Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
The City Consumes Us book arrived with us today. And we are SO thrilled. It looks, feels and smells ace. Very, very happy with the results. The Pledge campaign has now finished. Thanks to everyone who got us up and beyond 100%. Your download, including all the extras will be on its way to you now.
Friday, 13 April 2012
With the utmost respect to the rest of the Philophobia crowd, the label’s 2012 truly kicks off with this release by Runaround Kids, one of their most established bands and one of Wakefield’s great hopes. You’d Feel The Same is the first in a series of varied and interesting releases they have planned for the year, including an upcoming split vinyl and cassette with We Are Losers and The Spills.
The track itself reminds me of Bloc Party – not in its’ sonics but in the way Kele’s crew tended to release a standalone single after an album (Two More Years / Flux / One More Chance) as an indication as to the direction they were going to develop next. With that in mind we can expect a louder, more anthemic, more stuttering year from the Runarounds.
Stuttering is an apt word here; the opening smashes open your stereo with heavily distorted drums and a large, pleasingly messy sound. The immediacy of this comes across like an excited yelp, a tourette sufferer desperately trying to express something sincere, jilting around to find solid ground to condense a relationship into a split sentence of honesty. Like the Manics trying to squeeze a whole youthdom of boredom into the three minute timescale of Motown Junk. And that’s just the first twenty seconds.
It does all come together shortly after. Multiple, heavily condensed sections alternate, the first seeming like a chorus, then another and then another. The hooks are everywhere. The production is varied too with lots of one-off quirks and effects working alongside the structures geared to those with short attention spans. I like that. It’s great to review a track and be half way through and still be hearing new things. There’s loads going on here, it’s a massively impressive three and a half minutes. It’s like a greatest hits compilation in one track. Kind of.
It certainly sets the band up for a great year. It’s a pleasing step forward from their still ace debut album and feels even more of a representation of their live show. Properly top stuff. If you are quick, you will be able to get yourself the ace bundle of everything they release over the year through their bandcamp. Otherwise, get a copy with a limited edition T-Shirt and you are laughing.
Thursday, 12 April 2012
The first problem with this dream was that I didn’t play the lottery. Paradoxically (and naively) I feared a lottery win would ‘ruin my life’ as I would never appreciate the value of things and people would not take me seriously. That soon changes once you get a job, doesn’t it?
The second problem was more practical; the building was bought up as part of a redevelopment of luxury flats. It’s still there, just along from The Hepworth. And it is still empty as plans to turn it into a fancy restaurant have fallen by the wayside in the current economic climate.
I then began dreaming of buying the building that was once Players Snooker Club, a legendary venue that later became Cube, then Zone and now lays empty. I would run it as a collective with other music lovers and we’d create an inclusive, friendly place for all Wakefield musicians to meet and collaborate and dream yet more. But really, would that ever happen?
Well, in a funny sort of way, perhaps.
Unity House, the huge, long derelict building in the very centre of Wakefield stands before me. Chris Hill, of a company called Shine, is conducting a tour of the legendary venue. I’ve never been inside before. Many in our tour group will have. Stories of this place are part of the fabric of Wakefield history. But that is all it has ever been to me. Now, it is real.
We ascend a few flights of metal stairs and appear in Unity Hall itself, a vast space that is the main source of this buildings legend. It is hard to believe such a large venue exists in the centre of Wakefield. The floor space, of bent and humped floorboards, is a very healthy size. An old bar of torn and stripped ‘70s décor still stands at one end. At the other, the stage itself, which has been host to so many great bands of the punk and post punk era. Light filters in through stained glass. From atop the old balcony I catch a glimpse over Wakefield and am startled to see my city from this unknown angle. Three ornate towers stretch into the distance before me; Wakefield Theatre Royal, then Westgate Chapel. If it wasn’t for the fact that the third was actually Wakefield prison, I would say this was a most cultured scene indeed.
