Music

Northeast Corridor
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Introducing: Northeast Corridor

It’s not often we get to do an introducing profile on Oxford students, but the band Northeast Corridor have begun warranting comparisons with other bands formed at the university such as Foals. The soulful, crooning vocals of lead singer Nick Hampson are reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and the subtle guitar playing that accompanies it gives an overall feeling not dissimilar from the most famous band from Oxford, Radiohead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlvG5SWDUaM

Since forming at the beginning of this year, and playing their first show at The Art Bar, the band have already headlined the o2 Academy. They’re now set to play their first BBC Introducing show in Reading.

Despite only having one officially released song to their name, the band’s ambitions are clear. ‘When You’re Sleeping Tonight’ was inspired by homeless LGBT youths who are forced to live on the streets when they are thrown out by their parents. Hampson wrote the song when he was volunteering there and the song captures the cold, loneliness as well as the fear, faced by far too many individuals. With the proceeds from the song going to the Ali Forney centre for LGBT youth, it is rare to see a young band more determined to make a difference than make a name for themselves.

If things continue to go the way they are, they might be able to do both.

Northeast Corridor are Nick Hampson (vocals), Harry Davidson (bass), Tom Stafford (guitar), and Nick Orr (drums).

 

FlyingLotus640
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You’re Dead – Flying Lotus

Listening to a Flying Lotus (Steve Ellison) record for the first time, from ‘1983’ to ‘You’re Dead!’, you are simply awestruck. So many things, all at once, it shouldn’t work, et cetera. This same train of thought leads to the major criticism of Flying Lotus: he creates music which is disjointed, sketch-like, overloaded with ideas. On his last record, ‘Until the Quiet Comes’, he withdrew. The songs were still short, but they weren’t overdosed with the rhythmic mayhem that ‘Cosmogramma’ and everything before had melded so perfectly in my opinion.

The opening tracks of ‘You’re Dead!’ would suggest that Ellison has got hyperactive again. The aptly titled ‘Theme’ introduces the various “sounds” that make up FlyLo’s latest offering: the woozy synths, jazz instrumentation, the breakbeats and everything else imaginable. On the following instrumentals, they styles come and go as quickly as they appear, but the chopped-up jazz samples are consistent, acting as a base for each track. Ellison’s ability to seamlessly blend snippets of the past, present and future is what has made him a unique artist, and this ability is still deafeningly obvious.

This opening of fantastic tracks culminates with the albums second single, ‘Never Catch Me’, a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar. Compton’s good kid’s Midas touch continues with the verses he provides for Flying Lotus’ wandering and morphing track. As the speed builds, dropping the piano chords for trap claps, Lamar’s lines become more frantic in an attempt to keep up with an amphetamine-bass riff; but then back to the piano and another chopped and screwed beat builds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXD0vv-ds8

It’s a shame that the highlight of the record comes only 8 minutes in. It’s also a shame that it’s followed by one of the blandest moments, but what could we expect of a collaboration with the Snoop Dogg of late? The intricacy of the previous tracks has vanished on ‘Dead Man’s Tetris’, clunky beats and repetitive samples – yeah, the album’s called ‘You’re Dead!’ – are overlain with Snoop’s relaxed, and ultimately dull, lines.

The series of eight instrumentals which occupy the groove until the next collaboration, the non-event of ‘Decent into Madness’ with Thundercat, ebb and flow with tempo and style. You are taken in by undulating synths and repetitive bell chimes. The meditation is broken by some sci-fi beats. These reform before your ears and you are again gently swaying. The climax of these woozy instrumentals is Flying Lotus’ uncredited collaboration with Herbie Hancock, ‘Moment of Hesitation’. The track is a tight little jazz number which Ellison has twiddled his knobs over. What should be out of place on an electronic record sits well. The track really highlights the similarities in Flying Lotus and Hancock’s practises, and coalesces the samples used throughout ‘You’re Dead!’ in a satisfying way.

After another lacklustre collaboration, this time with FlyLo’s alter ego Captain Murphy, the record slows down and we are left with a repeating gospel sample, “We will live on, forever”, before the needle lifts and ends Flying Lotus’ study of death.

A frustrating record, ‘You’re Dead!’ is let down with its collaborations and these, unfortunately, occupy the foreground when the LP comes back to mind. Lamar and Hancock’s appearances are extraordinary, as are a number of the small instrumental numbers, but these again are punctuated with mediocrity.

