of Shifting Initiation is an album which captures both freeform playing as well as strong production moments. “We’ve got different influences as a duo but when we combine them we get these really interesting results, which includes an anything goes kind of concept. Ultimately though, it all comes back to the philosophy of a composition process of keeping it simple, whether that’s by being influenced by Bill Evans or Sonic Youth, or by playing what we think works the best,” confirms Marcus. Picked up already by BBC 6Music as well as receiving favourable press reviews, Shifting Initiation is gaining interest from sophisticated music lovers, however the immediate desire from the duo is to get back to playing live. “We can’t wait to play live again and hear the reaction to our work. It’s great to have the record finished but we’d now like to get back out and improvise it all over again.” Shifting Initiation, an album conceived outside of lockdown, birthed during lockdown, and ready to meet the world in a slightly different form post-lockdown. That’s so 2020. Warped Freqs release Shifting Initiation on 11th August via Wormhole World www.soundcloud.com/warpedfreqs


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

HEAT DEATH OF THE SUN ALI WELFORD TALKS TO EUGENE DAVIES ABOUT THE RELEASE OF HIS NEW SINGLE-PIECE SOUNDSCAPE Unveiled in 2018, Erosion of Culture offered listeners a dense, abrasive introduction to Eugene Davies’ Heat Death Of The Sun; a project sown through a concoction of broadened horizons and brotherly influence. “I got really into electronic and experimental music when I was living in Milton Keynes around 2013,” the now Newcastle-based musician reveals. “Around that time, my brother – who performs under the name Kepla – suggested I join him at Unsound Festival in Poland. It was an incredible awakening – almost like a 12-year-old discovering punk for the first time! Whereas our perceptions in the UK are rather binary, out there you could really feel an intersection between club and art cultures. There was a lot more respect in that space, and everything from droney, experimental music to techno and house and African dance. I’ve been back most years since.” Having satisfied a dark, oppressive impulse on his debut, the impetus for Heat Death Of The Sun’s second album arrived via a connection forged through Davies’ work with post-rock outfit Winter Isle (whose own new record, Nothing But Whispers And White Horizons, is out at the end of August – read all about it in our next issue): “Ourselves and Ten Sticks went on a short tour around 2015, and from there Mark [Copper, drummer] and I ended up hanging out a lot more and listening to music together,” he recalls. “Eventually I floated the idea of doing a collaborative record with him. We jammed a couple of times and both seemed to enjoy it, so we borrowed some mics, went to Ten Sticks’ practice space and just bashed it out! I had a bunch of samples, underlying drones and simple melodies, but it was all very much improvised – we were constantly trying to react to and visually communicate with one another. “After Erosion of Culture, I missed the breadth and depth of ambient sounds,” he continues, discussing the ensuing record’s shift in tone. “House of the Yellow Lotus is more of a ‘feel’ record than anything else. There was definitely no ‘vision’ as such; it was more of

a

THERE WAS DEFINITELY NO ‘VISION’ AS SUCH; IT WAS MORE OF A FREEING PROCESS – MOVING AWAY FROM DRILLING OUT BEATS, DRUMLINES AND BASSLINES TO A MORE OPEN AND AMBIGUOUS KIND OF EXPRESSION, ALMOST LIKE A FEELING OF RELIGIOUS ECSTASY

freeing process – moving away from drilling out beats, drumlines and basslines to a more open and ambiguous kind of expression, almost like a feeling of religious ecstasy.” Issued through local imprint Panurus Productions, the result is a single-piece soundscape rich in both texture and intrigue, with Copper’s percussion offering a skittish counterpoint to Davies’ meditative melange vocal cuttings and electronic currents. It’s a piece the pair have already previewed extensively on the live stage, yet as Davies explains, the about-turns aren’t likely to end here: “I’ve got two more records in the pipeline which I’ve been working on,” he says. “One’s a straight-up techno album, and the other is a large ambient piece. Heat Death isn’t fixed within any particular genre or mood. Another goal of time is to do an almost James Blake-style pop record. To me that’d be a massive challenge – creating more structured pieces, with bridges and choruses.” For now, though, House of the Yellow Lotus represents an immersive and timely release; a welcome shot of spontaneity as fans and musicians alike crave a return to the authentic, unpredictable thrills of live performance. Heat Death Of The Sun release House of the Yellow Lotus on 29th August through Panurus Productions www.heatdeathofthesun.bandcamp.com

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INTERVIEW

PSYDOVE

BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE PSYCH DUO ABOUT THEIR NEW SINGLE

MUSIC

Image by Andy Walker “Psychedelia makes you feel profoundly different than before; a change in perception. Psych art plays with what you thought were understandable images in front of your eyes; psych music plays with what you thought were understandable sounds coming into your ears.” These eloquent words, spoken by Steve Ziolkowski, one half of band Psydove, began our chat about his minimalistic project, which is more accessible than you may first imagine. While studying at Newcastle University he met band member Xanthe Polaine, currently working on her PhD: “We’re both weird engineer multi-disciplinarians, and it’s all gravy.” A bond formed over music, but their preferences shifted, and tastes diversified as they matured. “I was inspired to play guitar by thrash metal in my teens, then moved to all kinds of prog, alt. and indie rock, and now it branches right out to jazz. Now I’m firmly in psychedelic territory, which is the best kind because anything goes,” Steve enthuses. There wasn’t an awakening or spiritual calling to create psychedelic sounds, however he did feel a powerful pull to the experiences. “Meditation. Music. Art. The whole shebang, baby. Psychedelia enables the person to deal with past trauma and negative feelings, and not just put it aside (or worse, sweep it under the carpet) but integrate it to how they live.” In terms of the music: “Those weird notes, unusual time signatures or scattered chord progressions aren’t

PSYCHEDELIA ENABLES THE PERSON TO DEAL WITH PAST TRAUMA AND NEGATIVE FEELINGS, AND NOT JUST PUT IT ASIDE BUT INTEGRATE IT TO HOW THEY LIVE 24

mistakes (actually they probably are), but they enable the piece to be a lot more genuine and represent life closely. You don’t just get the best parts, you get every part, which I see as a good thing.” All recording is done in his abode, but creativity can strike at any moment, and found in the most mundane of tasks. “I could be whistling a tune on my way to Lidl and have to sing a voice memo into my phone while trying not to look insane.” At other points he’ll be in the mood, starting with a few drum loops or chords that don’t always make sense. “Sometimes I’ll be practising for the Psydove set, get sidetracked with a jazzy progression, and have to run upstairs to lay down the riff before I forget.” New track It Happens To Be is released this month. Lyrically it explores looking at yourself and everyone else and thinking some things are going well, some things aren’t, but in the bigger picture, it’s all ok. “You’re just a transient star fart trying to derive meaning in the cosmic breeze/gale.” Masses of influence are involved: Tame Impala, Mild High Club, MGMT to name a few, with a surprisingly soulful edge underpinning Psydove’s sound. “I tend to be over-indulgent with basslines, so maybe it’s transferred into the vocals. I like being a bit cheeky.” he reveals. Craving progress, we can expect transference to real drums soon and whacky live playing, where it’s doubtful that you will ever hear the same song twice. Ziolkowski ends with an invite: “If you ever want a jam, hit me up. I’ve made it my prerogative to have as little expectations as possible in my life, as well as having no formal musical training and little musical theory, anyone who is on my wavelength will probably enjoy. Like a young shinobi apprentice once said: a vibe is a vibe.” Psydove release It Happens To Be on 21st August www.soundcloud.com/psydove


