Friday, 29 June 2012

Zun Zun Egui, Norwich Arts Centre

Two months ago a confused and confusing band arrived at the Norwich Festival, with confused and confusing songs and an even stranger ticket pricing policy. Not many people were there, but those few, those happy few, were treated to something rather splendid. An evening of multi-lingual, peppery and punctuated pop tunes that left you feeling that you’ve just been hugged by an over-familiar stranger. It was odd, unexpected, but you walk away smiling.

It is very difficult to categorise ZZE, they are described in various reviews and media as ‘avant-garde’ – a word all velvet owl should be very wary of. I don’t think the music is avant-garde, it’s just mental. It selects riffs from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and merges them with synthesised psychedelic keyboards and an occasional heavy rock drum style -  and vocals that are entirely their own.

There were several misses in the set, and it felt that the songs that were their single releases were more formulaic, and therefore less engaging – sexy worms are an intriguing topic; however the rising and falling chorus quickly tires (Song – Fresh Fandango). But when they get it right, it’s hard not to be drawn in. You’ll have to pay attention though as even the more melodic songs do not linger. Make the most of the engaging rhythm or the striking chords because once the song has moved on it’s not going to come back to them. These keep you guessing and sometimes regretting that those little musical moments have gone, but you’ll often be surprised as something even better suddenly emerges. If you stay with it, you’ll feel rewarded.

Zun Zun Egui have carved themselves a strange little niche, but if you can find a way in, you find it is a cosy place to be. As the set continued, they took you along with it. They enjoy what they are doing and seem to want everyone to enjoy it with them. Their set is not a cerebral journey of self-reflection, but rather an expression of something quite rare. It seems to be a simple statement that music can make you smile. Make you realise that sometimes lyrics are just part of the bigger picture. Looking at the sparse crowd I think it unlikely there were many speakers of Creole or Japanese (both occasional lyrical choices for the band); however at the conclusion of the set I don’t think anyone cared.

They felt like they had been hugged by a stranger, speaking in several languages, with an unkempt beard and confusing ideas, but the hug was sincere. It felt good.

Maybe they are avant-garde…

Zun Zun Egui are playing at a few festivals this year – Latitude (15th July) and The End of the Road Festival (31 August). This band is built for outdoor drinks and fine weather. If you can get there, see them, give them time, and enjoy it.



Friday, 22 June 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Chromatics - Kill for Love

Remember that 80s revival thing that took place a couple of years ago? Headed up by La Roux and Ladyhawke, for a few months the airwaves were awash with electro pop reminiscent (to some of us at least) of those nights at the youth club disco, dancing to Kids in America by Kim Wilde while trying to not let anyone step on our pristine Puma G Vilas.  Although a couple of years late to the party, this Chromatics single offers an alternative take on the 80s - think less Now That's What I Call Music and more Factory Records Sampler - the stuff we listened to in our bedrooms as we tried to remove the muddy footprint from our trainers with a pencil rubber.  

Friday, 15 June 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Euros Childs - Spin That Girl Around

6 Music presenter, Marc Riley, has been playing this every week for the past two years. Now finally available to purchase, this simple yet effective tune will stay in your head for weeks. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pulp, Doncaster Dome, November 1998

My MA project is focussing on the first gig I ever attended: Pulp, Doncaster Dome, November 1998. Adjacent is a sneak preview of a part of my exhibition, Disco 2012: a list of every word of every song (17) sung by Jarvis Cocker on that evening in South Yorkshire made into a loop of eternally banal glitches and rhythms.

A better explanation can be found here but to experience the work in progress of the disco follow this link here

NB: Please do not read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings


Friday, 1 June 2012

Mumford & Sons: Dandy Highwaymen of the Modern Age

Huddersfield is not really known for its musical heritage. Yes, there was the infamous Sex Pistols gig in 1977 where Rotten et al turned up to play two shows on Christmas day for striking firemen and their families, but when it comes to a list of the UK's greatest rock and roll towns, Huddersfield will probably find itself nestled somewhere between Shoreham-by-Sea (birthplace of Leo Sayer) and Portsmouth (subject of a Mike Oldfield ditty). This is not to say it hasn't tried to put itself on the map. The football/rugby league ground, The Galpharm (nee Mcalpine) Stadium played host to rock behemoths Bon Jovi , REM and The Eagles in the late nineties/early noughties, while the prospectus from the local FE college continues to boast that warbling stick insect, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness once spent an academic year there.  In recent times, dour indie landfillers, Embrace and heavy metallers, Evile have helped to raise the profile of the town, but overall Huddersfield's music pantry still looks a little bare.  

So it came as some surprise when waistcoat wearing, fiddle playing, filmstar loving folkies, Mumford & Sons announced that they would be playing the town's Greenhead Park as part of their Gentlemen of the Road tour. With a day-long bill that also includes Michael Kiwanuka, Willy Mason and Slow Club, this felt like a real coup for the town, and followed a recent announcement by the council about the return of Party in the Park (also being held at Greenhead park) which will be headlined by Tinchy Stryder. Then I saw the price for tickets. Let me put the price of the Mumford & Sons tickets (£50) into context. This summer, The Stone Roses will make a triumphant return by playing three exclusive shows (apart from the recent 'warm-up' gig in Warrington and the slew of festival appearances) at Heaton Park in Manchester. The cost to see this iconic band - along with a full supporting line-up that includes Primal Scream, The Wailers...and Beady Eye - is £65. While the cost for tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Manchester's Ethiad Stadium later this month ranges from £60 - £80.  Springsteen will play at least a three-hour set and therefore (for his fans at least) offers true value for money, while the Roses - despite only releasing one and a half decent albums and having a reputation for being a bit iffy live - have built such a legendary status, that many would have paid twice as much just to say 'they were there'. 

While I take my hat off to Kirklees Council for pulling this off, the price of the ticket to see a band who so far have released one album and - the last time I checked, at least - had not yet received the kind of status that has been bestowed upon the Roses or Springsteen is quite frankly taking the piss. Let's look at it another way. On the same day the Mumfords come to town, Victoria Park in London hosts the Field Day festival. The line-up for this one day event includes Franz Ferdinand, Beirut, Django Django, Grimes, Liars and The Vaccines along with a host of other acts and DJs. The cost for a ticket to this event? £45. While in September, over the hills in Ramsbottom, the 3-day Rammy Festival hosts the Inspiral Carpets, The Leisure Society, Seth Lakeman and a host of other bands and artists all for £50. If these events (which lets face it provide a great deal more bang for your buck) can operate by selling tickets at these prices, then surely the promoters of the Gentlemen of the Road tour and Kirklees Council could have done so at a price that is more affordable and offers real value for money. 

Interestingly, 'Gentlemen of the Road' is also the title of a novel by the author, Michael Chambon in which world-travelling bandits Amram and Zelikman set out to con the residents of a local town. If this was the inspiration behind the tour (it rolls into Galway next week) then it appears that the good folk of Huddersfield haven't fallen for the elaborate con trick as with just over 24 hours until the gates open, there are still plenty of tickets left. 

One hopes this is a valuable lesson learnt.