Watching us all scurry around like excited children is Chris Hill, stood centre, patiently letting us take it all in. Earlier in the week he hosted an event at The Orangery, just over the road, to launch the scheme to get the public involved in Unity Hall’s great comeback. Time and time again, a group or business has looked at Unity Hall and seen the obvious potential but it has never come close to fruition. But the plans put forward at the meeting are not only the most promising, but are also the best.
Chris works for a company called Shine, based in Leeds, who have a track record with this sort of thing. Like many people, he hadn’t visited Wakefield so much over the years but admits after just a few months working on this project that “I've fallen in love with Wakefield. It’s a really beautiful place.” He believes that Unity Hall gives Wakefield a genuine chance to go “head to head with Leeds.”
So what’s that plan? Well, essentially, Shine has been trying to secure a load of financial backing from various sources; lottery funds, Arts Council, European sources and Wakefield Council to purchase and renovate the building. But the exciting thing is this; they aren’t a business or a corporation. They are offering control of this building to the citizens of Wakefield. Me and you. Of course, it will have to work as a business, but it means this is a huge opportunity for this building to be used to benefit the people of Wakefield directly through its use as an Arts Space, a Music Venue, Retail Units, Business Space, Conference Suites, Theatre Space and, well, it’s up to us at the end of the day.
The tour continues into a small side room from the main hall. Space enough for another bar and small stage. From here, out of the ornate windows, I can see Westgate itself. The tacky, cheerless bars un-neoned in the afternoon; one takeaway is optimistically open, serving kebabs to shoppers and drifters. It’s like I’m watching through the looking glass. Another world at my fingertips. This place is in another class. Rather than letting all that stuff outside drag the city down, Unity Hall can drag the city back up once more.
“I've seen Wakefield come up and go down. The city needs development. Westgate needs a kick up the backside. Unity Hall is the absolute pinnacle of what needs to happen.” So say, Murray Edwards, head of Wakefield Theatre and Board Member on this grand project. The launch sees a procession of speakers give a different take on why we need Unity Hall. John Godber, now in residence at the theatre adds “You have to look after artists or they leg it.”
He makes a hugely important point about Arts bodies working together and how he sees Unity Hall facilitating this. He refers to Silo Thinking, which he witnessed in Hull before his move to Wakefield wherein Arts Organisations keep themselves to themselves and end up fighting over limited funding for their projects. A collective running Unity Hall would enable all areas of the arts to come together and work as one. The building itself can end up being central to a vast hub of smaller Arts organisations working as one. From my experience, this is exactly what we need to do in Wakefield. Not only will Unity Hall be a home for these different arms of the arts, it can also teach us to work together.
The tour continues and very quickly I become disorientated. It’s a vast, confusing place. The lights mostly don’t work. Old chairs lied scattered in hallways. Fifty year old radiators cling to the walls. Open, empty fuse boxes and peeling paint hang to the walls. I can’t dispel the notion of a post apocalyptic computer game – or better still, one where you find yourself in a long abandoned, slightly creepy location. Where something has gone horribly wrong. Add a couple of flickering strip lights and the distant groan of some unseen foe and I’d be pretty bloody terrified.
But I love the history on show here. A beautiful panelled fireplace. Stained glass windows with the image of the beehive worked in; an important symbol of the co-operative that first built this structure back in the 19th century. Some of the walls are ugly 1960s plaster but holes reveal the delicate original tiling hidden behind. Peel away the surface and there is something beautiful there, waiting to be found.
These additional areas are key to the commercial aspect of Unity Hall. A spokesman for a local digital media company explains how something like Unity Hall can help build a community for his particular line of work. He had dreamed of creating such a thing but was saddened to see the majority of designers move to Leeds or be forced to set up shop in the soul destroying identikit buildings of various motorways business parks.
Wakefield Council's Head of Economic Growth was also there to offer support stating that developments such as this “need to happen in this economic climate. Wakefield is already getting national and international reputation as a centre of Arts and we need to build on this.”
