Mike Atkinson

Natalie Duncan, Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Wednesday June 28

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on June 29, 2012

(originally published in the Nottingham Post)

She might have moved to London, but Natalie Duncan still feels like “one of ours”. Less than a month before the release of her debut album, Devil In Me, she has returned to Nottingham for a short season of shows, giving us a chance to preview the songs and re-acquaint ourselves with her extraordinary talent.

The sixty-minute set began with one of its boldest strokes. The opening lines of the album’s title track (“Sometimes I feel you looking for the devil in me, like I’m a dying dog and I’m begging for your bones”) were delivered unaccompanied, holding us captive and chilling the air.

Switching from raw vocals to elegant, stately keyboards, Natalie briefly calmed the mood, before opening the song up to her four piece band. These included a guitarist in a Miles Davis t-shirt, a glockenspiel player called Hattie, and a drummer called Hendrix. Other, more internationally distinguished players appear on the album, brought in by its Grammy-winning producer, but the young touring outfit did the recorded arrangements full justice.

Although her lyrics don’t exactly shy away from stark soul-baring, Natalie’s songwriting explores other avenues also. Some songs are addressed to friends, such as the spellbinding Flower, which offers touching words of tribute and support. Other songs observe the world around her: Old Rock was inspired by a drunk in a city pub, and Pick Me Up Bar is a caustic commentary on society’s false quick fixes.

The band left the stage for two solo numbers, neither of which appear on the album, and another unrecorded song (I Became So Sweet) closed the show in fine style, hinting at a songwriting stockpile which has barely been mined. Headline sets at Nottingham Contemporary (July 6th) and on Splendour’s Courtyard stage (July 21st) will follow; neither should be ignored.

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Kappa Gamma & Kagoule – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Wednesday June 20

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on June 22, 2012

(originally published in the Nottingham Post)

In order to showcase some of the Nottingham acts that will be appearing at the Splendour festival on July 21st, the Bodega has embarked on a series of five “Road To Splendour” nights. Ahead of shows from Natalie Duncan, Saint Raymond, The Barnum Meserve and Opie Deino, the season commenced with two young bands who first shared a stage at Rock City in December, supporting Dog Is Dead. 

Teenage trio Kagoule have been steadily building their reputation over the past few months, and it would be a surprise if they remained unsigned for much longer. Musically, they have a knack of balancing light and dark, interspersing grinding, power-chord driven, grunge-derived workouts with delicate, reflective melodic sections. The contrast could be startling at times; when the shimmeringly lovely Made Of Concrete lurched into the brutal Battle Howl, it was hard to believe you were still watching the same band. Meanwhile, the three performers negotiated these switches with calm purposefulness, displaying an unshowy intensity that draws you right into their world. 

Headliners Kappa Gamma opted for a different approach, with a relaxed onstage manner that made light of their considerable technical prowess. A single is due out in August on Nottingham’s Denizen Recordings label, and exclusive advance copies were available at the merch stand. Both tracks got an airing: the plaintive Just Another, whose inventive twists and turns are lashed together with a sturdy refrain (“you control it”), and the more expansive but equally unpredictable Wildfire, which couples Dog Is Dead-style chorals with intricate math-rock instrumentation. Sandwiched between them was a brand new track, only completed a day earlier, whose ambitious, episodic scope suggested that Kappa Gamma have only just begun to untap their full potential.

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Cantaloupe – Teapot EP

Posted in LeftLion, singles reviews by Mike A on June 21, 2012

(originally published in LeftLion magazine)

Representing three-fifths of the late lamented Souvaris, who played their farewell show in February, Cantaloupe retain elements of their parent band’s approach, whilst forging a distinctive new path of their own.

The four instrumental tracks on this debut release are shorter, brighter, snappier propositions, with John Simson’s retro-futuristic synths placed in the foreground. Opening track Teapot and closing track Horse are relatively straight-up, four-to-the-floor affairs, with a sunny, bubbling, krautrock-like, early Stereolab feel; you could almost imagine them soundtracking an optimistic promotional film for an early Seventies shopping precinct.

The music dips into more reflective waters on Hubbub and Scuttle, which re-introduce the players’ fondness for tricky time signatures, and their knack for making seem like the most natural thing in the world. There aren’t many bands who would introduce a track as their “disco number” at a gig, and then proceed to play it in 10:4 time – and even for that alone, Cantaloupe should be cherished.

Preview on Bandcamp.
Pre-order / buy the EP.
Read more about Cantaloupe.

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THePETEBOX – Future Loops

Posted in album reviews, LeftLion by Mike A on June 21, 2012

(originally published in LeftLion magazine)

Although he first made his name as a beatboxer, the term scarcely begins to describe the full range of Pete Sampson’s capabilities. Making good on the promise of last year’s YouTube cover of The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind (which has already notched up over two million plays), Pete has expanded the concept for his debut album.

Just as before, all the tracks are performed entirely live, and each is accompanied by a performance video, giving viewers a glimpse of how the music is stitched together. Looping and layering his vocals and guitar, Pete builds these richly detailed tracks from scratch, turning himself into a one-man band.

Stylistically, we’re leaning into indie-rock territory rather than hip-hop, as evidenced by covers of MGMT (Kids) and Nirvana (Lithium) – but the scope is broad enough to encompass the drum and bass of Fugue In DnB Minor, the brassy blues of V.O.D.K.A. (both original compositions), and even a Beach Boys track.

Watch and listen to Future Loops.
Buy Future Loops.

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