Monthly Archives: June 2011

Live review: Bachelorette, Hook And The Twin, The Title Sequence at the CAMP, London, 22nd June 2011

I went to my 12th gig of the year last night, so I thought it was about time I tried to write a review of one! The venue was The City Arts and Music Project, near Old Street tube station in London. The stage is in the basement, which is accessed by a staircase next to the main bar. It’s a spacious room with a decent-sized elevated stage, with décor which is very much “tatty urban chic” – or maybe it’s just never been decorated. Anyway, it has the right feel for a gritty indie venue. The bar in the venue area only serves bottled beer, and it’s not the cheapest.

The band I came to see was Hook And The Twin, who I have been following since I first saw them play live in January 2010. They were the second of three acts playing tonight.

As is usually the case, I turned up too early, and I was the first one into the venue. A couple followed me in a few minutes later, although one of them disappeared for a while.

The Title Sequence

Rather embarrassingly, by the time the opening act The Title Sequence took the stage at 8.45 pm, I was one of only two people in the audience!  This was rather a shame, as they were excellent. A duo comprising David Bailey on guitar and Nick Crofts on keyboards, the centrepiece of their stage set is a reel-to-reel tape deck which provides extra backing to their sound. The music is a kind of indie-folk, at times dreamy and hypnotic. The closing number “Evening Spent With You”, the b-side of their debut single, was particularly impressive, building to a soaring crescendo. They are a band well worth investigating, and I have already purchased their single from iTunes on the strength of this performance.

Hook And The Twin

The audience had increased to 17 by the time The Title Sequence finished their set, and continued to grow as Hook And The Twin set up their equipment.  When I saw them play live last year, it was just the duo of Tom Havelock on guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals, and Marcus Efstratiou on drums, the live sound built up using layer upon layer of looping. This year, they have added James and Anna Vincent  from indie pop band My Tiger My Timing to the live line-up. James shares the guitar and bass duties with Tom, and Anna adds extra keyboards and backing vocals, creating a more organic live sound. They opened with last year’s single “Bang Bang Cherry”, although it didn’t go to plan as Tom’s effects microphone failed to produce the required vocal effects! Nevertheless they played on, and completed a superb set of six songs, with new tracks “Tribes” and “We’re So Light” standing out.

Bachelorette

The headline act was Bachelorette, which consists solely of New Zealand-born Annabel, who has been around long enough to have already made three albums. Her stage set is somewhat unusual, two tables supporting a huge flight case, on top of which sit a couple of laptops, a keyboard, and various other mixing/sequencing boxes. Her music is built around electronic looping and ethereal vocals. The most obvious reference point is Laurie Anderson, of “O Superman” fame. It’s all very impressive how she controls all the gadgets at her disposal to build up the sounds through looping, but much of the time it seems she is more focussed on fiddling with the laptop than looking at the audience. It just feels a bit lacking in performance value, rather like watching a DJ at work. Interesting, but not as engaging as I would have hoped.

An enjoyable night, anyway, and excellent value at £6 for two hours of original and diverse music.

Links:
The Title Sequence:
http://myspace.com/thetitlesequence

Hook And The Twin:
http://www.myspace.com/hookandthetwin

Bachelorette:
http://www.myspace.com/bachelorettepop

 

 

 

Ballad of a fallen salad

The Asda Prawn Layered Salad. I don’t know how healthy or not it is, and I don’t know whether it is the best of the Prawn Layered Salads offered by the various supermarkets. All I know is that the Asda variety got my vote as it is the only one which doesn’t contain bits of carrot.

It’s a small tub containing pasta shells, prawns, bits of cucumber and lettuce and a tomato which is usually softer than it should be, but provides one of the few occasions when I eat a tomato. The whole thing is topped by a savoury dressing, and a small plastic bag containing a folding spoon, which picks up far too much of the dressing when you have to fish it out and throw it away.

The great thing about this salad is that it goes with anything. Put it on a plate with a warmed-up sausage roll, quiche, or Quorn escalope, as I have been doing recently, and you have an easy-to-prepare and very satisfying meal.

At least that was the case. As of a few weeks ago, the words “improved recipe” appeared on the lid. An inspection of the contents shows that the pasta shells have been superseded by small pasta tubes. Having tried a couple of these since the change, I can also confirm that the tomato has gone missing. The new pasta is stickier and generally tasteless, the lettuce gets more and more disappointing, and as a whole it looks like a shadow of its former self. So much for “improved recipe” – there goes one of my staple weekly meals.

I suppose this means more visits to Morrisons to use their salad bar, but it’s a lottery whether they will have any of the bits that I like. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose seem obsessed with putting strings of spinach into most of their salad bar items, which puts me off.

Luckily for Asda, I am still too fond of their microwaveable packs of salmon or haddock to stop going there, and the fact that it is the nearest supermarket to me also works in its favour. But I feel like firing off an angry letter to their customer services to demand the return of the “classic” Prawn Layered Salad.

Adventures in home recording

I don’t want to write here about my “career” of songwriting and home recording – I covered that in a Myspace blog I wrote a couple of years ago, which is <<here>>.

This is just a plug for some of the home recording that I have been doing over the last week or so, now that my free time has given me the opportunity to properly investigate and learn the software I bought some time ago.

I only intend to record new material – there will be no going back to the songs I wrote 20 years ago. It is only recently that I have even begun to compose new songs, and so far all of them are instrumentals. This at least means that the output won’t be ruined by my non-existent singing voice (and sometimes cringe-making lyrics!). I know that I’m no virtuoso on any instrument, in fact I’m barely competent on anything, but I do my best!

My first effort was a recording of a piece called “Upstream”. This project took off when I discovered the “delay” effect which gave the guitar part that ringing, echoing sound. I’m rather pleased with my drumming on this track, considering I have hardly touched the Yamaha DD-11 in 20 years. I cheated by recording the bass drum separately from the rest of the drum part, but it’s all played live – no pre-set rhythm track. I also had to quickly re-learn the bass guitar, which I again have barely played in years.

Anyway, here is “Upstream”:

The second project is a little tune called “Sunshine” which I wrote over Christmas. I’ve already posted solo acoustic versions of this, but I wanted to add an arrangement around it. The first problem is actually playing the guitar piece through without major mistakes – which is something I have rarely, if ever done, so far. The main guitar part on this version is constructed from around six takes. The percussion gives it a bit of a Latin feel, I think – again this was all played live and not a pre-set rhythm!

Here is the latest mix of “Sunshine”:

Any comments or criticisms on the tracks would be welcomed!

My recording studio