INTERVIEW

STAGE

JOHN SCHONEBOOM

BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE-BASED WRITER ABOUT HIS WORK-IN-PROGRESS PLAY WHICH DELVES INTO THE CIA’S CONTROVERSIAL USE OF LSD TO DEVELOP TORTURE TECHNIQUES

Craving involvement with his local theatre scene writer John Schoneboom was guided to Alphabetti Theatre, where he submitted his script ACID to be featured in the Write Longer programme, a new writing programme spearheaded by Alphabetti’s literary manager Ben Dickenson, new-writing theatre company Coracle and pioneering Newcastle-based theatre company The Six Twenty. The New York native, now resident in Newcastle, is fond of the small, independent theatres taking risks and pushing boundaries, so Alphabetti was a perfect fit. “That’s where people are the least jaded and the sense of community is strongest. Especially for those of us trying to innovate, that’s the most exciting milieu. Creative people, carving out a space to play and being supportive of each other.” His play ACID raises the curtain on the CIA’s use of LSD to develop torture techniques in the 1950s, with Schoneboom’s view that LSD was intended to liberate the mind questioned. “My personal experience with hallucinogens was profoundly moving; profoundly happy. So I was struck when I read about the drug’s pre-history as a tool for quite the opposite purpose, as a CIA mind-control device, which was part of a program that leads directly to Abu Ghraib and the torture regime that is still with us today. This story needs to be told, a story with great relevance to the world we live in now.” It is a surreal tragedy, with out-there comedy spikes about CIA-sponsored attempts at mind control that accidentally spawned a whole generation of free-thinking hippies. It also covers the true story of scientist Frank Olson, on whom character Frank Coleman is loosely based, who was involved in these terrifying experiments, developed a conscience and had the program turn on him. “It has everything; laughs, fear, irony, it is political, personal, poetic, important, historical-yet-current, and with a dramatic built-in

IT HAS EVERYTHING; LAUGHS, FEAR, IRONY, IT IS POLITICAL, PERSONAL, POETIC, IMPORTANT, HISTORICAL-YET-CURRENT, AND WITH A DRAMATIC BUILT-IN NARRATIVE ARC narrative arc.” When he jettisoned the feeling of obligation to be faithful to precise history, the play began to breathe. “In the beginning, I was a fact-Nazi, by the end I was freely inventing, condensing, riffing, but staying true to the essential story points and the spirit of it. Truth is never facts. Truth is the transformation of experience into meaning.” Presented as a short work-in-progress film on the Write Longer website and social media pages on Thursday 27th August, Schoneboom will be joined by North East actors Bob Nicholson, Natasha Haws, Paula Penman and Steve Byron, director and dramaturg Ben Dickenson, designer Molly Barrett and artistic director Ali Pritchard. “I’ll be on hand to offer interpretations or rewrites and answer questions, but this is where I like to start to step back. Not only because I’m lazy, but because this is where other people’s ideas begin to take it to new places that I wouldn’t think of on my own. That’s the source of fun and excitement for me. I’m full of ideas, but I’m not a control freak.” John Schoneboom’s ACID is available to view from 6pm on Thursday 27th August via Write Longer’s website and social media pages www.writelonger.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

SHEILA GRABER LOCAL ANIMATOR, ARTIST AND EDUCATOR SHEILA GRABER TALKS TO TRACY HYMAN ABOUT HER EXTRAORDINARY CAREER The first thing to immediately become apparent when talking to octogenarian artist and animator Sheila Graber is her passion for the arts and education. The South Shields-born artist has as global reputation, having had her work shown across the world and innumerable shorts screened from the likes of the Tate Gallery and the Pompidou Centre. Whether she’s beating Disney to an animation job or documenting her beloved local area, she talks with passion and enthusiasm about the many “happy accidents” that led to some fascinating projects. Sheila’s latest commercial exhibition, Sheila From Shields & Her Cat, is on display via The Customs House website, and sales from her work will raise money for the South Shields institution. Having begun capturing her home town in paintings from the age of 11, Sheila’s artwork takes the viewer on a journey of the area; from her

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time living in the pilotage when her dad was the Tyne Pilot Master, taking in the transformation of the area over the decades. The online exhibition is accompanied by insights into Sheila’s work by Shields Gazette journalist Janis Blower, whose words add information, humanity and humour to Sheila’s animations and paintings. Of Sheila’s many career highlights the QuiziCat must be one of the favourites; a curious animation inspired by Whitey the cat, an inspiration for Sheila during the first 21 years of her animation career and beyond, who leads the viewer around the online exhibition. On the subject of highlights, Sheila cites being asked to animate Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories instead of Disney; the Kipling Estate hadn’t liked what Disney had done with the Jungle Book. “I was invited by a French agent to sell my films that I’d started just for


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

ART IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR WELL-BEING, AS WE ARE FINDING OUT NOW IN LOCKDOWN. IT’S ABOUT HUMANITY, SHARING AND SELFEXPRESSION AND ALL THE THINGS WE KNOW REALLY MATTER

Mill Dam 2017

fun,” Sheila explains, “she invited me to make a series of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for World Television, so I’m sitting in Meldon Avenue in South Shields animating, instead of Disney, this series.” Sheila hopes her success can inspire the next generation of artists. “It’s an encouragement for other people, to say ‘look you don’t have to be a huge studio, you can do stuff at home and get on with it’.” Some of the animation cels from the Just So Stories are being sold, alongside cels from Best Friends, a series on how to care for your pets. The painted cels are mounted in acrylic clip frames. “You can take the clip frame apart and see how the painting was done. There is a little bit of history there.” There are also historical sketches and landscape paintings of the local area; Coal Staithes, Mill Dam, oil drums, South Shields Station and tugs on the river. The area around The Customs House has always been a big part of Sheila’s life. “I remember drawing it when there were whalers, do you believe…it was quite romantic in those days!” Sheila has been an advocate for The Customs House as an arts venue from its inception over 25 years ago. “It helps so many people in South Tyneside; actors, musicians...there’s this love for it which you don’t often get at venues; it’s got a heart in it.” Right now Sheila’s working on an animation of Pam Royle of Tyne Tees. “In the 1970’s, whilst I was still teaching, I animated how

inside Look North works, with Mike Neville fronting it in those days, and I thought it would be nice to celebrate Pam Royle this year because she is a character like Mike was. She’s human, she’s real. So, it’s how ITV actually works. That’s the whole point of it.” In terms of technological advancements, animation has come a long way and Sheila isn’t one to be left behind. “In 1991 I got a little Mac and I thought ’hey, this could actually animate’, so I started to play with it.” Sheila was still using film for her paid jobs, but by 1995 her animation became computer based, using a graphics tablet. “What I do now is work with schools,” she tells me. “They work on their iPad and their iPhone. It’s great.” A key message from Sheila Graber’s exhibition is that “everyone is an artist”. Sheila is passionate about the importance of arts education and believes it should form a much greater part of the national curriculum. “Art is essential to our well-being, as we are finding out now in lockdown. It’s about humanity, sharing and self-expression and all the things we know really matter.” Visit Sheila Graber’s exhibition online at The Customs House website www.customshouse.co.uk/gallery/sheilagraber www.sheilagraberanimation.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

