Fabric of the Land – Lonelady LP review

Lonelady

Hinterland. Edgelands. Wasteland.

It seems to me that, for all my life (writes Andy Wood), these are the places I’ve played in, wandered, contemplated and explored. Brought up on the outskirts of the city there was no shortage of derelict sites, abandoned quarries, building sites, former factories and the ruins and relics of the distant and recent past to venture into and claim as our own.Sometimes we went to these places with parental warnings not to venture there ringing in our ears. Sometimes we found places our parents probably weren’t aware of but certainly would not approve of us visiting, far less playing in.

This fascination, obsession even, has never left me and has probably grown over the years. I’m fascinated with the histories of places that no one seems to care about or care for, of the remnants and relics of erased, forgotten places and people. For many people these places are blots on the landscape or areas ripe for levelling and developing. In some cases they are, for the most part, out of sight and out of mind.

I liked Lonelady before I’d heard a single note of music. The title of the second album Hinterland piqued my curiosity immediately. An interview with The Quietus had me hooked.
Julie Campbell is Lonelady, an artist who revels, inhabits and dreams in the in-between places, who sees beauty and possibility in the decay and dereliction of the parts of Manchester that the North West Tourist Board ignores.

Certainly bands and artists have previously developed from and expanded upon a mythology of place; Joy Division and The Smiths being two of Lonelady’s most illustrious predecessors. However, this Manchester is now a well known mythology of the post-industrial city, complete with landmarks, iconic images and tourist trails, iconographic and instantly recognisable. Lonelady deals with the post-industrial debris and wreckage, a landscape not fixed but forever shifting and changing. Perhaps Campbell’s closest aesthetic peers are The Fall, particularly the Mark E. Smith of Industrial Estates, strange happenings, hauntings which evoke a world in flux where futures and pasts collide in the present.

Essentially I purchased Hinterland on a hunch, taken by the concept above all. True, John Doran’s article in The Quietus discussed other Mancunian ghosts in Londelady’s sound. Influences such as A Certain Ratio were mentioned and caught my attention. I bought the album and looked at the packaging over and over again, trying to fathom out what it would sound and feel like. Finally I played the damn thing and haven’t stopped since. Of course I was my usually late self, arriving at the party well after everyone else but, really, I don’t care. Travelling backwards can be fun as well.

Hinterland Sleeve

Hinterland opens with the austere, eerie ‘Into The Cave’ with its taut rhythms and industrial percussion. Sure it has precedents but, most importantly, the song wears its influences lightly, making something beautiful, equal parts propulsive and claustrophobic. ‘Into The Cave’ is beautiful, full of space, evocative and moving. ‘Bunkerpop’ is edgy and infectious with a gorgeous chorus. Whereas a number of bands in recent years have drawn on post-punk as a sound or template Lonelady uses it as a launchpad to develop and aesthetic all of her own. Most importantly there is no snobbish or ironic stabs at funk and pop but an embracement of it making the songs engagingly wonderful.

Title track ‘Hinterland’ is probably the album’s most beautiful moment which is saying something on an album that can be pretty euphoric and transcendental. The song is a luxurious mix of punk-funk-electronica and a nagging hook and moments of sublime dissonance. The lyrics paint a picture of longing and dreaming:

I look outside beyond the dirty window
To find what I once knew long ago
A grainy detail, a former trace
And I’m trying just to find that place.

‘Groove It Out’ seems to be constructed out of the simplest of rhythms but is rich in textures and makes me think of another Manchester – of ESG or Madonna at the Hacienda, A Guy Called Gerald making unearthly, esoteric but rooted music in a towerblock. Formerly industrial spaces, transformed and dreamt into places of magic and beauty. ‘(I Can See) Landscapes’ is sparse and disorientating with an ominous atmosphere with just Campbell’s voice carrying the melody. The verses give way to an elegiac chorus and its all over before you get a grasp on something solid giving way to ‘Silvering’ which is both frenetic and restrained and utterly wonderful, an absolute endorphin rush of a song.

Silvering is the process by which glass is coated with a reflective surface to create a mirror and like much of Hinterland, looks both inwards and outwards:

And I wander in this endless territory
Through the distances inside me.
Crossing the territory inside
It wants to keep me in here.

It’s probably the most expansive song on Hinterland, sharp and bright, extolling the pleasures of the drift and evoking a sense of awe in the little things dotted in the landscape, ‘the cracks, silvering.’

‘Flee!’ strips things right back with its simple, elegiac feel, built around a simple, treated Cello and flourishes of sound and it is totally haunting, even chilling.

Flee to the outskirts
The ground is crumbling.
The sky is falling

Where to go I asked
Neither man nor beast could answer me
Frozen was their speech.

For the first time on Hinterland the feeling is of being lost, of being wholly incapable of finding bearings in the landscape, of a sense of threat where spectres are ‘everywhere’ There’s an undercurrent of unease throughout Hinterland but ‘Flee!’ brings it to the fore yet it never becomes oppressive despite apocalyptic images of buildings sinking into the ground. ‘Flee!’ is a reminder that the hinterlands can also be unsafe, even threatening – places where people go to do things they don’t wish to have witnessed.

