EP Review: The Arcadians – Fools On The Road

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The music reviews continue at Brewtown Music with a look at the upcoming EP from The Arcadians known as Fools On The Road.

The article linked above on The Arcadians dates back to 2014, but of course a lot has changed for the band since then, including a new bassist, a new studio to record in and of course, new music to release.

Bassist Oscar Carrington-Porter joined the band in 2015 and since then, the band has been getting back into their groove after Jack Lenaghan left. Let’s see if the new band addition and time spent in Slough has kept this young band strong since their 2013 debut!

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Track #1: Yes

Coming with a video released onto Youtube on March 18th 2016, people got their first taste of the EP with its lead single Yes.

Starting with a simple bass-line, high hat tapping and an echoing guitar riff, Yes gives the EP a foot-tapping indie feel that the band has evoked in their previous work, only with a more polished production behind it done by Egypt Lane Studios in Slough.

Vocally, Jamie Cavanagh continues his to use his Alex Turner-esque northern twang to great effect, immediately differentiating it from a lot of music in the Burton music scene and adding their own personality to the songs. The vocalist acts at the spokesperson for the band (the voice if you will) and let’s just say they put a good PR statement across!

Also, check out the music video above directed by Boxman Media with the boys in their all-white gear and Cavanagh chilling out in a nice little leather chair. Who could say no to that promotion?

Good introduction and an ideal lead single.

Track #2: Ruckus

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No, not THAT kind of Ruckus! This kind of Ruckus is much smaller than that, clocking in at a very short 1 minute 16 seconds! Although the more hard rock/punk feel that it gives off is a good match with a shorter length of the track.

Though it doesn’t stick around too long, Ruckus leaves an impression since Cavanagh gives us his rap-rock stylings in this track which suits his vocal style very well and although it’s no Psyko Dalekhe gives us more aggression than we usually see from the band.

A short description for a short, but serviceable track.

Track #3: Lovers Apart

A more troubled romantic song graces number 3 on the EP, telling the story of a man trying to get a hold on his long distance relationship.

Cos we’re two lovers apart and the cities they are changing

As time took control.

Cos we’re two lovers apart in cities with strange ways.

The lovers in the song are distanced not only by literal distance, but also in personality and the fact that the man in the scenario has a busy life that keeps him from spending as much time with his partner as he could.

The song starts off with a gentle guitar riff but soon picks up the pace with almost a jolly and brisk pace that is, shall we say, poles apart from the subject matter. Juxtapositions never heard to have around in any form of media so let’s have one in for our love song on the EP!

A frustrated love song that gives the album a tragic slant!

Track #4: Change In The Tide

A drum roll and striking chords lead us into our penultimate track, that appears to be about a person who can’t face the circumstances of change amongst her social group whether it be a personal attitude change or a change of surroundings for where they usually meet (Is it under your skin, is it really your thing? A dirty disco with an 80s theme)

Both the person being addressed and not the singer addressing have this feeling due to the addressee’s attitude getting under the singer’s skin for not having a good night out with him and the party.

The song is punched with HEYs and AHOYs give the song a bizarre pirate-like quality that doesn’t seem to fit with the message of the song, although the song is called Change in the TIDE (Tide, sea, pirates, best I can do!) and it’s memorable so you have to give that to them!

A song for one of those awkward, unsocial nights out.

Track #5: Nightmare In London

The EP ends on a sinister note with the song Nightmare In London which takes the night out from the awkward yet still fun tone of Change in The Tide to the almost dire and hopeless feel this ending track gives off.

With the almost metallic chords, cowbell tolling and creeping keyboard riff, the untoward feeling pervades the song from the offset and continues with the words of abandonment and loneliness the singer feels in the early hours of a night out in London:

Lost friends, 4am, what a horrid situation, where could they be?

I was so scared, they were taken by the alien population!

Cos this is another world to me!

Could be worse! Perhaps eated by a looming wolf in London!

Sounds like the desperate drunk ramblings of a London town night to me, or a guy who’s watched too many John Landis movies! Whether the monster turns out to be a backpacking American or not remains to be seen.

The vulnerability of not only being out of your head, but also out of your element is clear here and ends the EP on quite a dour note despite apart from the scary intro and minor key, retains the up tempo energy from the other songs on the release.

Not one to listen to when stumbling out of the club without your friends on your big weekend away, but definitely one to listen to out of enjoyment nontheless!

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Preferably in the most philosophically looking way possible!

Despite a slight line-up change, The Arcadians continue to put out good content with this EP being a summary of such. The energy stays in each song no matter what the subject matter and it one to prepare you for the influx of indie tunes you’ll no doubt be listening to in the wake of the year’s festival season.

Fools On The Road will be released on 27th March at the launch gig in Burton Market Hall which also features upcoming Burton-based singer-songwriter LAYKES (Kyle Munsie from Between Kites), punk group The Mammoths and Midlands favourites Star From Ivy.

Until the next brew served, see you next time!

Brewtown #25: Circularity Album Review

AUTHOR NOTE

OK, before I get started with this, yes I’ve been away for a VERY long time and been away for all of 2015! The scene was unfortunately dealt a serious blow with the now permenant closure of the renowned music venue The Wetmore Whistle and thus the gigs have been sparce and the apathy factor has been aplenty.

I look to remedy that for 2016 as I realise that while the gigs in Burton may not be so frequent and the amount of bands for articles may run out, the music itself certainly isn’t. That’s why Brewtown Music will be doing music/album reviews from bands who I may or may not have already covered on this blog.

Band articles are definitely still a possibility, but this will be a different direction I’m taking and isn’t necessarily what I started the site up for in the first place sue to music reviews being an overly saturated market compared to pieces on musicians themselves, but it’s a new year and it’s been a year since I’ve written anything, so let’s get to it!

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Circle Of Life

For the long, long, LONG-awaited milestone 25th piece on Brewtown Music, we take a new approach for a new year. Not writing about a new band, but reviewing an album of a band already written about on this site. Star From Ivy‘s newest online release which is so good you could play it loop, 2016’s Circularity.