Image by E.A.R

BENJAMIN BELINSKA AFTER CURTAILING A NOMADIC EXISTENCE TO PUT DOWN ROOTS IN THE NORTH EAST, ONLY TO BE BRUTALLY ASSAULTED AND FORCED TO REASSESS HIS WORK, ALI WELFORD TALKS TO NEWCASTLE-BASED MUSICIAN BENJAMIN BELINSKA ABOUT HIS EXTRAORDINARY DEBUT ALBUM “The North East wind is famous across Europe; it’s said to bring wisdom and fortune to whomever it blows through,” muses Benjamin Belinska, describing the lure of his adopted home. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, it’s an affiliation he’s felt since moving to Newcastle at the age of 17 – yet it would be some years before the budding songwriter elected to settle and establish roots in the region. Instead, the intervening years saw Belinska embark on a nomadic odyssey across western Europe, skipping through a succession of humdrum jobs during spells in Glasgow, Berlin and Paris. “Drifting is not a bad thing – it allows you to let go of many illusions, but still, they are very attractive. I wanted to grab hold of one again – namely, that I am the master of my own direction. I also wanted to conduct an experiment – to see if I could transform myself into a plant and be rooted to a spot.” That newfound focus culminates this month in the release of debut album, Lost Illusions – yet it took twin blows upon his return to England for Belinska’s creative gaze to truly sharpen. The first of these setbacks was self-inflicted. Rushing to catch a connecting train, Belinska lost a suitcase at York station, and with it much of the material gathered during his travels – songs written on borrowed guitars; lyrics scribbled in stolen notebooks. Worse was to come a few months down the line when he fell victim to a random assault, sustaining serious eye and throat injuries from a gang of four whilst walking home from work. “I was bashed on the head,” he says, recalling the latter incident. “The assault was a metaphorical, as well as a literal, kick up the arse. Being bed-ridden, where I had no choice but to do nothing, was an affront somehow. Never mind that I would be doing nothing anyway – now it was being forced upon me! It made me rebel a bit. It seems romantic and wistful, but it felt like fate was using me in a

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IT ONLY HAS ONE THEME – THE EXTRAORDINARY SADNESS AND WRETCHEDNESS OF HUMAN LIFE, AND MY AMAZEMENT AT THE FACT THAT THIS WRETCHED LIFE CAN NEVERTHELESS BE SO BEAUTIFUL AND PRECIOUS careless game.” Conceived during his recovery, recorded with a full band and mixed and mastered at London’s Soup Studio by Giles Barrett and Simon Trought, Lost Illusions offers a brisk yet mightily effective showcase of Belinska’s talents. Inspired as much by the poetry of Hermann Hesse, Wang Wei and Li Po as the music of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Buzzcocks, its succinct two-and-a-half minute nuggets constitute “not only an escape from death, but a joyous, tender acknowledgement of it”; a bittersweet outlook channelled through hook-laden gems such as the golden Americana-tinged standout Disappearing and synth-soaked sunshine pop single Young in Baltimore. “The title Lost Illusions is a reference to the childish disappointment that we all go through when discovering that ‘the world’ is just a lot of silliness,” he elaborates. “The record is a little collage of time – maybe 10 years? 100? But despite this it only has one theme – the extraordinary sadness and wretchedness of human life, and my amazement at the fact that this wretched life can nevertheless be so beautiful and precious.” Benjamin Belinska’s debut album, Lost Illusions, is released on 28th August www.facebook.com/bbelinska


TIPPS

INTERVIEW

MARTIN TROLLOPE DISCOVERS HIDDEN DEPTHS TO THE SOUTH SHIELDS SONGWRITER ON HER NEW SINGLE

MUSIC

Image by Phil Skinner “People are sometimes surprised to find out that some of my biggest influences are grime artists, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.” I have to admit that I was surprised. When listening to Narcissistic Love, the new single from South Shields songwriter Tipps, you’ll find yourself witnessing some serious wordplay from someone who has been absorbing a multitude of lyrical styles since childhood, and has been performing regularly as a singer and guitarist for over thirteen years. “I’ve always been a fan of playing with language and linguistics. I remember when I first came across slam poetry; I could listen to a performance on repeat and pick up on something different every time.” This is something that has inevitably worked its way into Tipps’ music; in fact, with every listen you’ll find a lyrical gem that you missed last time. There’s a hard-lived, real story to the song, and while it may be a familiar one of a relationship turned sour, it comes from a uniquely self-aware perspective. “The song was fuelled by the exceptionally difficult lesson that to be emotionally healthy and happy, you have to make painful decisions; and that knowing that a situation is destructive doesn’t mean it’s easy to walk away from.” Outside of Narcissistic Love, it’s clear that Tipps’ eye for detail is constantly looking for inspiration, regularly finding it from the people she knows, and the good and bad experiences she shares

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN OF PLAYING WITH LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS

with them. “I know some incredible, unbelievably pure and good people, and I also know some right workie tickets – to put it in publishable terms. They all inspire me in different ways. I’m lucky enough to live in a really canny little town by the sea, so I’m often inspired by the place I live, and the strength and spirit of the people who live there.” The production on Narcissistic Love is deliberately minimal, with drums, bass and acoustic guitars creating a light and airy space for the story to be told. Tipps’ vocal performance is strong and assured, free-flowing out of her like a stream of consciousness. Narcissistic Love is the third and final single from her forthcoming debut album, which she’s super excited to have finished writing. “I’ve got a few tracks already recorded and mixed, and I really can’t wait to get back into the studio and get the rest of them down.” Working on the album with John Taylor at Mirage Recording Studios is a partnership that Tipps really enjoys. “He’s mint at picking up the energy of the songs, and recognising and building around the natural highs and lows. He’s always as passionate about creating a great track as I am.” This shines through on previous singles Moderation and Thin Walls, which are further examples of her kitchen sink poetry and accomplished guitar playing. Tipps is looking forward to getting back to playing in venues, but in the meantime will be live streaming gigs from her Facebook page, and I would strongly recommend you tune in. Tipps releases Narcissistic Love on 1st August www.facebook.com/tippsmusic

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INTERVIEW

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INTERVIEW

I LIKE TO DO LOTS OF DIFFERENT THINGS AT THE SAME TIME, PRETTY MUCH ALL I DO IS MAKE MUSIC, SMOKE HEAVILY AND DRINK TOO MUCH COFFEE