‘Red Scrap’ is glacial and enervating. Lonelady takes us back to slightly safer, more familiar territory, a post-industrial riot of colours and ghosts of the recent past, where machinery rusts and ‘ghost trains rumble by … and it seems so long ago’. The instrumentation is elegant, the vocals moving. ‘Mortar Remembers You’ suggests a retreat of sorts with the repeated refrain of ‘I had to build a room to contain all the panic’’ but it’s only a partial retreat as the ‘world creeps in at the edges’. Like the hinterlands of any city, change is not far behind whether in the form of nature regaining a grip, graffiti, new uses, either permitted or unauthorised, or levelling for development, and the mood shifts from darkness to light, full of gentle changes in mood. It rounds things off perfectly.

Hinterland is pretty much one of the most wonderful records that I’ve had the privilege to hear in a long time. A rich, joyous album that truly rewards total immersion and repeated plays. It reflects the way that the forgotten edgelands are neither necessarily totally urban nor rural but often somewhere in-between. Hinterland is no rally against a decaying country or a simple celebration of the pastoral but something more complex. It is an incisive, inventive and utterly compelling celebration of a part of the fabric of the land we rarely see or contemplate, of walking and thinking and ultimately dreaming.

And it is a set of brilliant songs as well.

Here’s a video for a song from the record:

Hinterland by Lonelady  is available from Warp now.

 

Dreams Like That – Idlewild / C Duncan live

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Idlewild / C Duncan – Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – Monday 17th August 2015

Monday was our second show from the reactivated Idlewild this year (with a third to follow for MPK2’s birthday in November) and it did nothing to dispel the notion that the band have been re-energised by their break.

If anything it was a better show than the O2 ABC show earlier in the year perhaps because the setlist seemed to have more of a flow to it despite the fact that 90% of the set was the same as in March.

The changes were minimal – a handful of tracks from the new LP dropped out to be replaced by a different song from the new record and a very old one. The consequence was a slightly shorter set but certainly not so much so that Roddy needed to apologise for the curfew so often.

What’s clear is that a number of the songs have been rearranged from days of yore. Most dramatic is the kraut/metal reworking of ‘Roseability’ – the familiar drum intro remains but what follows messes with your expectations.

Both ‘A Film for the Future’ and ‘Captain’ retain their places in the starting line-up (hurray!) but it’s clearer that ‘Film’ has been retooled to suit the new line-up with an eerie edge lent by the violin.

‘I Understand It’ was rocked up a fair from the recorded version but first encore ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ takes a different tack, dropping the revs significantly. Roddy’s ‘we play it slower because we’re older’ comment was quickly disproven by the following song – an absolutely ferocious take on ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’.

‘(Use It) If You Can Use It’ remains the centre-piece of the set, very much Rod’s showcase although Andrew Mitchell got his share of the spotlight on that one too.

Otherwise, given what they didn’t play, the show was a fine demonstration of what a great back catalogue they have. And we still haven’t see them play my favourite song from the new record – ‘On Another Planet’. Maybe in Perth in November.

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Idlewild played:

1. Too Long Awake 2. Collect Yourself 3. Left Like Roses 4. You Held The World In Your Arms 5. Little Discourage 6. Come On Ghost 7. Live In A Hiding Place 8. Love Steals Us From Loneliness 9. Make Another World 10. Quiet Crown 11. Use It (If You Can Use It) 12. American English 13. Roseability 14. I Understand It 15. A Film for the Future 16. Captain 17. El Capitan 18. Utopia

Encore
19. When I Argue I See Shapes 20. A Modern Way of Letting Go 21. In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction

Support came from hotly tipped Fat Cat signing C Duncan. Having missed him starting I confess I was non-plussed by the first couple of tunes we heard. Certainly the vocals were very much to the fore in a boomy, bass heavy mix with the keyboards and guitar barely audible.

But things picked up with a bit of a Chills vibe on ‘For’  and after that songs like ‘Garden’  were more than enough to persuade me to get the album.

It was my first time in the Assembly Rooms for a gig and it’s a lovely room. Certainly the sound for the headliners was fine and there’s also good sightlines from the floor. I hope it does start to get used more often for shows as it would prove a reasonable, indeed upmarket, replacement for the Picturehouse.

Idlewild have dates in Japan and the U.S.A in September/October before returning for a short Scottish tour in November.

24th Perth – Concert Hall
25th Inverness – The Ironworks
26th Aberdeen – Music Hall
27th Glasgow – Barrowlands

C Duncan’s debut album ‘Architect’ is available through FatCat Records.

PS The Assembly Rooms need to sort out their advertising of their stage times -we turned up at 7.50 expecting an 8 p.m. start.

PPS In this day and age of mobile phones the ‘No photography/filming’ restriction is laughable!

Nowhere At All – New Cathode Ray video

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One of the best albums of the year so far has been The Cathode Ray’s ‘Infinite Variety’ (a rare MPT LP review here).