Just to recap, Star From Ivy are a Burton-based rock four-piece (Chris Baldwin, Daniel Baker, Steve Gibbs, Mark Maczkowski) who have been performing all over the country since 2001. But over the last few years, they have been putting together a big online project/album that was released one track per day since Christmas Day of 2015.

With its own website and world-famous recording studio at the band’s disposal, they set out in creating an online, multimedia exploration of the concept of circularity through positive themes of peace, love, unity and even some darker themes of war and depression.

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Maybe not quite all, but it encompasses a lot in life.

The aforementioned world-famous recording studio was that of Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales which, since 1963, has recorded albums for the likes of Black Sabbath, Queen, Super Furry Animals and Turbowolf just to name four!

It also has another Burton-based alumni in Kitten Pyramid, the eccentric Midlands supergroup (of which SFI lead Chris Baldwin and guitarist Dan Baker were a part of) who recorded their album Uh Oh the studio once occupied by Freddie Mercury in 2013

Their labour of rock-based love was released Twelve Days of Christmas style from December 25th to January 7th (going one step beyond, Madness style) on their Circularity Facebook event page and Brewtown Music is here to see what our true band gave to us…

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Track #1: Call To Alms

We start the cycle with Call To Alms, an anti-war song that was released by SFI on Christmas Day. A Lennon-esque move if there ever was one! Containing themes of war, human rights and peaceful protest, the album starts off on a socio-political note and a clever pun on the phrase ‘call to arms’ signifying that we should trade our acts of violence for acts of charity. War and Peace pertains to the theme of Circularity with various acts of violence instigating war and ceasefires bringing about peace in a seemingly never ending cycle depending on what area of the world you live in. That of course is a simplified version of an incredibly complex issue so I will just stick to talking about the music now. The music is forceful to match the theme of violence, but the lyrics reflect the need for peace:

Put the fire down, look into the body.
A soul so beautiful just strewn around.
Like an edifice blackening us wholly.
There is new belonging wanting to be found!

The waste of life that comes from war is lamented here and the only solution seemingly available is “A Call To Alms, and it’s all we have now…”. A strong start to the album with the contrast of a loud declaration of peace and demand of human rights.

 

Track #2: A Reason

The Boxing Day track A Reason is a much more laid back track with its ambient electronics mixed with a gentle guitar riff. The lyrics explores reasons from something as complex as the meaning of life to being kind towards others. An appreciation for our own existence and the existence of those around us:

Hold up the Sun! Cos we’re all Alive!
Hold up both hands and say you survived.
It builds us. It calls us. It saves us.
But there must be A Reason to live.

I don’t suppose you’d lend me your fears, so I’m not bold?
I don’t suppose you’d lend me your years, so I’m not old?
I don’t suppose you’d lend me your coat, so I’m not cold?

The phrase “Hold up the Sun” from the Reason article on the Circularity website “is a celebration of life, and an appreciation of being here now!” Caring for yourself and those around you is a mindset that features heavily on circularity.org and this song sums it up very well.

 

Track #3: Sounds Like Crows

You know, for a song about death, this is pretty jaunty! Sounds Like Crows is a song that has been in SFI’s back catalogue for quite a while now like a few of the tracks on this album, as in back to their Prologue days. The song, as said before, tackles death but is also a continuation of the theme of appreciating the life you have from A Reason. It’s like the song said: “Hang on! Hang on! I haven’t finished helping you to make the most of your life yet!”

Preserve time, there’s no way to rewind.
Yeah, this instance will not occur again.

All this love that echoes out disguises rage and I believe that I,
In spite of all these years, am still a child and do not think that I will ever die.

It’s good to know that in this album with a running theme, that there are sub-themes that link together as well which is the sign of great consideration and thought in your work.

 

Track #4: I Can’t Breathe

Now, here’s a track that shows no dissonance between music and lyrics! A hard rock number gripping themes of depression, inner rage and the darkness that dwells within (hard rock, not prog metal!). I Can’t Breathe is on the surface and angry song, but it’s a frustrated and scared song when dug into it a little deeper knowing that mental health is looked at here and is further explained in the song’s sub-section on the Circularity website. But the lyrics make it plainer to see in the song itself:

I don’t see no light, I just feel the fire burning me inside.
Mercury is on the rise.
Broken rage of old, swallowing the white.
Balance overthrown, compromise a waste of time

I can’t see it, it’s out of my sight
I don’t need it, get out of my mind!
Don’t believe it?!? Just wait til I fly

The song is also a great showcase of Daniel Baker’s guitar work with a soaring solo before the final chorus. A very dark song that is as much a part of Circularity as a vicious cycle more than anything else. Definitely one for those who feel trapped and need to free some of that tension!

Track #5: Imago

Faith and religion has been able to unite millions of people to a common cause which fits under the banner of Circularity, though the song Imago does appear to look at a more humanistic and secular approach to world unity as well. Deriving from the phrase ‘Imago Dei’ (Image Of God), this acoustically-driven track (with an electric solo mind) ponders whether it is better to have belief in a deity or not:

Want to wish the world away?
To draw a line to Everest?
Rid the world of sin and saint?
Rid the world of all this love?

I don’t need Imago, I just need to come back down.
For all my life I’ve waited for Him.

This could be seen as quite damning of religion, but the Imago page does include a quote from Article 14 of the UN convention on the rights of the child saying: “You have the right to choose your own religion and beliefs. Your parents should help you decide what is right and wrong, and what is best for you.” It definitely takes a more balanced approach knowing that while there are great reasons for a more secular society, it is up to the individual about their religious alignment and how it affects them personally.

Track #6: Slumberland

Sleep is a natural recurrence, unless you’re an insomniac, so of course it would be #Circularity. Sleep is needed to replenish your body and mind, but when you’re sleeping, you can be at your most imaginative, intentionally or not given the freedom you have to think of whatever you like during them. When you’re sleep-deprived, the need for rest and the avoidance of any social activity even with your partner is usually evident and is noted in this song:

I crave for a sight, and a sound, and a drink.
My decency rules in the land of OK. It’s a shame that that place isn’t here.