MUSIC

IVAN THE TOLERABLE

BEN LOWES-SMITH DISCOVERS THE PROCESSES BEHIND PROLIFIC CREATOR OLI HEFFERNAN’S NEW ALBUM Ivan The Tolerable & His Elastic Band’s Out of Season is the wonderful collaborative project from Teesside’s Oli Heffernan (Year Of Birds/Detective Instinct/King Champion Sounds among others) and writer Karen Schoemer, as well as a cast of brilliant musicians including Deutsche Ashram’s Ajay Saggar. Ostensibly an unhinged jazz rock record with krautrock sensibilities, it also features Minutemen/Firehose’s Mike Watt providing inimitable spoken word performances. “Watt was the first person I ever made music with via the internet, way back in 2008.” Oli explains. “I’d been in lots of local bands since my teens but I wanted to start making music that none of my friends were into making, so I decided to cast my net further and started a project called Detective Instinct which was basically me sending instrumentals I’d written to people and they’d add vocals and other stuff and send them back. Watt as the first person I worked with on this project, and we’ve recorded many albums and EPs together since.” The relationship has yielded fruit over the years, a testament to the serendipitous nature of the age of information. “He’s like me, he just gets shit done, no fuss, no drama. It’s ideal. When I got Karen’s words I really wanted an American voice for the vocals as the lyrics in an English accent would just have been weird, so I asked Watt and he was into it, plus he has the best voice.” In many respects its transpires that, far from being a peripheral performer, Watt has functioned as a fulcrum for the whole project, bringing all of the components together. “I was introduced to Karen by Mike when we were working together on a couple of Detective Instinct EPs together in around 2012. He was doing vocals and bass and asked if he could use some lyrics by his friend Karen, a music journalist and writer from New York, so I said sure. The EPs came out really nice, she’s a wonderful writer so when I was working on the second Detective Instinct album in 2015 I asked her to do vocals with her own lyrics on a couple of songs – we’ve stayed in touch since then and often talked about doing more together, and when the time was right for both of us we finally did!” On the practicalities of the process itself, which in some ways benefited from the Coronavirus situation, Oli muses: “For Out Of Season, I’d finished recording all the music around January this year and I’d been sitting on it for a few months as I felt it needed vocals but couldn’t find a way in to it – then the UK went into lockdown so I decided it was a good time to finish the four albums I was working on without having to fit it around my day job.” Karen provided words in the form of a short story she’d written. “I read it whilst

listening to my rough mixes and they just fit together really well – like it was meant to be! I edited her story into six sets of lyrics and we were in business. I’ve been recording this way for a number of different projects for years now, it has its advantages. I find it quicker and easier than recording all together in a studio.” After recording the bones of the album himself and sending mixes to drummer Mees Siderius and sax player Elsa Van Der Linden, the finished product was sent to long-term collaborator Ajay Saggar to mix in his Amsterdam studio. “A very civilised affair! No arguments, no fuss – just a lot of email back and forth and it was all finished.” Oli’s partnership with Ajay also pays dividends on the record, as he’s able to temper Oli’s more bombastic moments. “He’s a good egg – my ears are usually pretty knackered by the time it comes to mixing so Ajay was kind of my editor on this one – he’d say things like ‘it doesn’t need 14 synth parts, just use two’ and he was usually correct.” The result is a powerful, uncompromising beast of a record. Taking metronomic influences like Neu and spattering chaotic, hot throated brass in between the propulsive, cosmic music. Watt’s narration and beautiful, sensual storytelling adds a truly cinematic element. Heffernan’s process reflects this gorgeous chaos. “I like to do lots of different things at the same time, pretty much all I do is make music, smoke heavily and drink too much coffee. I’m usually working on at least four records at any one time. With Out Of Season, I started making it in Autumn last year and then finished it during the first month of lockdown so I guess it was made in two very different worlds, which I think is reflected in the finished album. I was listening to a lot of ambient/drone stuff when I started it, a lot of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders and Don Cherry in the middle and watching the world fall apart on the news when working on the vocals and mixing. It was a very organic record to make though, there wasn’t much thinking involved – I think it’s the first record I’ve made in a long time that doesn’t have a designated notebook – I don’t think I wrote a single thing down! It kind of just developed over time, like rolling a snowball. I think it came out really nice – I love the way it plays out – it’s like a journey through a day from morning to night, it’s much more cinematic!” Ivan The Tolerable & His Elastic Band release Out of Season on 21st August via Stolen Body Records www.ivanthetolerable.bandcamp.com

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ART & LIT

Paola Ciarksa, Untitled, gouache on board © IMT Gallery

GALLAGHER & TURNER CAITLIN DISKEN FINDS OUT HOW NEWCASTLE GALLERY GALLAGHER & TURNER ARE CELEBRATING THEIR 30TH ANNIVERSARY “We’ve been planning since Christmas to really make sure it’s something special,” says Oliver Doe, gallery manager at Gallagher & Turner. “Since then things have become more complicated as we’ve been closed for months, but fortunately we’re working with people we have a good relationship with.” Tucked away on St Mary’s Place, Gallagher & Turner has been a stalwart of the Newcastle art scene for the past 30 years. Founded in 1990 by Paul Gallagher and Clare Turner, Oliver has been working throughout lockdown to prepare for the gallery’s upcoming exhibition celebrating their 30 year anniversary. “It’s definitely been more stressful than usual,” he says. As with many other gallery spaces, the pandemic has disrupted the year’s programming. “We had to cancel our summer exhibition, which is usually one of our biggest events. But with the current situation, it just wouldn’t have been viable to showcase 37 artists,” he tells me. “Luckily we’ve been able to salvage the rest of the programme, including the 30th anniversary exhibition.” The exhibition will showcase the work of 16 artists, including Oliver himself, who have previously had work exhibited at Gallagher & Turner. Norman Cornish, Ørnulf Opdahl and Elisabeth Frink are among those on the line-up which celebrates the gallery’s diverse history of exhibitions. Oliver notes that he is particularly excited about showcasing the work of Paola Ciarska, a Newcastle University fine art graduate who first exhibited at Gallagher & Turner in 2017. Paola, whose work explores the nature of oversharing in contemporary society, has had her work exhibited across Newcastle, London and New York. “We’ve been working with galleries like iMT gallery in London to borrow some of Paola’s work,” Oliver says. “It’s really nice to be working with young artists and to see how they have developed over the years.”

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WHAT WE DO ISN’T ABOUT US, IT’S ABOUT TRYING TO SUPPORT THE ARTISTS SELFLESSLY. BEING IN THE ART WORLD IS A PRECARIOUS EXISTENCE, AND WE’RE DOING ALL WE CAN BY TRYING TO SELL ARTISTS’ WORK Despite their best efforts, the exhibition will undoubtedly be very different to Gallagher & Turner’s usual offerings. “We’re used to the gallery being a personal space,” Oliver says. “We know a lot of the people who come in, but I think coronavirus will make the space less personal.” Accepting that the situation is dependent day by day, Gallagher & Turner are working on making the website accessible, so even those who don’t yet feel comfortable going to exhibitions can celebrate at home. Oliver is keen to stress how the gallery seeks to support the artists whose work they exhibit through the pandemic. “What we do isn’t about us, it’s about trying to support the artists selflessly. Being in the art world is a precarious existence, and we’re doing all we can by trying to sell artists’ work.” The gallery is also keen to draw in new audiences through the exhibition. “It’s really going to be a mixed bag of work,” Oliver says. “Claire, Paul and I all have different tastes, which is good as we don’t want things to be too homogenous. We’re trying to show a strong mix of things that doesn’t go too far towards one stagnant work.” Gallagher & Turner’s 30th Anniversary Exhibition will take place between Thursday 20th August-Saturday 26th September www.gallagherandturner.co.uk


INTERVIEW

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: KATE MURPHY

DEMO OF THE MONTH

Heaven Below – My Own God When the rolling guitar and delicious harmonies come in on Heaven Below’s track, you find yourself moving in the same way you did to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. My Own God scorches and melts in tones of red and purple inside your brain, and you drift off somewhere that might get you thinking of The Stone Roses

Dan Ward – Summer Sun

With a still-drunk swagger, and the sweaty headiness of someone trying to find and lose themselves at the same time, this offering from Dan Ward crashes its way down sun-baked alleys like echoes of the night before. “Ask me why and I can’t say / All the signs guide me that way”, Ward sings, like he could be shouting it out to the Grand Canyon or defending himself to a bouncer. Over its two minutes and eighteen seconds, Summer Sun embodies the on-top-of-the-world abandon of your twenties: a widescreen yearning for freedom, and the dizzying bewilderment that comes with getting it. It’s indie fuzz, at its self-assertive, self-conscious, youthcelebrating best. www.soundcloud.com/danward

Bloomsfield – What Have I Done Now?

