Friday, 8 May 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Purity Ring, Brudenell Social Club, 29th April 2015

Pictures: Kevin Lawson
Words: Jenessa Williams

Fresh off the back of moving to the city while watching ones parents sell the family home, hitting the busiest work period of the year and being just two weeks away from a 22nd birthday, it's fair to say that a certain nostalgia is the order of the day as we grab a drink and meander our way into the Brudenell Social Club. Whats-apping teens we once were mingle with the strait-laced adults we're set to become, a curious collection considering the futuristic electro-pop we're about to witness.

Before we can get there though, we have Born Gold, a Canadian duo who's take on chiptune is at itchy as lead singer Cecil Frena's snappy hologram leggings appear, irresistibly recalling the likes of Hadouken and Glamour For Better but with a darker, almost emo undertone. They make the sound of a million after-school hours spent in the local arcade, frantically trying to perfect a dancemat routine on the highest level just to impress friends.

With ambitions clearly larger than the cramped Brudenell stage, they navigate the awkward 'no one knows who we are yet' chasm with typically Canadian charm, handing out free download cards with a humble 'if you'd be so kind, and if not, you can come to the merch desk and tell me what I'm doing wrong.' In the hands of another band, that might sound like an aggressive challenge, but from the pairs relaxed faces as they launch into the gleeful 'I Want To Be Naked', it's clear they're open to advice.

For all those who were wondering what was hiding behind the ominous curtain that took up most of
Born Gold's room, all becomes clear as Purity Ring arrive. The minute their webbed curtain of a light show starts pulsing, it becomes very easy to forget that tonight's show is taking place in a social club in the north of England. From Megan James' space-age catsuit to the wind machines and hypnotic nodding of the crowd, it's an otherworldly experience.

Borrowing heavily from their most recent outing 'Another Eternity', the set flows seamlessly for it's first half, almost spellike, with barely a word uttered between songs. 'Fineshrine' understandably goes down well (perhaps thanks in part to it's feature on a advert), but it's 'Push Pull' that creates an early highlight, video-game toadstool percussion perfectly complimenting the delicate vocal.

Far from screaming along the lyrics like so many northern crowds normally do, the audience seem content to just take in what is in front of them, James weaving her way through the labyrinth of lights while Corin Roddick taps floating orbs that look like they should be part of a Mighty Boosh set. The whole thing just screams strength, the sharp edges of their mingling with the soft, almost bashful like ability of Megan's attempt to make conversation about Eggs Benedict when her equipment stops working.

After a brief fix-up, everything gets back on track for 'sea castle', which is a revelation- mirrored gloves that rival Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' costume are used to retract and reflect the strobe lighting, quite literally manipulating the visuals at a whim. It's a remarkably inventive creation that shows why Purity Ring are heads and shoulders above so many of their electronic contemporaries - they understand the importance of theatrics, and blend them with a soft humanity that forces you to catch a breath. With an arsenal of songs that all sound similar enough to portray a distinct personality but different enough to retain intrigue, it seems they have finally settled into a sound that is undeniably theirs. Perhaps this is the sound of the future arriving?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

REVIEW: Circa Waves - Young Chasers

With a warm pint of cider in my hand and a grubby lanyard swinging from my neck, my first encounter with Circa Waves was a happy one. I was at Leeds Festival 2014, it was the festival republic tent and as the audience swelled with every song, I knew it wouldn't be long before this Liverpudlian gang started making a name for themselves.

Several radio one-endorsed singles later, and it appears my premonition was right. With The Wombats trying and failing to make a comeback, Two Door Cinema Club fast resigned to the freshers week memory box and Phoenix in between albums, the timing of Circa Waves debut record couldn't have been better placed - every so often Britain just needs a band who know how to do a great uncomplicated single.

From a band who are just two years old, Circa Waves are something of an indie anomaly, and not just for their lighthearted approach to songwriting. In a world where 'authenticity' is a buzzword and there's a constant snobbishness that suggests a band isn't worthy unless they've eaten out of the bins on shoreditch high street or spent eight years cobbling together pennies to record their first single, they're a refreshing change in how quickly they've grown to prominence relatively quickly. While their backstory as a band is fairly organic (lads meet at their local festival, lads decide to form band), there's been very little toilet gigging, not unless you count some pretty massive support slots for The Libertines and The 1975.