Which all sounds fine and dandy. But what needs to be done? Well, for the large scale funding to work, it needs to be shown that it has public support. If that can be done, money will be put into Unity Hall and the project will begin. Within 18 months we could have an 800 capacity music venue, the envy of the north, if not the country.
But that term ‘support’ needs clarifying. I’m sure most people would say, “Hey, yeah, that sounds really cool” and happily let everyone else do the work. This is a co-operative; it’s a bit different and involves an initial leap of faith. The scheme requires people to buy shares. Not like the stock exchange; there’s no money to be made here. Instead, ‘support’ means a minimum purchase of 200 shares for £200. For that you become a paid up member and part of the collective that runs Unity Hall.
I feel like a shady business man that has just dropped the bombshell after the big spiel. But don’t look at it like that. £200 as a one-off payment might seem big. But look at it another way. It’s a lifetime’s involvement in what could potentially be the greatest thing to happen in Wakefield ever. It’s like you owning a part of The Hepworth or Yorkshire Sculpture Park for £200. And you will be involved with how it is run and what it is used for.
This is the biggy: the advantage of the co-operative method is that Unity Hall will be government invested, but not government funded. It will be ours to run as we see fit. Eventually even Chris and Shine will edge their way out, leaving a committee of passionate Wakefieldians in charge. How amazing is that?
But I have to be clear here; simply thinking it is a great idea and not acting is useless. It needs practical, actual support or once again an opportunity to make something amazing happen in Wakefield may be wasted. If money really is a problem, get creative. Are you in a band? How about split it four ways? Fifty pounds each, one members name on the official document. Maybe you can spread it over a couple of paydays. Sell that stuff on eBay you’ve been meaning to get rid of for a while. Have a spring clean. This’ll be the best £200 you ever spend.
Ultimately, it is down to positivity. And I think people in Wakefield can struggle with that. Even the pro-active ones can sometimes doubt the point of all this. I know I certainly do. But, having made this very leap myself and handed over the money, I can tell you it feels great. I have invested financially, but I also have made an emotional investment too, and that gives me a great sense of hope and growing pride. That’s a great feeling and I highly recommend you give it serious consideration.
Much more information of a more practical nature can be found on the Unity Hall Website. Please, head over and take a look. Let’s make this happen.
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
When Dean asked me to follow up ‘The Death of a Disco Vendor’ from Issue 1.1 I jumped at the chance to revisit some of my favourite record stores, whilst discovering a new one. If the prospect seemed enticing, the reality of getting up at 6:30am to set off to
Every time I walk up Westgate I expect Discovery Records to be closed down, yet somehow it defies my expectations. However it had fallen victim to the weather, with the owner busy moving stock around to avoid it becoming water damaged by the leaks that had sprung.
Whilst I was thumbing through the metal section she brandished a copy of a Nolan’s DVD she was rescuing from the rain, joking “One for you here!” I love the fact that I always end up having a bit of banter with her.
I initially struggle to find anything of interest, but as I progress towards the end of the alphabetically arranged racks I come up trumps, picking an eclectic selection, none of which fit the traditional metal mould. I start with The Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath, up to now I only own Deloused in the Comatorium so it was high time I added to that.
Following that I spy (Rather appropriately) Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom, an album that saw him collaborate with a range of groups and artists. You never know what you’re getting with Patton from one album to the next, but it’s never less than interesting.
The next band I come across, Senser, were undoubtedly influenced by Patton-era Faith No More. I nearly bought Asylum on cassette shortly after it came out in 1998, but resisted based on some less than favourable comments from friends, so it was my first of a gamble.
Less of a punt was The Tea Party’s Splendor Solis. The Tea Party garnered quite a bit of airplay on Radio One’s rock show in the early ‘90s, combining The Doors and Led Zeppelin with added Eastern mysticism. Looking back their sound seemed at odds with what was popular at the time, hopefully ensuring it doesn’t sound dated.