3/5

WH Gullick
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Tune in to Woman’s Hour

Woman’s Hour pick up attention without always trying to thanks to their band name. The relieving thing about this is that they deserve that attention. Their brand of smooth indie washes over the listener, using unobtrusive synths and occasional brass, to create a blend of some of the best elements of indie music.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGitM0sAmoU&w=560&h=315]

They’ve been garnering support for a while now, having first released singles in 2011 before taking a break to record an album at their own pace. Fiona Burgess, the band’s lead singer, said that initially, everything happened very quickly for the band.

“When we first started the band, we were completely naïve and non-professional. It was a case of playing in our bedrooms. We didn’t really expect to ever release anything.”

“When we were first approached by someone to release a single we were kind of flattered. I think that the fact that we were so flattered kind of worked against us because we weren’t prepared.”

“We didn’t like the feeling of not being involved in something which was representing us and our music.”

“It was after that moment that we all decided to commit to the band in a more professional way.”

It became a very holistic approach that the band took, making sure that they were in control with all of the visual elements of their performances, art work and videos. At Village Underground in London, where they kick off the tour which also recently took them to Cellar in Oxford, the stage is dominated by the same pyramids which make up the front cover of their debut album.

“We got quite excited about the idea of thinking about what kind of style we wanted our output to be and what we wanted it to reflect and what we wanted to communicate.”

“We also met the artists Oliver Chanarin and Adam Broomberg. They’re photographers but they’re really kind of fine artists. They showed an interest in our curiosity about art work.”

This new friendship sparked a collaboration based around the use of pedagogic manuals which contained the equivalent of the internet age’s stock photos.

“We looked at these images and thought, “Well, what happens when you take them out of that context, how do you read them?””

“When they’re used as artwork, they’re completely recontextualised, they take on a different meaning. And also they kind of maintain this ambiguity.”

“There’s some beauty in ambiguity…There’s something to be said about allowing the viewer or the listener not to be told”

Ambiguity is a core part of Woman’s Hour’s creative ideals. Taking complete control of the visual aspects of their output was particularly an effort to not have a message dictated over it. When Fiona talks about the band’s latest single, ‘In Stillness We Remain’, she seems cagey about it.

“For me I guess it was a kind of reflection on a time of uncertainty and that’s actually what the whole song is about. It’s about kind of being in limbo.”

It’s only later in the interview she admits that Woman’s Hour try to shy away from an over analysis of their songs.

“I struggle to articulate songs’ meanings because I feel as though there’s some beauty in ambiguity and there’s beauty in the eye of the beholder.”

“I remember being a kid and my mum taking me into an art gallery. She refused to read any of the literature about what she was about to see before she went into the space, because she just wanted to experience the artwork. She didn’t want to be told how she should read it or what it was she was seeing.”

“I think that experience really affected me as a kid and I became really fascinated with the idea of not knowing that much about what I was looking at.”

“If you’re curious enough you can always find out afterwards but there’s something to be said about allowing the viewer or the listener to not be told.”

It’s a refreshing manifesto to hear when bands are often hounded to impart what all their creativity is based upon. Artists like Taylor Swift get to see the double edged sword of this element of music journalism, as she is criticised for making her songs references too explicit.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j43DnACll0&w=560&h=315]

With a band name like Woman’s Hour, you would expect the band to have some strongly held opinions, but you would be wrong to read the band name as a statement. It was actually a result of the band naming their original song writing efforts after Radio 4 shows. Woman’s Hour was the one that stuck.

The portrayal of women in music is still something that concerns and perplexes Fiona Burgess.

“There’s this obsession with the central female character, rather than looking at all the different women in the music industry”

“The way we view women [in music] is like they are the lead singers. Rarely are guitarists or drummers or bassists, who happen to be women in a band, on the front cover of magazines. It’s always this kind of individual iconic female popstar.”

“I think that’s something that worries me. There’s this obsession with the central female character, rather than looking at all the different women in the music industry who are behind the scenes, or at least not in the lead role.”

This attitude pertains in particular to Woman’s Hour who despite being female-fronted, are very much a four person band.

“Josh (Hunnisett, keyboards) was saying that when you see four guys you think of them as a band but when people see one female singer and three guys, they might just think that [the men] are the backing band.”

“It’s so interesting how gender is so important in terms of how people read artists and how people read the roles that people play.”

“There’s this kind of social code that plays into everything.”

 

gerard way
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Gerard Way steps out of the shadows

Gerard Way has always been way more than the emo superstar most people have taken him for over the past decade or so. As My Chemical Romance’s ashes grow cold (ending on ‘Fake Your Death’, an insanely uplifting song about a band’s end), Gerard Way is stepping into a musical spotlight he often was not afforded as lead singer of MCR.