Rather than smirking at the back or rolling your eyes about being in the right place at the right time, the bands growing popularity is actually rather humbling, proof that three chords and a way around a melody are sometimes all you need. Where Circa Waves really excel is when they keep it short and to-the-point: title track 'Young Chasers' is just two minutes and ten seconds long, but gives us the exact same theme-park thrills as when we first heard 'Wreckin' Bar' by The Vaccines.  'T-Shirt Weather' is only a minute longer but just as endearing, with a chorus that will speak to every kid who grew up on Haven holidays and gleeful fights with their siblings -

'I remember T-shirt weather/I remember some days/We were singing our lungs out in the backseat together/And the seatbelts were burning our fingers'

Viewing nostalgia through rosey spectacles, 'Young Chasers' is an assured debut, fed on a diet of summer loves and growing pains that work just as well at a festival as they do at an indie disco. It wears it's influences on it's sleeve - 'Good For Me' is heavily indebted to Julian Casablancas vocal style, while 'My Love' has something of the Richard Ashcroft about it. In fact, quite a lot of the record sounds a little early-noughties, the glory days where Limewire was king and lyrics were cryptic codes aimed at the hot boy/girl you fancied on MSN Messenger.

When so many bands are trying so hard to appear grown up, Circa Waves are still quite happy on their hands and knees, trading pokemon cards and going round to their friends house to ask if they're allowed to play out. With summer on the horizon and such a distinct lack of pretence in the air, it's a rewarding listen to know there's still value in a catchy chorus.

For limited edition 'Young Chasers' downloads and bundles, visit


Friday, 20 March 2015

Heavy Rotation - Five Hip-Hop Tracks I've Had On Repeat

While I have no intention of turning SIS into a serious hip-hop blog, there is no denying that it is my favourite genre of late. Working from home, it's almost comforting to feel as if someone is 'talking' to you...even if they are dropping N-bombs like it's going out of fashion.

With issues of race and stereotyping weighing heavy on my mind (see here for my thinkpiece on Kanye and THAT Brits performance), here are five tracks I can't stop whacking the 'loop' button on.

1) Kanye West - All Day
It's always a bit of a cop out to call something 'big-sounding', but after the middle-of-the-road sentimentality of 'Four Five Seconds' and 'Only One', 'All Day' has a certain arena-sized Watch The Throne whiff about it. As Kanye's flow grows steadily more urgent, we're reminded of the glory days where he was fierce, angry and yes, oh so egotistical.

2) Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The Berry
It's clear from just one listen that Kendrick's 'To Pimp A Butterfly' is an incredible listen, constantly on the edge of being uncomfortable but always pulling it back with a variety of samples taken from the illustrious history of black music. However, it's lead single 'The Blacker The Berry' that is truly jaw-dropping, hitting it's subject matter at full speed. 

3) Drake - You & The 6
Oh Drizzy, how I adore you. A man who can bring tears to my eyes with a simple melancholy chord, it was pretty difficult picking a favourite from his recent mixtape 'If You Read This, It's Probably Too Late'. However, as someone currently experiencing the sobering 'you're truly an adult now' process of watching their parents sell up their family house, 'You & The 6' has been especially touching, drawing back that curtain of fame and revealing the relationship between one very famous son and his doting mother. 

4) Big Sean - Blessings (featuring Drake and Kanye West)
Ever since his feature on Drake's 'Nothing Was The Same', I've been a big fan of Big Sean's super lazy, drawling style of rap... there's something oddly hypnotic about it. I'm yet to be entirely convinced by his preference for a very 'bitches and hoes' subject matter, but 'Blessings' is definitely a catchy one, made all the better by that Drake hook.

5) ILoveMakkonen - Tuesday (featuring Drake)
Our Drake has been getting around on the old features recently hasn't he? There's no getting away from the success of 'Tuesday' recently, but it's still as fresh-sounding as when I first heard it. Favouring a lethargic, trippy approach, it's beautifully reminiscent of that 3am club feeling when everything's got a little too much but you're still pretending to have an amazing time.