This time I am sleeping my dear. Do not try to wake me.
This time I am breathing my dear. Do not suffocate me.

Though this song is by no means a lullaby with its heavy chorus so it’s hard to feel sleepy (which is a good thing since you don’t want a song putting you to sleep when it’s trying to entertain you!), but the lyrics do convey the need for sleep in terms of escaping from the real world, being one with your thoughts and having the need to keep coming back which, quite frankly, is a good thing both physically and mentally.

Track #7: Wall Of Sound

Now this is a track you would have thought would have had a musical fit for Slumberland, but here is a light, solo acoustic song from Baldwin that is a song…about songs! Well maybe not quite that simplistic, but music is definitely the focus here, in a literal and metaphorical sense. With the purpose of Circularity here to be a call for unity through music, this is very much a symbol of that notion. Whether through teaching children to learn music or weaving a poetic image of love:

I’ve got a brain and I know how to use it; I’ll teach them to sing and I’ll teach them to play,
and then we can make sound til the day that we die and harmony echoes around, my love.

You’ve got a heart and I know that it’s broken; the pulse is arranged in the strangest of ways.
But we can unite and make regular tempo, and create the rhythm of life, my love.

The Wall of Sound recording technique as popularised by Phil Spector could be an ironic reference here given that the recording technique itself was meant to give free range for artists to include large orchestral accompaniments in their music. That is not the case here with just one man singing and playing his acoustic guitar being as far removed from that vision as you can get. Still, well worth a listen to for appreciating the power of music in a stripped-down fashion.

Track #8: Soul

A hard and heavy song in the same vein stylistically as I Can’t Breathe, but thematically is much more defiant and empowering. We all need to find ourselves and our own identity at some point in our lives and be true to ourselves in the face of adversity. Now whether you want to interpret ‘soul’ as being a religious connotation or a personal connotation would probably depend on which side you took on Imago, but either way, the song fits both sides well.

I am a liar and you are on fire yet all I inquire is ‘I got Soul’.
I am the wire and you are on fire and all that I know is you’re my heart’s desire.
I’m raising the ocean. I’ll cause a commotion and all that I know is that ‘I got Soul’.

This is more of the Circularity of oneself and feeling whole in oneself rather than a collective unity. Play this one when you’re feeling doubt in yourself.

Track #9: Blood

Don’t worry, this isn’t a gothic vampiric anthem dropped into your album about unity and togetherness! It’s a song that fits right in with the theme of charity and good deeds with the image of blood flowing without a heart and that’s just a mess right? A call for empathy and compassion reigns true in this number. Blood without the heart has no use and therefore, poetically speaking, has no real feeling behind it.

What is Blood, an emptiness of heart?
What is Hope, I need it from the start.
We wait in line for security but we are one and all eternally.
Cos I can feel it in my heart.

And oh, my, we went too far.
We didn’t know to be with it.
And I know that you pray to God cos you don’t wanna deal with it!

That last line, while continuing the religious undertones set by Imago and Soul, is not necessarily a jab at religious thought processes, but more of a way of saying that people must show that they care about those in need rather than just saying they do because they don’t feel that they can themselves. Another track that calls for more care for others.

Track #10: The Only One

Now here’s one that will be very familiar to people who have seen SFI perform live for the past ten years! The Only One has been the opening song for their live sets for quite a while now, but is track ten of fourteen here. Regardless, it’s great to hear it get an album release! While there have been religious-themed songs on this album, there hasn’t been one that has looked at the concept of there being an afterlife for us when we die specifically. The idea of an afterlife is a source of comfort for many who fear death so it’s nice to have a comforting and melodic song giving that notion some thought.

And we wait for love, and we break for love and find the only one is opening a door.
As we fake for love, we erase the loving of the only one who’ll catch us where we fall.

Cos we won’t be around forever, and we won’t be around til Kingdom Come.
So we live here in this moment – The Only One.

And when we understand this notion that everything that’s ever been will go.
Our impermanence is only. The Only One.

A subtext of true love could be found in these lyrics with not realising that as we wait for love, someone has always been there to catch us when we fall and that we should cherish the moments that we have with the ‘Only One’ and the use of the word ‘impermenance’ shows the idea of wanting to stay in that moment because it won’t get better than right now. It’s a multi-layered song in lyrical content and musical production with the ‘REV phrase’ (reverse sound engineering) created by bassist Gibbs that produces a backwards instrumentation that can be heard at around 2:30. It’s trippy and provides a celestial and astral feel to the song that’s already existential enough as it is! Definitely recommended to hear a long-standing SFI song given the full Rockfield recording treatment!

Track #11: Proud

Pride in your own or someone else’s accomplishments and creativity is great feeling especially if you are a parent trying to encourage the potential that your child has or if you yourself need to find a way to unlock your own potential on your own whether it be through practice of a certain skill or inner/outer exploration.

The quiet came to aid our thought, we focused on the emptiness.
And you came like you had no choice, and you screamed til you had no voice.

So release the fire, betray the night – come on we’re trying to save your life in the fire.

You wonder why you’re changing.
And you wonder why we’re changing.
You wonder why it’s changing.

A slow, yet joyous and passionate song that will be sure to fan the flames lit after that first creative spark. Welp, this is sounding more like an advertisement than a review isn’t it?

Track #12: Circularity

And so we come to the title track! A title track should be seen as the representation of the album, a condensed and abridged version of the album. The track Circularity does this very well, featuring a change in musical style from verses to chorus to reflect varying styles (the lighter style of Slumberland to the harder style of Soul) to the lyrical content which looks to call for unity amongst our fellow man out of personal belief of a better tomorrow and the fear of global disharmony.

I believe in clarity, a simple singularity engaging.
Where everyone believes that everything perceives all.
A radiance outside of me, a chance to see that all of this inflaming is borne of all a blurred and discontented soul.

But there’s a kind of elation that’s transcending us to perfect bliss.
Yet there’s a sense of frustration that’s corroding everything!
Yeah, I know that I’m ‘only’, but I just can’t perceive myself.
There’s a sense of a longing; that we need circularity.
Yeah, we know that we’re lonely, but we’re losing our sense of ‘self’.
There’s a sense of foreboding that we need circularity.