I headed over to the rock & pop racks, which housed a healthy variety. From this I select a Death in Vegas’ Best of Milk It. Having heard Dirge on an episode of BBC 3’s Being Human I was keen to delve further into their electronica. There was added appeal in the shape of Aisha, a track featuring Mr Swift Cover himself, Iggy Pop. Due to it being a double-disc it cost £6 (All the other CDs I bought here were £4); for the same money you could have picked up the latest Manic Street Preachers’ compilation National Treasures, which had only been out for a couple of months.
However, if its old albums you desire there was a section which ideally should have been titled ‘Bands With Extensive Back Catalogues’’. From this I selected not one, not two, not three, but four Thin Lizzy albums. Four seemed appropriate, as it was BBC 4’s Renegades documentary that had fuelled my desire to expand my Lizzy collection. I replace my vinyl copies of Jailbreak and Live And Dangerous and get Black Rose and
I also finally buy AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Fear Factory’s Mechanize. Fear Factory are a band who have released some patchy albums in recent years, but the return of Dino Cazares and the presence of drum-god and one time Bradford resident Gene Hoglan had rejuvenated them when I saw them in 2010 so I decided to take a gamble.
All that remained upstairs was to peruse the DVDs. I forgo The Nolans, but manage to finally track down The Wildhearts Live At
As with my last visit to Discovery my choices draw comment from the owner. She takes a shine to the packaging for Peeping Tom’s album, suggests that Black Rose is Thin Lizzy’s best album and recommends a band called Trapeze to me if I enjoy The Tea Party. Apparently one of their albums is here, somewhere…if Discovery has a fault it’s that upstairs is somewhat disorganised, which leads me to the relative calm below.
Unlike my last visit I also part with some cash downstairs. The guy behind the counter is more than happy to let me search through the A-Z section that runs along the wall behind him. From this I select Motorhead’s first album as a four-piece Orgasmatron, another vinyl replacement;
My tote bag bulges as I catch the train to
Apparently Wall of Sound has just been taken over by Vinyl Tap. Whilst this seems to ensure the shop’s short term future I recall Vinyl Tap’s old shop in
Initially I head to the indie section where I come up with Brett Anderson’s Wilderness (reduced from £5.99 to £3.99) and what I believed to be Graham Coxon’s Love Travels at Illegal Speeds (£5 down to £3). Closer inspection on the subsequent train reveals it is an interview disc to promote said album, housed in an identical sleeve. In fairness you wouldn’t stumble across said album in HMV or a supermarket as it was intended for press only, so it has some curiosity value. However, numerous such discs have been issued, usually unofficially, down the years. A friend had a Nirvana one in the early ‘90s which I recall was a veritable snooze fest.
Suddenly, the magpie in me takes over, as I spy a shimmering, silvery package. It happens to be Chrome Hoof’s Crush Depth (£11.99 down to £7.99). The band resembles extras from an early ‘80s episode of Doctor Who and features Leo Smee, formerly of British doom legends Cathedral. I was briefly exposed to their first album by my former housemate so I decide to give them a try, although ultimately it was the packaging I couldn’t resist.
To round things off upstairs I purchase Hail of Bullets’ On Divine Winds from the metal section. They’re a band I’ve heard good things about and their line-up features members of death metal veterans such as Bolt Thrower and Asphyx. They play the sort of music that prompted my brother to recently ask me “Haven’t you grown out of that?” Clearly not! It’s another album that’s in the £4 category.
Downstairs is a room that houses numerous tables with box after box of vinyl on them. A sign outside promises ‘Over 50,000 records for less than £2’ which I can believe. It actually makes me glad I don’t have a turntable at present as trawling through would be a herculean task. Although if you fancy something for your wall there are a number of cool framed promotional posters for £10.
I leave Wall of Sound and get the train to
Despite the shop having closed I head down to Kirk Gate to see what has become of the premises and find it is about to become vacant again. It seems that ‘Fabrication – The Craftiest Place in
With nothing to be had at this end of Leeds (Except fish ‘n’ chips with a cup of tea and bread and butter from Crown Fisheries; all for £3.10!) I head up to Crash Records. Crash’s stock is always well labelled, sometimes with highly informative hand-written labels, a trait that I notice HMV Leeds tried to pick up on with their ‘Staff Picks’ section.