Of the two indie songs in this month’s demos, I’d say What Have I Done Now? has less of an immediate impact, but it is not without its passion, nor without its story. The narrator’s dysfunctional relationship is painted for us

too, before it all kicks off in its final moments. The scuzzy-smooth texture of Heaven Below’s offering curls around you like thick smoke, and the way the vocals rise and sphere out on themselves – in what surely must be described as ‘sexy hope’ - leaves you wanting to drip-feed from it. Stirring, calming, gorgeous. www.facebook.com/weareheavenbelow

straight away: “Hate the way you put me down / When I already have my head in the ground”, he sings, his voice raspy, as if from arguing so much. He’s a man who has just about managed to prise his fingers away from what is left of the relationship, but is fighting against his own grip. It all works its way up to an excellent guitar solo, and if the song had this same attitude from the very beginning, it would catapult it to a new level. www.soundcloud.com/bloomsfield

Yes Chef – Two Mile Lunacy

Once it’s teased you with its beginning, this gets moving like a strange, chubby reptile, shoulders rolling, dragging its stomach as it goes. The bass is irresistible, and the song takes us somewhere tropical and swampy, where the rest of these creatures live. At some points, it’s elevator music, if elevator music was done really well, and was off its head. At other points, upon the entry of a jangly guitar, it’s as if the elevator doors have opened into the coolest hotel you can imagine – everything is made of gold, the guitar suggests – and welcomes a chorus of female voices that feel

like they are caressing your face. It then fades out without explanation. I think you’ll like it. www.soundcloud.com/yeschefsir

Torn Apart By Lisa – Be Yourself (Unless You Can Be Bob Dylan)

There are a few things you look for in a folk singer. One of them is vulnerability, usually revealed when they sing about hurt, and it often comes with accepting that this hurt is part of life – it runs as naturally as a hillside stream through every soul’s existence. It’s for this reason you won’t hear of a folk outfit called Can’t Complain or Going Quite Well, Actually, Considering. Vulnerability is exactly what comes through in this endearing demo from Torn Apart By Lisa, but not in your typical way. With an opening line about Tim Henman, and a loving impersonation of Bob Dylan towards the song’s end, James Berry brings a sense of humour and an everyman likeability to the genre, and reminds us not to forget the wide-eyed fan who lives inside us all. www.facebook.com/tornapartbylisa

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TRACKS WORDS: STEVE SPITHRAY

T-B, L-R: Witness Protection Programme, Darling Cannibal, Cache-Cache feat. Elizabeth Liddle They say adversity breeds creativity so lockdown should be priming us for a musical bender of politically motivated, punk-driven celebrations. Darling Cannibal’s Whose Pint’s Whose is a sweary and well informed ball of barely contained energy and ire that will be at the front of the queue FFO The Libertines, Benefits and lo-fi boozy shenanigans. Friends of the Monday Table had a dream where they were late for work and Emily’s Imaginary Scales is the ambient railway station announcement that delays their train, set to a gentle beat and retro electronic repetition that segues into something oddly uplifting. Decent. Leopard Rays have been busy and their EP, Time’s A Factor Kid, is four tracks of rock riffs and post-grunge melodies that should put them high on the bands-to-see list Once All This Is Over and demonstrates a band really maturing into their own sound. Prince Bishops have been listening to Waterpistol by Shack which is no bad thing, and Why? is a lush reworking of the dreamy jangle pop aesthetic with a touch of Elbow and America about it for good measure; it’s welcome in my inbox anytime. It’s certainly an eclectic collection this month so it’s no surprise that Philth Like bestow on us The Devilish, coarse industrial hip-hop built on layers of experimental synth and helicopter samples. Raw, unrefined and as dark as winter. ID.GONE’s On The Edge EP follows a similar musical path into a near-future dystopia though much more upbeat. The title track is a masterful slab of instrumental deep house while the rest of the EP proves they are equally happy chilling out. Cache-Cache (feat. Elizabeth Liddle) continues a recent local trend

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towards expertly polished R&B. With a blissful arrangement, poppy Kylie-esque interludes and a playful vocoder segment, Break My Love doesn’t take itself too seriously; and both would sound quite at home turned up loud on a beach somewhere... SQUARMS were the last act I saw play live in a repurposed old terraced house back in March so their The View From A Terraced House track is at least relevant to me. It’s nu-squat culture with a bag-o-cans, fat spliff, the occasional Outkast and Goldie Lookin’ Chain forays, and, frankly much better than I’ve made it sound. In fact, a welcome companion piece to Darling Cannibal with its ultra-relevant references and relatable urban dogma. DGKyle’s II EP is a pretty decent stab at stripped-back heartlands rock but with an unusual lightness of touch. Difficult to pigeonhole but it reminds me at times of (in the best possible sense) Nickelback, Tesla’s Five Man Acoustical Jam, Zwan or even The Beta Band, especially on highlight 2.45am with its slightly odd bluesy effects and driving rhythm. However elsewhere boredom seems to be settling in and Defender by The Agency is noughties new-wave-by-numbers. Heavy enough to be punk, dour enough to be goth. See also Witness Protection Programme’s On My List, which at least treads the darker waters previously enjoyed by The Bravery and Joy Division, while You Song by Chi (an acoustic ode to me and, um, you) is basically a musical Zoom date.


ALBUMS 4/5 ULVER FLOWERS OF EVIL (HOUSE OF MYTHOLOGY)

4/5

MATMOS THE CONSUMING FLAME (THRILL JOCKEY) Words: Paul Ray The Matmos cliché has long been that each of the electronic duo’s albums has a new gimmick, but I’ve never liked that framing. All Matmos have done throughout their career is tap into the same compositional insight that animated many of the greatest experimental musicians of the 20th century: limitations drive creativity. And so Matmos’ behemoth new album was created within a hugely ambitious set of limitations. The duo solicited contributions from 99 collaborators from across the worlds of experimental, electronic and indie music (including Yo La Tengo, Giant Swan, Oneohtrix Point Never and Marisa Anderson), stipulating that each fragment must adhere to a tempo of 99 BPM. This homogenisation of tempo makes the album flow, despite its wild stylistic variation, like some kind of dream, seamlessly shifting from menacing industrial techno to glitching jazz to surreal twanging folk music. Each gradual emergence into a new section feels like an arrival into a new part of a vast musical unconscious which spans 80 years of musical development. As with the irrational logic of dreams, boundaries and musical signifiers become distorted, history folding in on itself in counterintuitive and provocative ways: 15 minutes into the second disc, moody guitar strumming gets frayed at the edges with harsh noise, eventually melding into a brief but intensely rhythmic episode of chopped-up vocal sampling, with the same bizarre contiguity of a dream where you’re hiking up a mountain and then you turn left and you’re piloting a crashing plane. This album is three hours long. Inevitably there are highs and lows – there are sections across the three discs that could be described as slightly boring. I don’t want to make too much of this, though, because this album is a frequently fascinating journey, and even the best journeys have segments of anonymous motorway. Finished before the pandemic arrived and mandated a certain retreat into isolated technological solipsism, The Consuming Flame has arrived at a perfect time. Even at its most inscrutable, it is a remarkable statement in favour of collectivity and sociality; a utopian vision of collaboration as a force that can blow apart rigid structures and strict genres in favour of an oozing, free-form newness. Released: 21.08.20 www.vague-terrain.com