The screamed lyrics of the second paragraph contrast with the softly sang lyrics of the first paragraph and create a piece that summarises just how close, yet so far away we are from creating a better world. #Circularity indeed!

Track #13: Lifelines

The penultimate track on this cycle talks/sings about how we could always use a little help despite knowing how much we already know currently in our life. Even if we’ve decided we don’t need our Imago or we have each declared “I GOT SOUL!”, there’s still uncertainty felt in our lives so just in case, give us a lifeline to fall back on just in case it all goes tits up, to put it a bit more bluntly than usual in this article!

I commit to a lifestyle, a creed and a brand of submission.
There’s a paradox somewhere that I will believe.

Now it’s time for us to get higher. Yet I do not know if I can see it, but I will in time.
In this life, yeah we’ll be all right – just as long as there’s Lifelines.

Heavy, but with a calmer pace than tracks like Sounds Like Crows, this track provides a good final release of energy before our finale, which is…

Track #14: Answers

Who can provide the answers that we need? Though they vary greatly from person to person, the need for answers and guidance is a universal need whether spiritual or physical. This slow, piano-driven final track shows us that we can either wait for answers or we can find them ourselves through individual journeys or journeys with others that we take.

And I’ll wait ‘til Heaven’s stars can tell me where you are.
And I’ll wait ‘til all the skies point to where you lie.
And the oceans drift apart to lead me to your heart.
And golden autumn leaves fall into our dreams.


Yeah, I wish to see you grow into fire, into soul!
Yet I’m standing in these shoes just to warm them up for you.
Because you can see it real, and you can see it clear.
And I can hold my heart on offer from my palm.


Can you give me Answers, please?

“We’ll get some answers…soon.”

Whether you see this as a hopeful or a somber note to end the album on, it’ll definitely leave an impression with what songs have preceded it. Like the title track, there are also combinations of themes from other tracks such as the consideration between humanism and religion “Faith and Science fused” (Imago) which seems to bring Circularity, shall we say, full circle.

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Well that killed the mood!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

To conclude, SFI have produced an excellent album in Circularity. Each song is well-performed, well-recorded and written with a lot of care and precision as to really give the project a sense of focus on the one true goal which is the one true goal that they wish everyone from all walks of life to get on board with, you guessed it, Circularity! Personal recommendations would be I Can’t Breathe, The Only One and the title track but that is just me. You will find what you’re looking for I’m sure!

Be sure also to check the feed of SFI’s Facebook page as their posts since each track has been posted have article links to world events that match the theme of a song name with a hashtag of said song name, like an article on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s battle with depression is followed by #ICantBreathe. It’s a good way to promote the album and start a productive discussion.

Anyway, that is all from this landmark first of a piece on Brewtown Music! Let us know whether you enjoyed the review, if you enjoyed any of the tracks you may have listened to and we will see you next time for another hearty review brew of Midlands tunes.

 

LINKS

Circularity Website: http://www.circularity.org/

Star From Ivy Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/starfromivy/

VultureHound interview on Circularity by Thomas Miller: http://vulturehound.co.uk/2016/01/star-from-ivy-circularity-the-interview/

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CREDIT FOR PHOTO: KIMBERLY BAYLISS

Brewtown #21: Wet Lettuce and the Magik Bean

Colourful characters from left to right: Wyatt, Hutchings, Jordan, Houlbrooke and Waddell

Colourful characters from left to right: Wyatt, Hutchings, Jordan, Houlbrooke and Waddell

Hey, we’re back with Brewtown once again and to start off this next order of local music, we’re going to look at a hard rock/metal act with a slightly psychedelic/naughty name. If you know what I mean, it’s Wet Lettuce and the Magik Bean!

Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Gaz Waddell (Drums), Lewis Hutchings (Bass), Dan Houlbrooke (First guitar) and Sam Wyatt (Second guitar) are the five ingredients for this strange-sounding recipe that provides a lot of suggestion and hard rock…and more suggestion!

These lads, like other young acts such as Mario’s Nicotine Parlour and The Arcadians have only been around for less than two years but have been working their way into local favour and into our heads with their bizarre and did I mention suggestion?!

Yes you did! Now get on with the article!!

Yes you did! Now get on with the article!!

Four young men (no vocalist yet and bassist then was Robin Nichols) were part of a music course at Burton college who decided to test out some of their instrumental tracks that they had written together and formed the band on May 22nd 2012. Instrumental because they didn’t have a vocalist yet.

Their first gig was, oddly enough, something to do with college with a music evening at the Brewhouse Performing Arts Centre called Pick ‘N’ Mix organised by the college that also featured Lucida Scroll and Great Scott.

However, they didn’t make their official live debut until October where they opened the Deafbox Promotions launch night at the Star and Garter pub on a card which also featured The Distancing and 5 Days of November.

Dah! I thought I erased that image from my brain!

Dah! Dammit Millsy, I thought I erased that image from my brain!

In the midst of this debut, they were busy uploading demo tracks to Soundcloud and searching for a permanent singer. The latter wouldn’t come just yet, but it did come later in the next year.

The first two gigs of 2013 for the Wets were both in the same month, April to be exact with the 13th giving them a support slot once again alongside Lucida Scroll and put on by DeafBox and on the 20th at Branston’s Gate Inn with CURV and Double Helix put on by Septic Sounds. Unfortunately, the latter gig was cancelled due to Nichols breaking his wrist. Damn!

Their first festival date came in July the day after another gig at the Star and Garter. This was at the Grass Roots Festival at Appleby Magna in Leicestershire which would also feature acts as diverse as Them Deviants, Theia and The Vibe.

The ideal landscape for electric funk and vagina innuendos.

The ideal landscape for hard funk and vagina innuendos.

The next couple on months would be a very brief public hiatus for the Bean to prepare for the announcement of their next few gigs and the arrival of their fifth member, which would be that ever so mysterious lead singer I was on about earlier. To hype up the singer’s debut, they announced they had laid down some vocal lines for their EP on Facebook.