I pick up A Fragile King by Gregor MacKintosh from Paradise Lost’s Vallenfyre side project, which at £9.99 is my most expensive purchase so far, but it only came out late last year. The sticker adorning it describes it as “A rotten mix of Autopsy, Celtic Frost, early Entombed and Paradise Lost”. Although this is record company blurb, I like to think Crash’s staff would have come up with something along the same lines.
Not only that they were more than happy to haggle when I noticed the girl behind the counter was in the process of reducing stock. She’d not got round to Skunk Anansie’s Wonderlustre yet, so I enquire how much they want for it and manage to get it for £8 down from £12.99, complete with bonus DVD.
On my way to Jumbo I call in That’s Entertainment, a relatively new chain of stores, whose website claims “There will always be a bargain to find - just like the good old fashioned independent music store”. My experience with them so far has been pretty positive and there are some ridiculously cheap albums if you want to do a bit of back catalogue filling. With that in mind I pick up Blur’s 13, Echobelly’s Everyone’s Got One and Graham Coxon’s Love Travels At Illegal Speeds from their 3 for £5 section. I make a point of checking Coxon’s album is what it seems before leaving the shop this time! They also stock plenty of new releases at prices the internet would struggle to match; I’d previously picked up PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake for £4.99 in their
Up the escalator in the
“Is this the new Mark Lanegan album?” I enquire, “Yes it is.” was the rather brief reply I got from the woman behind the counter, “What date does it come out?” I continued. At this point she disappeared into the stock room, before coming back and advising me it was due out on the 6th of February. I paused, half expecting her to ask if I wanted to pre-order the album, but she didn’t so I merely repeated “Sixth of February, OK, thanks.”
I’ve had some poor customer service in Jumbo in the past and rarely come out of there with anything so it was disappointing that they missed a trick, especially after my experience in Crash earlier.
I’m pretty confident I won’t draw a blank at Relics Records on New Briggate; since I started going in a couple of years ago I’ve found some great stuff. It’s well divided sections meet with my preferences and although the second hand CDs are a couple of quid more than you’d tend to pay in Discovery it’s still reasonably priced. Today I even manage to find an album under Discovery’s average £4, L7’s Hungry for Stink at £3.99.
I continue the female vocalist theme with Arch Enemy’s Doomsday Machine, (£4.99) another album I’d previously heard through my bedroom wall when I flat-shared. Before picking up two albums by New York thrashers Overkill, Relix IV and Iron Bound (Both £4.99), the former contains the punked up Old School which has always come across well when I’ve seen Overkill live, whilst the latter received rave reviews when it was released in 2010. I also manage to get a Valentines gift, in the shape of Michael Monroe’s Sensory Overdrive, for £9.99.
My final destination of the day, somewhat contentiously is HMV. I paid a visit on the basis that Cathedral’s Anniversary box set was £24 in Crash, which seemed steep. It was in here for £16, but I ended up with their last studio album The Guessing Game a double disc affair that had come down in price to a reasonable £8. They also had Trap Them’s Seizure in Barren Praise in, whereas Crash no longer stocked it. At £10 it was my most expensive purchase, by a single penny!
Hopefully that penny might help keep HMV open, but if the profit warnings that keep being issued are anything to go by I think the company’s pink signs may soon be disappearing from the high street. Much as it pains me to admit it that would be a sad day, I for one wouldn’t relish writing their obituary.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Now I hate DIY usually. Okay, I’ll paint the kitchen and maybe varnish things with the old brushes I’ve got in the garage, but Geek Pie Records have something much more interesting than brushes lurking in their garage… This four track EP showcases just what fun DIY can be if you have a little imagination and some rudimentary recording gear.