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Steve Von Till – No Wilderness Deep Enough (Neurot Recordings, 07.08) //Sea Girls – Open Up Your Head (Polydor Records, 14.08) //Widowspeak – Plum (Captured Tracks, 28.08) //New Fries – Is The Idea of Us (Telephone Explosion, 07.08) //Layla Kaylif – Lovers Don’t Meet (Self-Release, 07.08) //Eyedress – Let’s Skip To The Wedding (Lex Records, 07.08) //Girls In Synthesis – Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future (Harbinger Sound, 28.08) // Siv Jakobsen – A Temporary Soothing (U OK?, 28.08) //Another Sky – I Slept On The Floor (Fiction Records, 14.08) //Willie J Healey – Twin Heavy (YALA! Records, 07.08) //Bebel Gilberto – Agora (PIAS Recordings, 21.08) // No Joy – Motherhood (Joyful Noise, 21.08) //Meridian Brothers – Cumbia Siglo XXI (Bongo Joe Records, 21.08) // Steven Adams & The French Drops – Keep It Light (Fika Recordings, 21.08) // Callum Easter – Green Door Sessions (Moshi Moshi Records, 21.08) // Sarah Walk – Another Me (One Little Indian, 28.08) // Emma Swift – Blonde On The Tracks (Tiny Ghost Records, 14.08) //Hjaltalin – S/T (Self-Release, 07.08) // AK/DK – Shared Particles (Little Miss Echo Recordings, 28.08)

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Even for a band renowned for their shape-shifting musical identity – encompassing black metal, trip-hop, ambient soundscapes, bluesy art rock and much more – the Depeche Mode-isms of Ulver’s previous album The Assassination of Julius Caesar proved a step too far for some listeners. On Flowers of Evil the band refine their new synth pop style, continuing their ceaseless forward momentum whilst still drawing the music back to more established emotional and philosophical terrain. The restrained death disco of single Russian Doll confirms their new-found pop chops, while the luscious tension-and-release of Apocalypse 1993 and stormy Little Boy find them pursuing gnostic truths within their latest genre of choice. A more consistent and focused album than its predecessor, even if not all Ulver fans will be converted by its end. Released: 28.08.20 www.facebook.com/ulverofficial

5/5 EIGHT ROUNDS RAPID LOVE YOUR WORK (TAPETE RECORDS) Words: Robert Nichols Wallowing in the filth and plastic waste of a Thames estuary black tide, Eight Rounds Rapid shoot back with their high octane, heavy duty R’n’B post-punk. A lock-up lockdown masterpiece is fuelled by Simon Johnson’s turbo Wilko Johnson-esque (who happens to be his dad) guitar licks and David Alexander’s snarling vocal bite. Digging deep into the murky Essex underworld they ram-raid a souped-up Ford Capri through the diet obsessed, onesie, selfie surface values. This socially un-distanced commentary exposes an inventory of the tricks of the trade. Witty, caustic, clever, so catchy; a third album that is wonderfully, shamelessly regressive, gloriously excessive and passive-aggressive. A bittersweet love letter posted from an outpost in the pandemic provinces. I’m loving their work. Released: 21.08.20 www.eightroundsrapid.com

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4.5 / 5

4/5

4/5

THE MORNING SHIFT WHERE WOULD YOU RATHER BE? (SELF-RELEASE)

I LIKE TRAINS KOMPROMAT (ATLANTIC CURVE)

JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD EVEN IN EXILE (MONTYRAY/THE ORCHARD)

Words: Damian Robinson A long creative period can often produce mixed results (Chinese Democracy anyone…?) but the three years half-Geordie outfit The Morning Shift have spent on Where Would You Rather Be? have clearly been a waste of nobody’s time. Poetic, adventurous and delicately considered, the album is a gorgeous seven-track debut blending interesting sentiments about the fleetingness of love, replete with layers of horn instrumentation. Part Devendra Banhart intelligent/upbeat pop in places (Is It Worth It) and part Jeff Buckley delicacy in others (Raindrops In The Night), each of the seven songs shine as individual pieces yet fit together seamlessly to make WWYRB? a complete album both in production, sound and overarching idea. What a lovely little album and what a good use of time. Released: 01.08.20 www.facebook.com/themorningshiftmusic

Words: Ali Welford With thematic roots lying as far back as Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks, I Like Trains’ first record in eight years is a wearied, indignant response to events which have snowballed since. From Brexit and covert Russian influence to the rise of populist leaders across the globe, contemporary despair runs through every note of the Leeds band’s return, channelled through a refined palette of taut, angular post-punk grooves. Naturally, David Martin’s eloquent sneer and on-the-nose lyricism occupy centre stage throughout, yet often it’s Kompromat’s production which steals the spotlight. Moulding protruding guitars and bitter synths into a frosty, anxiety-inducing cacophony, its bars bristle with fraught static tension, and on standouts like The Truth yield some of their most effective and evocative material to date. Released: 21.08.20 www.iliketrains.co.uk

Words: Paul Brown A concept album about the life and death of Chilean activist Victor Jara? Sounds very much like a solo project by a Manic Street Preacher, doesn’t it? And lo, we have Even In Exile, James Dean Bradfield’s second solo album, with music by Bradfield and lyrics by poet Patrick Jones. Early tasters suggested it might be a downbeat mournful tome akin to Rewind The Film, and while it has its lamentful moments (like There’ll Come A War), the freedom from his usual routine has awakened Bradfield’s creative spirit. He’s on fine form here, bringing Jones’ words to life with a strident, occasionally poignant collection of music, delivered by one of rock music’s most distinctive, affecting vocalists. Released: 14.08.20 www.manicstreetpreachers.com

4/5

4.5 / 5

4/5

BULLY SUGAREGG (SUB POP)

BENT ARCANA S/T (CASTLE FACE RECORDS)

SHITKID 20/20 SHITKID (PNKSLM RECORDINGS)

Words: Jason Jones From the moment that opener Add It On kicks in, Bully’s third album SUGAREGG split my mouth into a goofy grin that refused to budge for the next thirty-odd minutes. This is joyous bubblegum grunge; gnarly and syrupy, buzzing and hurtling about in a state of euphoric angst. Alicia Bognanno’s voice is as mesmeric and feral as ever, and her band sound simply, effortlessly, gigantic. This is a record that is both bellicose and buoyant, all served with lashings of cunning alt. pop catchiness and fuzzed up ‘90s college rock. Just imagine the dean of said college is Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka – unhinged, perturbing and yet somehow redemptive in their sweetness. Forget everlasting gobstoppers, you’re going to be rotting your teeth on SUGAREGG for weeks. Released: 21.08.20 www.bullythemusic.com