At the end of October, they supported Theia this time for an acoustic set at the Dog Inn and with it, introduced Jordan to the mix as permanent vocalist! As November rolled round, they got themselves a support slot with Star From Ivy of all bands at the Wetmore Whistle which was also the first time they performed at the famous Burton venue.

In mid November, they would hype up a big gig in Crewe supporting Birmingham-based Indie act Dumb at The Box, so much so selling physical tickets for the event! They would also play at The Shed in Leicester which would become a favourite venue for them outside of Burton.

Though it’s not from The Shed, here’s a performance clip of theirs of a track called Dissonance. Appropriate given the video quality!

Come 2014 (we’re already in the current year? Jayzus!!), they were ready to unveil their material in recorded form for the launch of their debut EP Bad Llama. It took place at The Shed, appropriate given the great reception they had the last time they performed their, with support from Swad band Genziani’s Jukebox.

With performances at the Musician in Leicester and further performances at the Whistle alongside The Arcadians, they gained a bit more online attention when reviewer Theguywithastick posted a positive write-up about their EP and the band in general.

They have recently done another gig at The Shed alongside French rock act Eyes of Verona hosted by Dreaming in Colour Productions and encouraged fans to vote for them to be a part of Slam Dunk Festival hosted by Kerrang. Best of luck to them for then, but for now, that’s about it. The history of Wet Lettuce and the Magik Bean everyone!

Huzzah! Here's an anthropomorphic bikini-clad llama for your troubles!

Huzzah! Here’s an anthropomorphic bikini-clad llama for your troubles!

Despite the short history, there’s still the music to listen out for. So, how does THAT fare? Originally, I didn’t think much of these guys, what with them having formed through a college music project and all, but with time I’ve come to appreciate their performances seeing what they can do with more than just one music genre.

Wet Lettuce are an act with an eclectic inspiration ranging from the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Biffy Clyro and show that they aren’t willing to be seen as just one style, though still classed as alternative.

The music itself can show no-nonsense aggression (Bad Llama title track), psychedelic clashes of harmonies (Dissonance, oddly enough!) or laid back funk (Translation) which vocalist Jordan adapts to pretty well, either by a smooth croon or a Max Raptor-like scream!

A prime example of this and recommended number is Take Wing. Starting off with brisk drum beats and dirty guitar riffs that are reminiscent of the beginning of The Strokes‘ track The Modern Age, the track leaps from your headphones and looks to give you a sense of what the band has to offer in terms of musical merit.

It shows that they have a knack for a hook if they push for it, since they had to make do without a vocalist originally and be an instrumental act to start off with the main riff mentioned earlier giving the song an almost menacing and sneaky texture.

Lyrically, the song seems to suggest a free and easy lifestyle, whether that involve going out and looking for a wild night out or just doing whatever the guy wants to, with the title alluding to flying away from it all.

Maybe I will, maybe I won’t…

I guess I can tell, I’m under your spell

Cos it’s a situation I’m not willing to sell

Whether it be about sex (the band name, come on!) or having a hedonistic time with your mates, it gives off the ‘don’t give a damn’ vibe that we’ve come to expect with rock n roll music, which they pull off quite well.

It is just a taste of their discography, seeing how they have only been around since 2012 and a lot of that time was moving on from just being a college project to being a legitimate band. But it’s a sweet taste for now!

Below is the studio EP version if you found the live version above a bit rough, so I suggest checking it out for yourself as I always suggest seeing how I could always be talking a load of bull!

To finish, Wet Lettuce and the Magik Bean could prove to be dark horses in the Burton music scene. Though starting off from the classroom, their new material has proved they can perform alongside the bigger acts and carve out their own unique identity. Watch out for them, Leicester certainly has anyway!

But from Burton, this is Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes!

The Bean’s stuff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WetLettuceandTheMagicBean

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/wet-lettuce-magik-bean

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/wetlettuceandthemagikbean

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClldCchMUgT4XCrZBQwOncw

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Magik_Bean

Wet Lettuce

BREWTOWN 10th POST: KITTEN PYRAMID

Old Spice Joke from left to right - Horse 1 Marson, Hamon, Baker, Baldwin, Redfern, Horse 7

Old Spice Joke from left to right – Animal 1, Milligan, Hamon, Baker, Baldwin, Redfern, Animal 7

Well, I’ve finally got a milestone here on Brewtown Music! For the tenth post, I’ll be looking at a band that I will shamelessly fangasm over for an unspecified number of paragraphs! It’s time to get the big gun, it’s Kitten Pyramid!

Scott Milligan (lead vocals/guitar/piano), Chris Baldwin (vocals/guitar/piano), Daniel Baker (lead guitar), Mark Hamon (bass) and Rob Redfern (drums) make up this weird and wondrous quintet who despite having a repertoire that defies genre, class themselves as prog rock (or neoclassical punk zydeco rockabilly if you want it in Lehmann’s terms).

Let Mr Black decide where they go because I don't want to do that again!

Let Mr Black decide where they go because I don’t want to do that again!

Kitten Pyramid are a band that have gone through many stages since their creation in 2010 and with high ambitions that, for the most part, have been met with crazy results! Line-up changes, line-up additions, mainstream media exposure and the chance to record at the same studio Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded! But this couldn’t have come from nowhere so let us fill you in.

Since the age of 12, Milligan had been playing the guitar, pottered around various bands and kept aspirations of becoming a film-maker close to keep his options open. At first, he wasn’t too confident in his song writing abilities and always finding himself trying to find comparisons with other artists like Syd Barrett instead of doing his own thing.

However, an experimental rock band from the Welsh Valleys was soon to be discovered by Milligan that inspired him to go in the direction that he wanted for what would become his own music. The band in question are the Super Furry Animals.

What? Gangster wookies never inspired you?

What? Gangster wookies never inspired you?

But it did take a while for the Furries’ influence to set in as the first band experiences were considered as ‘frustrating, misguided and nerve wracking’ by Milligan to such a degree if shelved any music ambition for almost a decade for him.