The band have been active in promoting the record and have just released a video for ‘Nowhere At All’:

The Cathode Ray are back on stage supporting labelmates the Band of Holy Joy on the following dates:

Middlesborough – Westgarth Social Club – Saturday 19th September

Glasgow – The Admiral – Sunday 20th September

Edinburgh – The Voodoo Rooms – Monday 21st September

The bill also features Stereogram signings Lola In Slacks who are due to release their debut single soon.

Expect non-video posts soon!

The Best Go-Betweens Song?

partcompany

Since uncovering the double CD re-issue of ‘Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express’ in York the other week, I’ve been on a bit of a Go-Betweens kick, particularly the earlier albums.

The first Go-Betweens record I ever bought was the 7″ of ‘Part Company’. And for all the great songs I’ve heard since, I still think ‘Part Company’ is their best song.

The album version from ‘Spring Hill Fair’:

‘Part Company’ very much reminds me of a time when I was on the dole in the mid 80s and the highlight of the week was a trip to Stirling to pick up the latest ‘Melody Maker’ and visit a small indie record shop (wish I could remember the name) in the Stirling Arcade.

In fact I actually applied for a job in there but lost out to someone with more experience. And that was as close as I ever came to working in a record shop!

And a latter day acoustic version of the song together with a version of the other single from ‘Spring Hill Fair’:

Flying In The Face of Fashion – Julian Cope videos

‘World Shut Your Mouth’ from the ‘Saint Julian’ LP

To mark last week’s Julian Cope show in York, here’s a handful of videos.

Above one of the hits which got a surprising acoustic outing last week.

Next a recent live version of the song that was stuck in my head for days after the York gig (with a good flavour of the live Cope experience):

‘They Were All On Hard Drugs’ (from the ‘Revolutionary Suicide’ album)

Another recent live tune at the Wickerman Festival last month from an LP which is about to be reissued:

‘Sunspots’ from the ‘Fried’ LP

And finally a fairly faithful cover of a tune from ‘Jehovahkill’ album:

‘Fear Loves This Place’ (cover) by Moondoggers

Pick The Great Tyrants – Julian Cope live

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Julian Cope / Henry Raby – The Duchess, York – Sunday 2nd August 2015

There’s not many artists I’ve stuck with over the last, um, 35 years. But Julian Cope is one.

Whilst contemporaries such as the Bunnymen seem to be releasing the same song over and over again now, Cope continues to plough his own furrow. I can’t claim to have liked everything he’s ever released (and I’m certainly not on top of the myriad of side projects) but Julian is always worth a listen. And, unlike the current Bunnymen, never dull.

Nevertheless before Sunday it had been over 9 years since I last saw him play live (although we did see him at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last year). But despite this two Scottish dates (his first in all that time) had passed me by for different reasons (three, really, if you include his Wickerman appearance last month). And after Sunday I’m regretting that.

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The Cope – Archdrude, singer, raconteur, stand-up

Although on stage for an hour and a three quarters, Julian actually only played 14 songs (and performed a poem) with the rest of the set comprising Cope as raconteur or stand-up. It might have been a disappointment but, no, not a chance.

Starting off with his regret that Scotland hadn’t voted for independence (an odd choice in England, I’d have thought) he quickly expanded on that to suggest that once Scotland goes, Yorkshire could be next, followed by Wiltshire! Thereafter he ranged far and wide over favourite topics and anecdotes even playing the occasional song. To be honest it would have been entertaining enough on its own but there was also the music.

Essentially a greatest hits selection, it was pretty much impossible for Cope to drop the ball over such a short selection from his long and varied career and reassuringly he didn’t given the quality of songs he played. ‘The Culture Bunker’ and the Peggy Suicide material were perhaps the highlights although the tune I’ve had stuck in my head ever since is ‘They Were on Hard Drugs’. There was also the novelty of hearing ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ in an acoustic format.

Certainly I was kicking myself afterwards that I’d failed to catch both the Glasgow and Edinburgh gigs but won’t make the same mistake again.

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Henry Raby

Support came via a short set from punk performance poem Henry Raby. His entertaining material ranged from the Beano to Emma Goldman and he was the perfect warm-up for what was to come.

The turnout was a little disappointing, although the fact that the original gig was cancelled at very short notice may have been a factor (and the stage lighting on Sunday was VERY bright). Nevertheless I doubt there was more than a hundred folk in the audience.

The venue turned out to be basement in Stonebow House, a Sixties brutalist office building quite at odds with York’s architectural heritage. It was slightly oddly shaped too for a gig (although probably ideal for a club) with large areas not having a great view of the stage and both the main sets of speakers being located to the left and right of the pillars near the stage. None of this mattered on Sunday given the turnout but I’m not sure I’d like to see a packed show in the venue.

Julian played:

1. I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In 2. Double Vegetation 3. They Were On Hard Drugs 4. Sunspots 5. Psychedelic Revolution 6. Culture Bunker 7. As The Beer Flows Over Me 8. Cromwell In Ireland 9. Cunts Can Fuck Off 10. World Shut Your Mouth 11. Greatness and Perfection 12. Friends Reunited (And It Feels So Good) 13. Soul Desert 14. Pristine

Encore: 15. Treason

Julian’s first two solo LP ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ and ‘Fried’ are re-released as deluxe 2 CD editions on 14th August.