He’s always been ready for this spotlight though. You can see it in the characters he has created, particularly for ‘The Black Parade’ and ‘Danger Days’. His references have always been broad; remember MCR’s cover of ‘Common People’?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xjTtV4x8pM&w=560&h=315]

So ‘Hesitant Alien’ should not be a surprise.

But in some ways it still is. The bright red hair against the navy blue suit that has been part of the promotion has already separated Gerard Way from memories of his old band. The aggressive guitar line, soaked in jagged feedback, that announces the album with ‘The Bureau’, makes a statement. It’s a statement we’ve heard before and it says that you don’t underestimate Gerard Way. He’ll prove you wrong again and again.

The singles, ‘Action Cat’ and ‘No Shows’, have been floating around for a while now. ‘Action Cat’ doesn’t quite demonstrate how good the album as a whole is. It sounds very close to ‘Danger Days’ era MCR, without bringing anything new. Otherwise ‘Hesitant Alien’ is actually a huge break away. However, ‘No Shows’ makes up for it. Opening with eager ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ (a feature of the album) and crunching guitars, it works as the single. You can dance and sing along to it, before a chord change and guitar solo so cheesy and magnificent Aerosmith could have written it. It’s unashamed.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsDSIEq7O08&w=560&h=315]

The songs are short and the album as a whole flashes past you in a hyperactive, intense way. Guitar lines recur, vocals get distorted and Way sounds menacing. Sometimes he yells, sometimes he snarls and sometimes he serenades. When you think you pin the album down, it flips on its head, like ‘Juarez’ which is the lovechild of early Manic Street Preachers and grunge. Which then morphs into ‘Drugstore Perfume’, probably the most obvious homage to Pulp on the album, as Way’s tunes sound exactly like they could have come off ‘His n Hers’. His lyrics may as well have been pinched from Jarvis Cocker’s repertoire too:“dead leaves, desperate summers/all age clubs and metal summers”.

It’s on ‘Brother’ that Gerard Way really shows how much he is in fact capable of. Beginning with the kind of the simple piano progressions which My Chemical Romance always harnessed to huge emotive effect, the song is rousing. It encapsulates the essence of everything Way has stood for over ten years in music as he yells “Does anyone have the guts to shut me up?”

On paper, ‘Hesitant Alien’ is brave. The disparate list of influences, none of which pertain directly to most of MCR’s oeuvre, should be hard to bring together. Yet, listening to it, it sounds confident. Not cocky, just someone who knows he’s giving as good as it gets.

5/5

New Faces Tour November 2014 Landscape Web1
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COMPETITION: win tickets to the Communion New Faces tour

Mumford and Son’s record company, Communion, have introduced the world to some of the biggest names in folk and indie music: from Catfish and the Bottlemen to Michael Kiwanuka to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

The company are now embarking on their biannual tour, showing off their favourite new music. Amber Run, FYFE, Kimberly Anne and Pixel Fix all reach Oxford’s Art Bar on November 7.

We have a two pairs of tickets for the show up for grabs. To enter, simply email music@oxfordstudent.com with the subject “Communion Competition”

About the bands

Amber Run will be closing each night of the tour, ahead of the release of their new EP ‘Pilot’. Specialising in heart felt indie and piano chords in the mould of Bastille, check out ‘Spark’ or ‘Noah.

The electronic artist FYFE (a favourite of Zane Lowe) has an aura of mystery surrounding him. Listen to ‘For You’ to appreciate his silky vocals and clever loops.

She’s already been remixed by Bastille and Kimberly Anne definitely has the talent to be as big as them. A smokey, soul tinged voice puts a fun twist on her brand of pop.

Chances are you might have already seen Oxford based band Pixel Fix at the o2 Academy where they’ve recently had support slots with Eliza and the Bear and Young Kato. The group’s music is hard to put your finger on, using samples and traditional guitar lines to create something fresh.

Aphex-Syro-SYRO
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A love letter 2 AFX

RDJ releases first new music in thirteen years! Yeah, except this, true to form for Cornwall’s favourite ginger, lying, tank-driving ‘n blimp-flying son, is not quite the whole truth. As wiser heads writing excellent first-listen pieces over at FACT magazine and the Quietus have pointed out, the man known most famously under the moniker Aphex Twin has, in a sense, never been away. Throughout the last decade he has been steadily producing techno 12’’ records under other aliases. That’s all out there if you want it. Not as many people listened, probably because it wasn’t Aphex.

(more…)

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