As a way to get out of this funk, he wrote a quick little number called “W.H.A.L.E” . Within a few day of the resulting recording being uploaded to Soundcloud, it was starting to get noticed from all over the world with very positive feedback. This would soon spur him on to get back in the game. It would also become the most popular song that he wrote. It would also spur him to forming a band that encapsulated the fun sound that his little ditty, that involved the audience and was more than just people in a room staring at people on a stage.

He started chatting and jamming with his long time friend Tom Goodwin about “how if you attached lobster claws to even the cutest of animals they would look terrifying such as a kitten or even a pyramid of kittens.” You can’t make it up! They somehow did!

I can haz band name?

I can haz band name?

Thus, from this disturbing little convo, the Kitten Pyramid was being built. Milligan gathered his original band mates, brothers Matt and Rob Redfern on bass and drums respectively in 2010 and saw to it that they would be more focused to perform and record the music that had been in their heads for so long as they gigged across Burton like never before. After a while, they decided they were at the stage of recording their first EP It’s Time to get the Big Gun which was recorded and produced by Matt Redfern and released in 2011.

This EP contained the songs Marmalade, Spongebob, Emily the Mermaids and W.H.A.L.E which, as said before has proved to be one of their most popular songs, almost an anthem of sorts with a simple arrangement of pounding percussion, catchy chord riff and a bellowed chorus which proves to be the best stomper in Brewtown!

And the most mayhem on stage in Brewtown!

And the most mayhem on stage in Brewtown!

As well as a band to babysit, Milligan has also aspired to be a film maker and has looked to mix his talents in musical and visual media with an expected result of this being short film Uh Oh (the original working title being Elephants and Cars) that has been around in Milligan’s head for as long as Kitten Pyramid has been a band, with over a decade’s worth of thought and development.

I don’t know what’s going on but I’m intrigued! The best kind of independent film reaction.

The man playing the bewildered screamer is Richard Williams (in cahoots with the Indie folk band Leisure Society). The character he plays called Jarek and the film itself is inspired by his late uncle, Jarek Baczyk, a Polish immigrant who came to the UK with Milligan’s mother and grandmother and died of a heart attack at the age of 40 after a battle with paranoid schizophrenia. Go here for the rest of the details on this crazy project!

After the completion of It’s Time to get the Big Gun, the band set their sights on recording their next EP which would not only be a development in the band’s sound but would also continue to tell the epic tale of Uh Oh with three more songs.

During this time, the band went through some major changes, one change being Matt Redfern amicably leaving the band to pursue his own projects and another being changing from a trio to a Burton-based Polyphonic Spree!

Except not this many and not this cultish. Still weird though!

Except not this many and not this cultish. Still weird though!

I’d say that articles #5-9 on here have been a build up to this piece since a veritable Who’s Who of Midlands musicians were in tow like Gemma Bower from Lady and the Tramp (saxophones, flute and vocals), Max Kendall of The Vibe (bass and vocals), Thomas Miller of Exile 84 and the owner of Burton-based recording studio and promotions outfit, ARCH Creations (drums; with Rob Redfern moving to guitar) session musician Brendan O’Neill (trumpet), Jon Brindley from The Distancing and Josh McCarthy from The Myways.

This was also the time when Chris Baldwin and Dan Baker (yes, THOSE two again!) of Star From Ivy entered the band, on piano and guitar respectively who have remained part of the band to this day alongside Mark Hamon of These Things Exist.

So many people, so many egos going at it right? Wrong! Milligan’s leadership and the individual talents of each member came through, both live and when recording with a sense of community and camaraderie amongst each other, like any sort of scene should! But enough of my idealistic bollocks! Let’s move on!

The Kitty collective set out to record the second EP Crazy Diamonds. This is of course a reference to Syd Barrett, the former front man of Pink Floyd who Milligan also draws a great deal of inspiration from.

A sense of disorientation and WTF to awesome music? Yep, that’s inspiration!

To record the EP, the band looked to find a pro studio to make a more lush and complex production.  Enter Sheffield music producer Alan Smyth of 2Fly Studios that has been the recording ground of bands such as Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and Reverend and the Makers (also for Riding the Low and Star From Ivy so Burtonia is clearly very cosy there!)

Along with a brass section and grand piano to help the band with their sound, the final song Stripey Jumper features a solo from aforementioned former Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball.

Ball has proclaimed his support for them and being the ‘ring-leader’ of the Kitten Pyramid Circus variety event that took place at the Brewers Bar in Burton in September 2012 which not only featured the band but comedian/hapless magician Tom Fermor, belly dancing troupe Pedralta Fusion and former X Factor contestant Jade Richards…Yeah!

I think this look from the Ring Master himself sums it up.

Summed up in a look from the Ring Master

Not only did this new EP get a release in 2012, towards the end of the year, KP released a CD called Bedroom Demos: Part 1 which was a collection of various demos and remixes. These songs feature performances from Milligan, the Redfern Bros and Thomas Goodwin. A big highlight from this CD is a remix of W.H.A.L.E produced by DJ Joe Bird of Rap-Torial and performed with new lyrics by provided by Great ScottThere, that’s all of the previous five acts covered on here, so let’s carry on!

The cover for the CD featured artwork was done by P.I.N.T Arts festival mastermind Alastair Kennedy  whose other works were promoted on the walls of local brewery/entertainment venue Tower Brewery where the band performed a set of their new material and launched the album in November.

But this had nothing, NOTHING on what was to come the next year! The chance of a lifetime was secured when they got the opportunity to record their long-awaited full length album Uh Oh at the world-famous Rockfield Studios!

Rockfield has been the studio for bands like Super Furry Animals, Oasis, Stone Roses and Queen where they wrote and recorded an underrated cult hit called Bohemian Rhapsody!

I think it's gonna be big one day. Watch this space!

I think it’s gonna be big one day. Watch this space!

This momentous occasion was marked when Milligan was trying to find a studio that would be able to match his high ambitions. One of these studios was Rockfield which is home to producer Nick Brine who was interested in the ‘atmospheric and hard-edged’ instrumentals and ‘expressive lyrics’ from their Soundcloud demos. That was enough to get them on board!