I’m not sure where to start on this really, other than the fact fun oozes out of the speakers and leaves you imagining the smiles on their faces when they heard it back. The aim of this garage set up is to give local bands an opportunity to get their first recorded material captured and listened to; in that sense the four tracks on offer here for free: Hercules Hold, Earthly Powers, Superman Position and Socialising are perfect tasters of what is out there if you know where to look. Balloons are David Cooper (bass), Paul Goff (drums) and James Marsh (guitar/vocals), and while these songs aren’t especially varied there are some nicely crafted lyrics which cover an eclectic range of subjects from great Victorian inventions to intoxication and most points in between!
Don’t get me wrong, this is obviously not on a par with what recently emerged from Dave Grohl’s garage, but by the same token it is nowhere near the half arsed tat you often hear in low budget studio demos either. You can almost hear the love in this recording; the enthusiasm of all involved makes it well worth a listen, especially seeing as the price is right.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Siobhan Reilly / The Passing Fancy
Geek Pie Records
A split release from The Passing Fancy and Siobhan Reilly, the latter of which hails from Glasgow. Her opener, Council Estate Grey, is simply beautiful. Catchy, bittersweet and instantly familiar, Reilly’s voice dances and twirls across the ever-present indie pop tightrope that so many female singers fail to negotiate (that whole quirky/ fragile/ powerful thing), the lo-fi vibe works wonderfully here and, with the simple layered backing, the production style is a strength. Her second track, Flitting creates a more serious tone; like a glimpse of a figure through fog, fleeting and beguiling, Reilly’s voice hovers above the guitar and holds your attention, as the mist clears and the song hits its stride you soar and fly on a folky magic carpet ride that is over just too soon. Siobhan Reilly is a revelation and she deserves a wide audience. DIY has never sounded so appealing!
Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you anything about The Passing Fancy. I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them. You know them: whimsical and fun and their two contributions to this four track are typical of their style, evoking a sort of early Housemartins eye for the everyday with a dusting of just plain silly to create bouncy, feel good fun for everyone. And since when did fun become a dirty word?
Long Division 2012 will take place on June 1st – 3rd. After the sell out success of 2011 we have looked at many ways of expanding the festival whilst maintaining its charm and inclusive nature.
An immediate thought was to look at using more venues. 2012 will see the Saturday make use of nine venues, all within a five minute walking distance of one another. We are very pleased with the selection; a theatre, an orangery, a chapel and a town hall all sit alongside more traditional music venues. However, as of this week, our largest venue Black Flag has become unusable.
Some may have heard over the previous few weeks about the business going into administration. This was a huge blow to us as it was the largest gigging space in
We are very disappointed by this but it is sadly symptomatic of the way the economy is affecting small businesses and arts related ventures in general.
We have made the decision to use a venue called Mustangs in its place. Mustangs is a nightclub that holds a very central location in
Security: Instead of in house security, the team used at The Hop, who are experienced in dealing with a live music crowd, will run the venue, ensuring a safe and friendly atmosphere.
PA: We will be using a PA from the same company that is supplying equipment to the rest of the festival and not the in house PA which was not suited to live music in 2011.
For us, those were the two main issues last year and we are working very hard to ensure they are dealt with and that none of the problems from last year are repeated. Aside of those issues, I feel the actual space of Mustangs is very suitable for live music, with its raised areas and multiple balconies; like much of Wakefield it is quirky and unique and I feel confident it will be part of the successes Long Division 2012 will bring.
H.Hawkline has a huge fan in Gruff Rhys and supported him whilst promoting debut album A Cup Of Salt last year whilst also playing alongside a wide range of highly respected artists such as Cate Le Bon, Richard James, Euros Child and Islet. With IMP and a “very special guest” offering their support, it will be a great night at a wonderful venue.
For a chance to win a pair of tickets to see H Hawkline, simply answer this question:
Which band recorded an album called The Hawk Is Howling?
Send an email titled H.Hawkline to email@example.com with your answer and your name before 8pm Wednesday and we’ll announce then winner that evening. Good Luck!