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Words: Lee Hammond As far as supergroups go, they don’t often come more experienced than Bent Arcana, with Thee Oh Sees John Dwyer leading the charge, and members of TV On The Radio, Sunwatchers and Feels also contributing to this epic record. Opening with The Gate sets an exciting pace, coupled with a complete disregard for genre. This record fluidly traverses a multitude of sounds, with blasts of synths often complementing harsh saxophones. The driving riffs that underpin Misanthrope Gets Lunch contribute to a relentless pace, whereas Oblivion Sigil is a slow burner that morphs into groove-laden funk storm before the album closes on the jazz-infused Sprites, which provides one last blast of high-energy intensity on this phenomenal record. Released: 21.08.20 www.johndwyer.bandcamp.com

Words: Laura Doyle Anyone for some Scandinavian lo-fi pop? Look no further than Swedish duo Shitkid. Their rudey name might dissuade some stations from giving this experimental electronica group airtime, but that’d be their loss. Waste of Time chimes with the disaffected youth in me; half-hearted vocals contrast with a backdrop of impassioned synth beats, while FARMBOY is a wonderfully trippy jaunt into a psychedelic fairytale love story with a less than ideal ending. Dream Sequence is just that – as long as your dreams are also soundtracked by a kid yelling into one of those echoey toy microphones from the ‘90s. Shitkid might sound annoyingly childlike on first listen, but you’d be mistaken to think they’re anything less than captivatingly and unnervingly creepy. Released: 21.08.20 www.shitkid.bandcamp.com


ALBUMS

4/5

4/5

4/5

LIV.E COULDN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU (IN REAL LIFE MUSIC)

L.A. WITCH PLAY WITH FIRE (SUICIDE SQUEEZE RECORDS)

DREAM NAILS S/T (ALCOPOP! RECORDS)

Words: Ikenna Offor On her bewitchingly soulful debut, Liv.e (pronounced ‘Liv’) mines a rich seam of choppy samples and dusty loops to craft an organically harmonious set swathed in retro-futuristic allure. Teeming with amorphous textures and hazy flourishes, Couldn’t Wait To Tell You’s vividly immersive soundscapes flit from infectious zest to even-keeled stoicism, coolly defying easy categorisation at every turn. Amply filigreed with lashings of sultry poesy, the 22-year-old Dallas native’s wry lyrics deftly weave a lucid melange of mildly esoteric (yet indelibly relatable) musings that drolly capture the capricious nuances of Gen-Z dalliances. The nub of this record’s myriad charms lies in the unfussy candour of Liv.e’s artistry – wielding her gossamer vocals without pedantry, she niftily dissects amorous complexities with disarming acuity. Released: 21.08.20 www.o-liv.bandcamp.com

4 /5 BIFFY CLYRO A CELEBRATION OF ENDINGS (WARNER RECORDS) Words: Claire Dupree Biffy Clyro’s eighth album ably demonstrates their evolution from weird little indie band to arena-filling behemoths. Their jagged, mathy glory is resplendent in the feedback squall and howls of rage on End Of, and the instantly recognisable guitar stabs on North Of No South and Weird Leisure, replete with punishing riffs and vocal harmonies; while choppy time signatures are tempered by a 30-piece orchestra on The Champ. Tiny Indoor Fireworks’ massive chorus provides an inevitable singalong, but the synthy juggernaut of Instant History treads unfamiliar territory and the saccharine Space lacks the pathos of earlier balladry. The epic Cop Syrup, with its “Fuck everybody!” ferocious roar seguing into cinematic strings closes an album which is meaty enough for early material purists while remaining accessible to new listeners. Released: 14.08.20 www.biffyclyro.com

Words: Paul Broadhead L.A. Witch’s sophomore record is one that could only have been conceived in LA. You can practically smell the seediness, smoke and debauchery on the self-deprecating I Wanna Lose, whilst the lust of Sexorexia is enveloped by the dirty sheets of the West Coast. Opener Fire Starter is a lush blend of big dirty blues riffs and 60’s bubblegum pop vocals, whereas the classic cinema influence of Motorcycle Boy is fused with grunge-like drawl, recalling Courtney Love’s Hole. Dark Horse embraces a psychedelic twist on its reverb soaked instrumental and sprawling drowned out guitars, and whilst the dirge of True Believers is largely forgettable, this is otherwise a great record concluding with Starred’s inevitable crescendo of feedback and distortion. Released: 21.08.20 www.lawitches.bandcamp.com

4/5 ERASURE THE NEON (MUTE) Words: Damian Robinson Billed as a return to the optimistic pop sounds of their past, there’s very little point arguing that Neon does anything other than what a classic Erasure album should; namely combine upbeat pop synths with golden vocals about living for the moment. Demonstrated clearly by opener Hey Now as well on standouts Diamond Lies (“live any second as if it might be the last / we could go up any second cause life is a blast”) and What A Sight For Sore Eyes, the Erasure team stand out when creating perfectly constructed three minute pop hits. We may not have the dance floors to visit during lockdown, but if pop is about constructing virtual worlds, we can easily imagine them through this record. Released: 21.08.20 www.erasureinfo.com

Words: Robin Webb Dream Nails are a frenetic four-piece, witches and full time riot grrrls, full of energetic pop positivity in their own inimitable driving DIY punk spirit. They’ve spent most of the past year refining this studio-based production following on from their acoustic live album Take Up Space! Several of those tracks make a welcome return here in ‘full fat’ buzzed electricity, stand outs among those are Text Me Back (Chirpse Degree Burns) and the glorious personal trainer love song from afar, Jillian. As a whole this album is full of their trademark anger and political nous, counterbalanced by an unbounded joy and humour in order to heal and, like their audience, grow. If you don’t partake then look out: they’re “gonna hex you up”! Released: 28.08.20 www.dreamnails.bandcamp.com

4/5 SAMIA THE BABY (GRAND JURY MUSIC) Words: Francoise Harvey The Baby, Samia’s debut album, explores the loneliness of being away from family and friends while on tour. Opening track The Pool is a gentle start, a soundscape of yearning, while closing track Is There Something In The Movies? is a classic acoustic heartbreaker. But between them the album’s tempo picks up, with punchy bass (put to great use in Limbo Bitch and Minnesota), unpredictable melodies, and lyrics that turn on a beat from profoundly sad to irreverent and funny. Samia’s voice treads a pleasing line between angelic and threatening: “Make a predator of me, I’ll be good to you” she croons sweetly in Triptych; while Big Wheel – catchy and relatable – seems destined to be a hit. Released: 28.08.20 www.samiaband.com

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ALBUMS

5/5

4/5

5/5

LIAR, FLOWER GEIGER COUNTER (ONE LITTLE INDEPENDENT RECORDS)

A. SWAYZE & THE GHOSTS PAID SALVATION (IVY LEAGUE RECORDS)

LIELA MOSS WHO THE POWER (BELLA UNION)

Words: Francoise Harvey Geiger Counter is a journey. The new project from KatieJane Garside is typically diverse, with styles ranging from ethereal harp-strummed love songs, to post-punk Yeah Yeah Yeahs-ish spectaculars (My Brain Is Lit Like An Airport must be incredible live), to industrial rock howlers. Little Brown Shoe is a favourite – I’d want it on a Halloween soundtrack. And KatieJane Garside’s versatile voice takes on the challenge exquisitely: lulling, screaming, purring, warbling. It’s so eclectic, in fact, that initially it felt near impossible to pick a star-rating, only I can’t stop listening to it as a whole. It reminds me of the Natural Born Killers soundtrack (a compliment) – please, someone make a film based on this album! Released: 21.08.20 www.katiejanegarside.com