As a preview of this new point in the KP sound evolution , they were set to release the first single which was originally going to be Traffic, but a meeting with a fan prompted them to change it to Uh Oh (Both songs’ demos were featured on the Bedroom Demos album) what with single potential and all!

Re-mastering of previous material is also featured in this album such as the Big Gun tracks Marmalade and W.H.A.L.E and another old track Chester which has bestiality undertones or something (don’t ask!), it’s kinda freaky but incredibly catchy and listenable!

Soooooo catchy!!

On July 18th, a single launch for Uh Oh was put on at the Brewhouse which not only featured the band, but were supported by Derby-based duo Crushing Blows and backed up by a horn and string section, three backing singers and featured guest appearances from Dave Ball, Jonathan Brindley and Great Scott.

The single itself has received a lot of positive reviews online including this from The Metaphorical Boat comparing the song to everything from David Bowie to Queen (Fate?) to Green Day to Aphrodite’s Child. It was also featured on Channel 4 as part of the Tim Lovejoy’s Sunday Brunch Tune of the week. Lovejoy himself praised the song saying he liked it and had reminded him of Super Furry Animals. Won’t they ever leave KP’s influence alone?!

It was also featured multiple times on BBC Radio 6 Introducing with Chris Hawkins and the legendary Tom Robinson (the 2-4-6-8 Motorway guy). BBC Introducing is a card I’m playing a lot on here isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s any reason to delay the inevitable here. I love this band and it’s music, plain and simple! Kitten Pyramid are a super group in a lot of aspects. A large collective of local musicians from different bands and acts coming together to create unique, enjoyable and striking music.

Unlike super groups such as The Power Station, KP do stand on their own merits as a legit band with their own style rather than knowing you’re just seeing a bunch of musicians from other bands being part of this collective for money, attention or both.

To summarise the band’s music is difficult and trying to decipher the lyrics is even more of a challenge, but even if the bizarre, cryptic nature of the words is not possible to you, the way they’re sung and the tune it’s backed up should be enough to look past passages such as this from Crazy Diamonds:

She smelled of almonds, yellow with long fur

She sort of growled, but gently like a purr

There was a rider, skinny with a beak

Who asked politely, everyone say cheese!

What-is-going-on-in-the-SERPS

In a way though, there’s an appeal to that kind of surrealist song writing which comes across as a hybrid of Frank Zappa, Hunter S. Thompson and a student poet who’s watched Monty Python too many times! Oh, silly me, you can never watch Monty Python TOO many times!

Out of the many songs in their back catalogue that I love, I will dare to only pick two that I think stand out above the rest. Give me a minute.

……………….

OK, OK, I’ve got two. These two favourites of mine are Uh Oh and Seahouses . Whoo! That took a lot out of me to do!

The first of these two (the video of which is above) was a fitting way to give a taste for the upcoming album of the same name! It seeks to combine the wacky and catchy aspects that the band always had with the more complex and detailed approach that the band has acquired over time.

It makes for an enjoyable and diverse listen, starting with a Starman/Beetlebum-esque opening, rapid tempo changes, an amalgamation of rock styles which almost feels like a disconnected evolution of the genre and brass backing towards the end gives the reason why KP put the ‘mental’ in experimental! It sums them up very well and is a good place to start if you want to get into their stuff.

Seahouses though, is a kitten of another colour! It’s a much calmer and soothing song that doesn’t feature much in terms of crazy lyrics or jarring tempo changes. It’s like Star From Ivy’s slower and more relaxed Kizuna next to their much faster and more belligerent Perfection. But it still retains the unique KP flavour with a soothing brass backing and some softly sung vocals from Milligan and Baldwin, painting the picture of how to sit beside the seaside (and being much less cryptic than some of the previous songs):

Open space

And the sea to keep you small

They could pull you in

You could sink in sand

And the sky

It’s so black and filled with stars

You blend in so well

You can’t see your hands.

That feeling of seeing yourself as so insignificant when it’s just you, the vast sea and the even larger sky is captured very well even as the instrumental builds towards the end as if the waves are rushing up to the shore in full force as you run into it’s cold embrace. See, THIS is why I shouldn’t be a songwriter!

On top of that, it’s all built on that one E chord that Milligan plucks from beginning to end. Sure the other instruments have much more than one chord in mind, it’s that simplicity that makes this song work and how emotionally captivating they can be as well as fun.

The music video isn’t much to write home about since, like the Crazy Diamonds video, is a montage of random clips from various films, cartoons, anime and whatever public domain clips there are out there to throw in. But it’s mainly just a bizarre backdrop to go along with the music so it’s not much to harp on really! Again don’t take my word for it, even though I’d prefer you did in this case, check the songs out with the weird images for yourself and let me know what you make of it in the comments.

If there was an example of how much I love the Burton and Midlands music scene, it would be Kitten Pyramid. A group of musicians all from different backgrounds and genres coming together to create something fresh, tight and musically fascinating while still remaining an enjoyable and infectious energy to them. I know I explained why I love this scene in my Awkward Introductions post, but this is a band that verifies that thought for me. It seemed appropriate that I’d dedicate my landmark 10th post to them, so come on everyone, HEAR THEM W.H.A.L.E!! Also, hear me sign off saying this has been Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes!

Kitten Pyramid’s stuff

Official Website: http://flavors.me/kittenpyramid

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kittenpyramid

Bandcamp: https://kittenpyramid.bandcamp.com

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/kittenpyramid

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kittenpyramid

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/kittenpyramid

KP Cover

KP guys

Brewtown #7: Star From Ivy

Working those stools from left to right - Baldwin, Gibbs, Maczkowski and Baker

Working those stools from left to right – Baldwin, Gibbs, Maczkowski and Baker

A talented band is not hard to come by if you look in the right places. But not only is this band talented, it’s also incredibly busy, with two members who will get further mentions here later down the line. For now though, here’s Star From Ivy.

