Last night I dreamt I went to Novocaine’s reunion gig. It was in a factory that had been turned into an arts installation. Novocaine played under a dismantled atom bomb hanging from the ceiling. The gig was preceded by a short film about Novocaine, mostly starring bassist Russell and strangely set in Cardiff Bay. John Sicolo was in the audience, as was Jacko, the ace Novocaine guitarist who disappointingly is not part of the reunion. Many of the other great faces who I used to watch Novocaine carve up TJ’s with in the 90s were there – through the foggy daze of post-dream memory I can still see Bard, Ali, Carlton BM and Parfitt. Even my new dog Patches was there. The gig was fuggin ace.
I think my subconscious is slightly excited about July 10th – the TJ’s in the Square gig, celebrating the life of John Sicolo.
The full line-up of TJ’s in the Square is GLC, Darling Buds, Novocaine, Flyscreen, Rollerco, Doctor Bison, Disco, Varispeed, Bad Samaritans, Elephant Rescue Plan, 2Rude and Detached.
The flicker of fairy lights. The taste of a forest on a wet day. The sound of a backroom deep in a David Lynch dream. Harbour boats bobbing on a slow tide. An empty armchair letting slip the secret of a past owner. Hope Sandoval lounging on a carousal, legs swinging over the side, watching the glitter blur of each slow revolution.
Skeletal love-torn hymns that waltz to their own heartbeat. This Mortal Coil. An ice-crisp voice that seems to live behind your eyelids; but only when you close them. The ritual of elegant decay that is only revealed through timelapse video – even that Nine Inch Nail one for Hurt showing a rotting fox carcass in reverse. Victoria Legrand purring “Your wish is my command” on Wedding Bell, pulling the melody down into an Abba daze before releasing it back into the air. Nico and Marianne Faithful and Francoise Hardy.
Felix are delicate like ribbons blowing in the afternoon breeze delicate. Vulnerable, pastel chamber pop swept with minimal piano and cello while Lucinda Chua’s verbose vocals undulate overhead. The sparse, distant piano stirs with the grace of Nyman and Satie, while echoing Rachel Grimes’ haunting arrangements in Rachel’s.
Seemingly effortless like a summer’s day – at times they evoke the feeling of walking through long grass, touching the tips with your fingers – there’s more than a trickle of melancholy; of reminiscence; of elegant but cutting honesty – Chua’s pining love on the Debussy-like ‘Death to Everyone but Us’ for instance. These are quiet melodies to silence a room. Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes slowed down to a crawl; Cat Power stretching awake; Max Richter curling up with Antony and the Johnsons. As soft as your slow breath as you read this.
I’m not sure how many musicians you can fit inside a hat but Rock Lottery will attempt it on Saturday morning. Twenty five musicians from 14 different bands will be pulled out at random by their musical legs to form five brand new bands. Five bands that will exist for one day only – and they have only have that day to write 20 minutes of new material and debut it at Dempsey’s in the evening.
As soon as the new bands are drawn, each new set of musicians will be locked up in their own rehearsal room, under pressure to write four or five new songs that will be startling enough to win Rock Lottery 2009.
Rock Lottery’s organisers predict that “friendships will blossom, boundaries will be broken, whole new genres will be born, musical differences will explode, and there will undoubtedly be disagreements, probably even tears. But by the end of it we will have experienced something completely unlike what’s gone before, and along the way we’ll have raised some money for a very worthy cause – the Paul Ward Memorial Fund.”
Tom McRae is to precede a full UK tour early next year with an intimate free show at Cardiff’s North Star this Friday, 11 December.
The singer-songwriter, whose eponymous debut in 2000 was nominated for the Mercury Prize, a Q Magazine Award and a Brit, will release his fifth album in February. The Alphabet of Hurricanes, an album in two parts, was recorded over three years in studios, hotel rooms and backstage in the US and UK.
McRae is a haunting and eclectic singer with an ability to make the most expansive halls feel intimate and warm. The North Star gig is a pretty unique opportunity to get even more up close and personal.
PopMatters, July 2008
If there’s a nagging conviction behind Stay Positive, it’s a constant refusal to be pinned down on E Street, revealing a toxic indulgence to revel in the spit and swagger of the punk side of town.
And you thought the Hold Steady were just living on E Street? Littered with early Springsteen analogies ever since they broke through with the bar room tales of Boys and Girls in America, Craig Finn has constantly referred to the debt his band owes to the likes of the Ramones, Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, only for critics to remain defiant of their origins in favour of references to the New Jersey Godfather. If there’s a nagging conviction behind Stay Positive, the Hold Steady’s fourth album, it’s a constant refusal to be pinned down on E Street, revealing a toxic indulgence to revel in the spit and swagger of the punk side of town.
While Stay Positive proves that Finn and co. still love to get with the E Street shuffle, the first crashing notes of “Constructive Summer”, the record’s charged opener, are a “White Riot”-style riff that Mick Jones would be proud of. The tingling piano and made-for-arena drums that follows may be pure Springsteen, but only after he’s been dragged through a dozen chaotic bars by Finn, all the time regaling the Boss with the genius of Bob Mould. Seventeen seconds into “Constructive Summer” and Finn has already dropped an Iggy Pop reference:
Me and my friends are like the drums on Lust for Life
We pound it out on floor toms
Our psalms are sing-along songs
After last year’s successful debut, Soundtrack, Cardiff’s international film and music festival returns this week for another ambitious programme exploring the relationship between sound and celluloid.
Proving that sequels can be a good thing, the 5 day festival kicks-off this evening with an opening night screening of Powell and Pressburger’s sublime and tragic masterpiece the Red Shoes. Ravishing, sweeping and utterly powerful, the Red Shoes tells the story of a lead ballerina, torn between her Mephistophelean impresario and the young, ambitious composer of the prophetic The Red Shoes ballet. It’s an explosion of grace and colour and a perfect opening choice for a festival that aims to reveal the symbiotic relationship between film and sound.
And nicely done too: fresh from winning an Oscar for Powell and Pressburger’s previous classic Black Narcissus, the Red Shoes’ cinematographer was Jack Cardiff.
The rest of the festival programme lives up nicely to its opening night promise. On Thursday Cineworld hosts the world premier of Separado!, Gruff Rhys’ psychedelic western musical in which Gruff takes us on a pan continental road trip in search of his long lost Patagonian uncle, the poncho wearing guitarist Rene Griffiths. The Premiere of Separado! will be followed by a Q&A featuring Gruff Rhys, co-director Dylan Goch and Guardian journalist and author Will Hodgkinson.