5/5 KID DAD IN A BOX (LONG BRANCH RECORDS) Words: Stephen Oliver It happens now and again: you hear a band for the first time and the sound grabs you. It makes you stop what you are doing and remember why you love listening to music in the first place. That wonderful moment when it hits the sweet spot for you. It might be different for someone else, but this is just right for you. And so it came to pass that the debut album from Kid Dad, with its space filling soaring tunes and catchy hooks, has caught me hook, line and sinker. Just like the time I first heard Muse or Kaiser Chiefs play in venues when there were more staff than punters. Guitar-driven anthems that could fill arenas if lady luck is on their side. Released: 21.08.20 www.kid-dad.com

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Words: Stephen Oliver Punk bands often fall into two camps: those that sing about going to the pub and doing normal stuff, and those that use the platform to fix the world’s ailments. A. Swayze & The Ghosts fall into the latter category with their debut release. The Australian outfit eloquently take on religion, social media and other issues as the guitar riffs over punchy beats. Musically, they wouldn’t have been out of place on John Peel’s show back in the day. Plenty of bands have succeeded on a mix of energy, attitude and three chords, and there is no reason why Andrew Swayze’s group cannot follow in their wake. They wanted to sound like four guys recording a live band in a room without any polish, and it works in keeping it real. Released: 25.08.20 www.aswayzeandtheghosts.com

Words: Beverley Knight Liela Moss is one cool artist. Projecting confidence, there’s nothing sweet about her earthy, sensual voice or sassy writing. She has collaborated with UNKLE in the past, and this album gracefully holds that soundtrack-esque electronic undercurrent. There is a smattering of sound from the 80s that is especially apparent in the likes of splendid opener Turn Your Back Around and Stolen Careful. However, they are not retro in the slightest. The Individual is fiercely powerful with its spooky wailing backing, and at the assured end of pop are single Atoms At Me and White Feather. Moss is as brilliant as any of the female heavyweights around today and should get the recognition she deserves. Released: 07.08.20 www.lielamoss.com

3.5 / 5

4/5

SALLY ANNE MORGAN THREAD (THRILL JOCKEY)

GLASS ANIMALS DREAMLAND (POLYDOR)

Words: Elodie A. Roy On her debut solo album recorded across Virginia and Georgia, US multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Sally Anne Morgan (Black Twig Pickers, House and Land) brings together odd ends, overheard stories, personal and borrowed memories. Drawing from traditional Appalachian music and experimental folk, Thread decidedly belongs to a time before time. Morgan’s frail (yet resolute) voice meanders over bright fields of fiddle, piano, guitar and banjo. Though Thread feels mostly light-hearted, there are intimations of gloom too, as on the softly desolate Wintersong. Morgan’s personal, stumbling songs of experience have the quality of archetypes; they offer us a reduction of life to its rawest elements (seasons, colours, tones, sensations), conjuring up places we knew – and inexplicably forgot – long ago. Released: 21.08.20 www.sallyannemorgan.com

Words: Kristopher Cook Glass Animals fans, the wait is finally over, Dreamland is here, and boy is it a doozy. Dave Bayley and co. have crafted a tight soiree in nostalgia tripping, rustling through a bona fide pick ’n’ mix of tracks that each call to something sweet and/or sour, lifted directly via memory and imagination. Tracks Tangerine and Hot Sugar are classic Glass Animals: zany as hell production laced in brain-licking lyrical content. Your Love (Déjà Vu) feels a lot like 808s-era Kanye, while another highlight, Melon And The Coconut, has the posse leaning more on the spacier side. Dreamland is their most poignant record to date — an exploration in self-elasticity from one of the UK’s sweetest exports; don’t sleep on this one. Released: 07.08.20 www.glassanimals.com


MIXTAPE WORDS: IAN TODD

I’m Ian Todd, a comedian working under the guise of Feline Cake Party. I used to be part of the award winning comedy duo called Straitjacket. I started Feline Cake Party as a YouTube-based sketch show in 2018, there have been twelve episodes so far in the series. After years of doing stand-up, I decided to go back to sketches. One of the main reasons I got back into making sketch comedy was after meeting with Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul/ Breaking Bad), after years of chatting on Skype he has always been very supportive of my work. I work on the sketches with the director, Simon Earp, and we film them across Newcastle. The latest special, The Adventures of Ken, is out now. The series includes music from local artists including The Fishery Commission, Chlorine, SDF, Badger, Razmataz Lorry Excitement, Tunnel Club and many more. My Mixtape features songs which feature on the soundtrack of the latest episode and some which provided inspiration for Feline Cake Party. I’m always on the lookout for new unsigned music for future sketches, get in touch via telos06@hotmail.co.uk or follow me on Twitter. Watch all episodes of Feline Cake Party on YouTube here. www.twitter.com/iantodd82

DRESSED IN WIRES LILT, TOTALLY TROPICAL I have known Simon for years and he also directs the show. I have always used his music in my work as there is always a wide spectrum of genres thrown in the mix. I often use the more ambient side of his work on my sketches, normally to evoke sadness Listen

AKO CARRION FLOWER ako is another act I found reading NARC., I loved his work straight away, it works perfectly with my writing. I do like electronica/dance anyway but his style always adds another dimension to my work. Listen

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR MLADIC I saw them at Sage Gateshead and this took the roof off, it builds and builds to an amazing ending. Listen

KRAFTWERK TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS What more can you say about this band? This is a perfect example of their genius. A dancey dystopian futurism classic. Listen

HARBOURMASTER ZIG ZAG I have known Martin since the days of Squares etc. I found out he was doing this project and it worked perfectly with my odd masked man skit. I look forward to using more of his work in the future as it gives it a fresh zip. Listen

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY IT’S NATURAL TO BE AFRAID I once saw them in a bar in Sunderland called Bar36, where they played in the round. What a band! Perfect for writing to and taking your mind to another world. Listen

VCMG AFTERMATHS Vince Clarke and Martin Gore did a techno album and it was great. This is a particular favourite. Listen

THE PRESETS 14U+14ME This is taken from the Aussie duo’s last album and it’s a synthed-up dance banger. If you don’t know them and you like synth pop, do search them out. Listen

THE HUMAN LEAGUE BEING BOILED (FAST VERSION) I have seen the band too many times and I always wonder what they would have been like if they had continued down this route. Listen

MOGWAI 2 RIGHTS MAKE A WRONG (SPECIAL MOVES VERSION) This is why the band are so special and get so much devotion, I feel this live version improves on the studio track and still gives me Goosebumps to this day. Listen

PET SHOP BOYs HAPPY PEOPLE I have included this as it’s a newish track by one of the best acts ever and it evokes the Very era of the band, making it incredibly new and fresh. Listen

PORTISHEAD MACHINE GUN From the first out of kilter machine gun drum sounds to the synthy ending – if Portishead never make a new album at least they have given us this. Listen

DO YOU HAVE A NEW RELEASE PLANNED, AN UPDATE TO INFORM OUR READERS OF OR A STORY TO TELL? WE’RE HERE FOR YOU EMAIL: INFO@NARCMEDIA.COM 39


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NARC. #164 August 2020  

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