Chris Baldwin (lead vocals/guitar), Daniel Baker (lead guitar), Steve Gibbs (bass) and Mark Maczkowski (drums) form the rock outfit that have been around since 2001 but needed to take a while to mature into the well-respected band of musical teachers they are today. Well, one of them is a teacher but their live performances and musicianship is well worth learning from.

Of course from their initial run as teenagers (with Luke Edgington on bass instead of Gibbs), they what any other band would do by doing the pubs, the clubs, Battle of the Band competitions and any festivals that would have them on their bill.

A big opportunity was in reach though in 2004, when they along with a Church Gresley based band called Slave were accepted into the annual music business showcase for the Emergenza festival following talks with Sony/Columbia Records. The fact that they didn’t win was unfortunate since the round of the competition took place in Manchester whilst up against beloved Manchester bands was a factor in their defeat. Still, if Sony were involved, I’d hate to think what Simon Cowell would have done if he somehow got a hold of them!

They WERE described as an emo band back then!

They WERE described as an emo band back then!

The group decided to go on a hiatus in 2006 during which time Baldwin was in his second year at Derby University later graduating in 2007 with a BSc in Multimedia Technology & Music Production.

This hiatus lasted until 2010 when the old crew (with Gibbs now joining the fray) steadily redeveloped their sound from an emo band to a more gritty but still heartfelt rock band. Gibbs came into SFI having been a member of the hip hop/alternative group The Sixth Letter (mentioned in my Great Scott article) Learning Support Assistant in Music Technology at Burton College which helped him fit right in with the musical education leanings of Baldwin.

Throughout 2011, SFI were either recording new material or doing gigs left and right as Arch Creations mainstays performing said new material. That new material would combine with their previous work to create their first LP Prologue (A sign of things to come, ironic that it took so long to get to the beginning!) which was released in January 2012 that had been ten years in the making, with Edgington on the LP as the bass player.

Music video for their song Everest filmed by Liz Coleman of Night Owl Productions

The LP was mixed and mastered at 2fly Studios in Sheffield under the watchful eyes and ears of Alan Smyth who has produced albums for bands such as Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and Reverend and The Makers.

The only piece of radio exposure they got in that time was on Ashby and Coalville’s station, 99.2 Hermitage FM, but was enough to spur more people into buying Prologue and allowed a few of the members more time to focus on each of their respective side projects.

Baldwin and Baker spent time out of SFI with Paddy Considine’s band Riding The Low and scoring the soundtrack to Considine’s BAFTA winning film Tyrannosaur. No sweeping orchestral movements, mostly ambient guitar sounds that helped add to the movie’s cold and rough atmosphere (The film’s the best cure for happiness I’ve ever known!)

Jurassic Park - the gritty adaptation!

Jurassic Park – the gritty adaptation!

Gibbs on the other hand has been working on and has recently released a classical EP In Passing which he worked on with American composer Cyrus Reynolds. The compositional opposite of Tyrannosaur’s score, this lush, beautiful orchestral journey which features electronic elements was well received by music reviewers across the Internet, has been the soundtrack to a short film Where Am I? and being praised and promoted by the well-renowned Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and metal drummer Ólafur Arnalds.

Those feels are coming on again!

OK, now that my emotions are back in check, let’s take a look at the band’s work. I can certainly say that they’ve shaken away the ’emo’ stigma they once had to become the professional and mature rock band they are today.

The musicianship has always been tight in SFI with either Edgington or Gibbs on bass and their work on Prologue is a prime example. The songs can be gentle and heartfelt or angry and loud.

Baldwin’s vocal range is particularly impressive going from soft baritone (Kizuna), to soaring tenor (Everest) and even getting into falsetto territory with notes even women can’t reach! (As I Wait) Baker’s guitar work is fantastic and his keen eye for riffs and progressions is reflective of how he (plus Baldwin) are in multiple bands. Maczkowski’s drum work is also of note, particularly on As I Wait where he has to drum through at least four time signatures in that song alone!

 Two songs that strike me the most from this lot couldn’t be any more different from each other, these being Kizuna and Perfection.

The first song being a song that the band does not perform anymore due to it being a more timely song released on the eve of 2011 to mark Japan naming Kizuna as it’s ‘kanji’ (special word) of that year. The meaning of the word is ‘bond’ and Baldwin calls for this bond to be made:

“Take this fear of education

Take this fear of everything.

Make it bloom by finding solace

In the knowledge of this dream.”

This kind of message could very well have come across as cheesy or insincere if delivered in a half-assed way, but it is delivered with sincerity and hope in the voice of Baldwin and leaves you with a very happy and accomplished feeling.

The second song though is a much more fiery song, dealing with a common theme which is the concept of ‘What truly is perfection?’ But just because it’s a common topic doesn’t mean it can’t be made fresh and interesting, especially with these lyrics being belted out:

“We, as a race, cannot deal with perfect.

We’d much rather wade in shit!

Whereas I’d rather be somewhere close to the skin.

Where I feel my lungs ‘cos I can hardly breath!”

The frustration that the world cannot deal with certain ideas of how perfection is perceived to be and to instead dwell in conflict and negativity is felt here as Baldwin sees perfection as more of an inner idea but is smothered by those telling him otherwise. The instrumentation is incredible here with a flamenco-like rhythm to start that develops into a haunting bolero after the second chorus and ending on a ear-rupturing cacophony that is bound to leave an impression, especially when performed live!

However, I could be talking a pretentious load of old bollocks at this point so I urge you to check them out or yourself. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

With the release of their upcoming second album Circularity, it seems that SFI could very well go for a few more decades, give or take another hiatus along the way. If I am proven wrong, their mark on the Burton music scene is potent and their place as teachers of both their class students and their rock band peers is unmistakable. But for now, class dismissed. This has been Brew Town Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes.

Star From Ivy’s stuff and other tidbits

Offical website: http://www.starfromivy.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/starfromivy

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/starfromivy

Bandcamp: http://starfromivy.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/starfromivy

Steve Gibbs and Cyrus Reynolds’ In Passing EP: http://stevegibbs.bandcamp.com/album/in-passing-ep

Star From Ivy 2

Image copyright of OW Media