H. Hawkline: Black Domino Box EP Launch @ The Social, London (21/08/2012)

hawkline

This week saw the release of up-and-coming Welsh musician H.Hawkline’s latest EP, Black Domino Box. On the second night of his mini-tour of the UK to promote the launch, London hot spot The Social played host to an incredibly intimate and delightful raucus set.

Support came in the form of R.Seiliog, an unassuming character hidden behind a laptop and guitar whose music, despite a vague sense of repetition, was an interesting combination of electronic and ethereal. Almost otherwordly, it felt like the most suitable soundtrack to the space pursuits mirrored outside of the gig (NASA’s Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars).

Showcasing a barrage of charming wit, H. Hawkline’s stage presence is second to none. This brought to light even more by the contrast to R. Seiliog, who also joined the headliner on drums. A performer who so effortlessly maintains an audience’s attention and adolation for an entire gig is very rare indeed. H. Hawkline hooks people in with as many punchlines as there are riffs.

Despite strained vocals, the show was unsurprisingly faultless. Every track on the Black Domino Box EP has it’s own individual allure andto hear them live only accentuated their appeal. The set constantly flipped between, and sometimes miraculously combined, raucausness and delicacy. Crowd favourite ‘You Say You Love Me’, taken from The Strange Uses of  Ox Gall album, was also a pleasurable addition to the track list. And although Hawkline himself readily admits he is tired of what is his undoubtedly most popular song, he delivered it with great aplomb.

You can listen to H. Hawkline’s Black Domino Box EP here.

Top five music tips for: Beacons Festival

Beacons Festival takes place in Skipton amidst the stunning Yorkshire Dales this weekend (17th – 19th August) and is one the most exciting events of the season. In former years it was known as The Moor Music Festival but 2011 saw the festival rebrand itself with a new site and a new name.  The buzz surrounding Beacons has been palpable, with tickets completely selling out.

With what I would argue is the best festival line-up the UK has to offer this summer, it was incredibly hard to pick out just five tips for you. Nevertheless, here they are:

1. King Krule

King Krule is a teenage British songsmith that you need to keep your eye out for. Having put his time in at the famous Brit school, Archy Marshall, who previously worked under the moniker Zoo Kid, is touring the festival circuit with his gutsy, stripped-back version of rock and roll. Channelling a rockabilly vibe and a sense of torment normally reserved for those with a few more birthdays under their belt, King Krule is set to take the UK music scene by storm and has already been championed by the likes of Billy Bragg. Watch his set this weekend, it may well be something you reflect upon smugly in years to come.

2. Imp

One of the most renowned bands on the West Yorkshire scene for the past couple of years. Imp is a singular example of the great acts to come from the vibrant city of Wakefield that are currently boasted by the local Philophobia Music label. They describe their sound as scuzzy riff-pop and their live sets draw you in and leave you begging for more. Let them be your new favourite band.

3. Japandroids

Seeing Japandroids live is like witnessing  a demonstration in organised chaos. The Canadian duo know how to rock without losing control of their set. Every strum is a work of angry art, every bead of sweat well-earned. Celebration Rock, their second album, received critical accaim upon its release in June of this year. All tracks were recorded live as the band wanted to seriously consider their audience, which just goes to show the amount of work and attention they put into each performance.

4. Toots and The Maytals

I’m not entirely sure this tip needs an explanation. If you really are in the dark, allow me to enlighten you.  Jamaican legends The Maytals have been around for decades acting as one of the most seminal acts to arise within the ska and reggae genre. Fronted by Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, their back catalogue is full to the brim with passionate tracks such as ‘Pressure Drop’ and ’54-46 Was My Number’. For those unfamiliar with the band, they featured fairly heavily on the This Is England film and series soundtracks. The fact is you have to see Toots and The Maytals this weekend, you just have to.

5. Best Friends

Hailing from Sheffield, Best Friends are South Yorkshire’s hot new thing. It’s garage rock with a hint of surf and that is always an enjoyable mix, in this case it’s addictive too. So whether you want to lie back and soak up the countryside atmosphere or you want to down a few bottles of lager and dance like your life depends on it, Best Friends are the perfect soundtrack to the weekend.

Beck’s sheet music album is a wake-up call

It’s been revealed this week that slacker-turned-seminal musician Beck will be releasing a brand new album this December. Great news you’re thinking? Well it is, but mainly for those with the ability to read sheet music.

Song Reader, the name of this new release, will comprise of 20 booklets, one for each individual song. These will include lyrics and music notations for a variety of instruments, all of which will be handily presented in a hard-cover carrying case detailed with designs from over a dozen artists.

Beck claims that Song Reader is a way of delving into ‘what an album can be at the end of 2012’. Renditions interpreted by fans and select musicians of these previously unreleased and, more importantly, unrecorded tracks will be featured online via publisher McSweeney’s website.

Now this kind of thing could be easily perceived as hipster nonsense, harping back to the gramophone era in the middle of the digital takeover. Certainly I think there may well be an element of profiting from false nostalgia, releasing an entirely new project in a retro format, albeit incidental or otherwise. However, there’s more to this venture than that.

At face value it’s a musical experiment, and a lavish one at that. Moreover, it’s also a pretty bold statement – a two-fingered salute to illegal downloads, intentional leaks and the dominance of online music sales compared to physical purchases. Song Reader is an intervention for those that have fallen into the habit of passively adding releases to their collection at the click of a finger. It calls for enthusiasm, participation and the realisation that although YouTube and iTunes clearly have their uses, there is more to music than an MP3.

What Beck has created is a wake-up call. Music is a craft not just a commodity.