Some singers just have a mysterious, beguiling air about them. Whether it’s down to the beautifully smooth and multi-faceted voice or bewitching stage presence, Kyla La Grange had this Friday night Thekla crowd in the palm of her hand from the moment she walked on to the very end of her hour-long set.
The Watford-born singer showed off her incredible versatility, equally adept as she is at low or uptempo dance-infused material, emotionally-charged ballads – and even at one point towards the end of proceedings, full-on rock. Her material broadly spans the pop genre, albeit predominantly of the darkside variety, but there is also a bedrock of folk in what she does, and the combination of all of this is what makes her show so special.
Her set included material from across both of her albums – 2012’s Ashes and Cut Your Teeth from 2014 – as well as new songs, including Love Harder and Violet Blue both released this year, and Justify from late 2016.
It is perhaps the Cut Your Teeth album that best signifies the sound that La Grange really excels at. Her voice fits so perfectly with the atmospheric electronica backdrop created by the genius DJ and producer Jakwob, so it’s no wonder that the show ended with the title track from that album. It was an uplifting end to a very special performance.
Kyla La Grange – Justify
We caught Sundara Karma‘s headline set at the Bristol leg of the Dot To Dot Festival the other week and they certainly justified top billing. Frontman Oscar Pollock brought his usual formidable stage presence to proceedings which, as well as all the hits from their album Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect, also featured all the mess you might expect from the firing of two huge confetti cannons.
Bristol-based singer/producer Tamu Massif has revealed new track Animals, taken from his second EP Bala which is out now.
“I approach writing songs as collages” explains the Bristol-based artist, whose real name is Dave Dixon. “I usually layer up different sections and then connect them. On Bala, sampling my own voice became integral to the songwriting process and I started recording tracks purely to lay down vocals I could manipulate elsewhere.”
The places in which Bala was conceived find their way into the music, both in the lyrics and through field recordings. “Recording clips on my phone in various locations and moments over the past few years has allowed me to add a personal context to the music,” explains Dixon. “It documents where I’ve been, both mentally and physically.”
Tamu Massif has recently completed a tour support slot with The Japanese House, and can be seen performing live again at London’s Citadel Festival on 16 July. Tickets here.
Tamu Massif – Animals
Performing as part of the Bristol leg of the Dot To Dot Festival, The Big Moon brought their spiky, vibrant indie-rock to a full capacity SWX. It was unsurprising that they drew such a crowd – the group has been earning high praise while extensively touring debut album Love In The 4th Dimension. But the considerable hype surrounding Juliette Jackson’s band is not unjustified; their live proposition is particularly impressive.
As is always the case with festival sets, their show was all too short and sweet, but they crammed the favourites into their half hour timeslot, including Formidable, Cupid and ending with the superb Sucker. There was also a brilliant cover of Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger – a great song, given a cracking twist by the London four-piece.
Currently coming towards the tail-end of a support slot on tour with Amber Run, Bristol duo Meadowlark have been busily raising their profile and picking up plenty of new fans with their finely-crafted pop melodies and emotive production.
Made up of Kate McGill and Dan Broadley, the band have recently released their Nocturnes EP of stripped back songs, ahead of the emergence of their debut album later this year. We caught up with Dan to find out a bit more about their story so far and what the year ahead has in store for them…
SYNC: So where did it all begin?
Dan Broadley: Kate and myself both met years before Meadowlark started. I was directing music videos and playing in rock bands and she was pursuing a career as a solo artist. The first time we met was on a video shoot, I was directing the promo for one of her singles. It was amazing how much we had in common and when the time came for us both to pursue something else musically it seemed natural to start a project together and from that Meadowlark was born. We have never looked back since. It’s such an adaptive project, we can experiment with so many different genres and musical ideas with this band.
SYNC: What’s the songwriting process like for the band?
Broadley: We never give ourselves any constraints and have written songs in all manner of ways. The songs we are most proud of are the songs that we write together from scratch. As well as sonic poems that contain experiences from both Kate and myself’s lives, our songs are also postcards for us, each one carries a specific memory of how we felt and how we were at the time of writing it.
When writing our first record we wanted to find a space be able to lock ourselves away in and focus on nothing but music itself. We found a holiday cottage on the internet that offered a grand piano and we booked in multiple week-long stays. It was an amazing time, the space felt magical, every time we went we would write about five songs which meant it didn’t take long at all to have an albums worth of material that we were really proud of.
SYNC: Nocturnes has been stirring up lots of interest. What was the thinking behind this EP – and in particular the idea of giving the song About You Now such a beautiful new slant?
Broadley: When Kate and myself write music we go in at a very raw level, just acoustic instruments usually, penning the song in a simple way, I think it’s really important that a song works in that way – it can be so easy to hide a bad song behind good production. Once we’ve written a song we then play around with its sonic boundaries, adding synthetic elements to create our desired mood and energy. Nocturnes was a wonderful opportunity to take the songs back to a more raw and intimate state, showing them in a more honest light. About You Now seemed like a very random choice to most people but it’s everything we love about songwriting. The original Sugababes version was a pop smash but buried underneath the production was a much darker song and without changing any of the chords or melodies and simply playing it differently we were able to bring that to light.
Meadowlark – About You Now
SYNC: Last year was a busy year for festivals for you both – is 2017 shaping up to be the same?
Broadley: Just looking at the calendar now and it’s certainly filing up. Festival season is always a lot of fun, you never really know who you are going to play in front of which adds to the excitement.
SYNC: Finally, how has work on the album been progressing?
Broadley: We actually finished the record a little while back, it was an amazing feeling to finish it and have a full body of work of songs that we are so proud of. We are hoping for it to be out before the end of this year!
Meadowlark – Headlights
South London duo Alpines are currently touring their second album Another River and were in Bristol last night midway through a run of dates across the UK and Europe.
Singer-songwriter Catherine Pockson and producer Bob Matthews have put together a striking album full of emotive lyrics and experimental sounds. Transferring this to the live show was never going to be easy given the highly polished nature of the songs they have created, but bolstered on stage by a drummer and guitarist, they manage to bring the album to life beautifully.
We’ve written a full review of the show for Bristol’s leading events website 365Bristol.com so do have a read. In the meantime, here are a few shots from the gig…
Another long-standing favourite of ours to tick off the live list, we finally got the chance to see Ladyhawke. Thankfully, she was everything we expected and more. A cracking performance of a set that included a real mix of old and new, with plenty of time given over to her self-titled debut album as well as some of the newer songs from last year’s Wild Things.
Particular highlights were probably Let It Roll, Paris Is Burning, and of course, she wrapped things up with the brilliant My Delirium.
Our full review for this one is over on the superb 365Bristol.com website so do have a read. In the meantime, here are a few of our photos from the show…
After a couple of aborted attempts for various reasons over the course of 2016, we FINALLY got to see Shura live and it was well worth the wait. We’ve been big fans of this talented electropop songwriter for a while now and it was great to hear most of her album Nothing’s Real actually performed for real.
She was impressive – not least as she has embarked on this UK tour with a bout of the flu right from the start, although it didn’t seem to notice apart from the odd cough… which is fine and dandy as long as we’ve not all caught it that is! Anyway, get well soon Shura.
We’ve written a load of words about the gig for our good friends at 365Bristol.com so please do take a read here. In the meantime, here are a load of images of Shura in action…
Having seen Anne-Marie perform with Rudimental a few times over the past couple of years, we already knew how good a singer the 25-year-old from Essex was. Nonetheless, this was our first chance to catch her live as a solo artist so we were looking forward to seeing the next stage in her creative evolution.
She was typically funny, slightly scatty and full of fun which made for an entertaining hour-long set. We’re written a full gig review for Bristol’s leading events website 365Bristol.com so do pop over there and have a read. We were also busy snapping away and you can see a selection of our shots below. (All images: © Sync Music Blog)
We’re rattled on lots about Jerry Williams, 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Portsmouth, so it was great to finally see her live when her four-leg tour rocked up in Bristol last night.
Sooooo relieved to report that are no studio-based magic tricks going on here – her voice really is as good as it sounds on record. She gave a flawless performance throughout what was a wholly enjoyable gig.
Debut single from Bristol psycho-pop outfit Cousin Kula, Hesitation is the first official release from a band that has been busy on the gigging circuit over the past year or so with festival appearances and support slots (including a support show for Dutch Uncles that we caught last December – they’re a sterling live proposition, with variety and musicianship aplenty).
Singles-wise, Hesitation is a strong start and anyone who has caught one of their shows will know there is lots more to come from these guys.
Cousin Kula – Hesitation
New York-based indie-rockers We Are Scientists opened their UK tour with a cracking mix of old and new material at Bristol’s Bierkeller last night.
Touring in support of their fifth studio album Helter Seltzer, Keith Murray and Chris Cain – joined on the road by drummer Keith Carne – performed several tracks from the new LP (including our favourite and former Track of the Week, Buckle) as well as loads of the older favourites, including The Great Escape and After Hours.
We’ve written a full gig review for 365Bristol.com (read it here), and check out some pics from the show below.
We’ve been listening to a fair bit of Bristol band Cousin Kula since catching them supporting Dutch Uncles a couple of months back. Their latest live vid for new song Falling Forward is worth a few minutes of your time as we’re pretty sure it will get into your head as it has done for us!
Cousin Kula – Falling Forward
Two decades of fusing different dance music styles has turned Basement Jaxx into an enthralling live act…
London-based dance duo Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe celebrated 20 years as Basement Jaxx this year, and their eclectic fusion of musical styles was in full effect on the sold out Bristol leg of their latest tour.
Taking Junto – their seventh studio album – on the road, they presented several tracks, including Never Say Never, Power to the People, Rock This Road, Mermaid of Salinas, and Unicorn. But if they’ve mastered one thing over the past couple of decades, it’s how to create a well-balanced set for their live shows. This one was peppered with all of their biggest hits.
Opener Good Luck set the tempo high and it was one that never really dropped, despite some heavier dance interludes that represented more of a pure take on their garage and house origins than the chart successes that they are most well-known for.
Any disappointment at only getting truncated versions of Oh My Gosh and Raindrops was more than compensated for by the inclusion of Red Alert, Romeo, Do Your Thing and Rendez-Vu in their (almost) full glory.
Rainbow-themed costumes and stage lighting set the scene for the message of peace and partying that they have strived to achieve with the altogether more upbeat and ‘sunny’ new album. This is carried off to perfection on the live stage by a stellar group of supporting artists that Buxton and Ratcliffe have assembled. Vocalist Shakka – previously in Bristol as support for Rudimental earlier this year – is a stand-out talent, whilst double-act Vula Malinga and Sharlene Hector are fantastically charismatic front women.
Highlight of the night however, had to be Where’s Your Head At. Not only did this see Buxton unleashed from his otherwise fixed position behind the decks to perform the vocals, but he was joined on stage for a breathtakingly manic and energetic few minutes by the rest of the ensemble of singers and dancers. There was also a man dressed as an ape, presumably a nod to the infamous monkey-based video that accompanied the 2001 song. Bonkers, but brilliant.
The full version of this review first appeared on the Bristol events and listings website 365 Bristol
Basement Jaxx – Good Luck (featuring Lisa Kekaula), 2003:
Slick, sweet and full of energy, Maximo Park reiterated why they’ve been such an alt-rock mainstay
It was the first time in their 14-year career that Maximo Park have had to reschedule any of their UK performances, but for most that turned out on a Sunday night at the O2 Academy, it was well worth the wait for this rearranged date.
Eccentric frontman Paul Smith donned dark sunglasses throughout not, he said, because he “wanted to do a Blues Brothers impersonation” but due to the emergency eye surgery which had caused the original gig’s postponement earlier this month.
Against doctor’s orders though, 35-year-old Smith gave his usual outstandingly energetic performance, bouncing around the stage whilst maintaining the seemingly effortless vocal delivery that fans of the band have come to appreciate.
He led the Newcastle-based band through their polished 90 minute set with a broad range of material from right across their career. It’s always a relief to find that a band with an established discography of five studio albums is not so precious about their latest work that they want to push their back catalogue – which includes some formidable indie music milestones – into a bit-part role in the set list.
Of course, there was plenty from the band’s new album Too Much Information, including the tracks Drinking Martinis, Her Name was Audre, and Midnight on the Hill.
But things understandably tended to come alive a little more with the more familiar tracks Apply Some Pressure and Limassol from their first album A Certain Trigger, and Our Velocity, Books from Boxes, By the Monument and Girls Who Play Guitars from the 2007 album Our Earthly Pleasures – arguably their best work to date.
That said, there is plenty about Too Much Information to keep long-term fans and newcomers happy. As often seems the case with Maximo, it perhaps takes a couple of listens, but the endearing and ‘real’ lyrical quality of the songwriting often brings about an eventual emotional attachment to what are, on the whole, pure love songs.
The set concluded with Going Missing, which has become something of an anthem for a band whose energy and commitment to the live performance has not dimmed in the slightest since their heady early days.