31 Oct 2013

DAVID WALA - A A D Photography Exhibition - Cluny, Newcastle - 6th November 2013 - January 2014

It’s the participatory element of David Wala’s latest exhibition titled A A D (I’ll come back to that title later) that sets this collection of portraits apart.

Rather than documenting the local music scene, Wala has taken his work in a different direction by handing over creative control to those who are typically his subject matter and in doing so has prompted questions surrounding authority, ownership and the role of participatory art within photography.

The methodology for A A D is simple; Wala sets up a Hasselbald (analogue) medium format camera and an old-style squeeze ball shutter release that he places in the hands of his subject. It’s up to them, the subject, to take the shot.

A A D stands for Analogue (the  type  of  camera  used)  Analogue  (the  film  used)  and  Digital  (the  printing process), and it is also the abbreviation that is found on the back of most CDs. If you have used an analogue camera you will resonate with that laborious process of setting up a shot – which is so far removed from digital photography it’s unreal. With analogue you feel like you HAVE to get every shot right because your limit is dictated to you by a roll of film you have wedged in the back of your camera. Every click of the shutter is precious because it’s counting down to your last shot.

Wala has taken what is normally a very controlled process where the artist dictates the outcome and flipped it on its head and this is where it gets interesting. Relinquishing creative control regarding when the shutter button is released to the subjects themselves puts the subject in a position of power regarding how their image is captured and in turn this amplifies the personalities of those in the portrait. Wala also includes the contact sheets in the exhibition itself, allowing the audience to see which shot was selected from the entire roll of film the subjects had to play with. Again this emphasises the individual personalities of the subjects.

I suppose this is what I most enjoyed because it reminded me that these subjects were real people, real musicians in real bands and you start to see the beauty in human error – the blurred shot, the unexpected shot. Then you encounter the subjects who get creative and bring in props to create scenes and you see the beginnings of a narrative or dialogue between the subjects coming through.

You get a definite sense of playfulness from this collection, which is emphasized because the subjects lack inhibition when placed in a position of authority – they don’t have palpitations over out of focus shots or whether this is ill-lit scene and they’ve only got 7 shots left over - it’s all trial and error and the fun of releasing the shutter to the surprise of someone who said they “weren’t ready, so why did you take the photo?? – I can hear the conversations that went on. With these portraits Wala and his subjects have rekindled is a sense of play that so many of us seem to lose touch with. Thankfully there is no pressure here, this is just a massive experiment in social interaction and human creativity in celebration of the joy of the human touch.

Words: Frances McKenna
Picture: David Wala (Howler pictured)

David Wala has a Kickstarter campaign which offers some unique rewards, including the camera

and shutter release used for most of this project. Visit the page for more information and

a video explaining the project:

30 Oct 2013

*NEW MONTHLY FEATURE* Laura McBeth's 'Life Through Music'

Life through Lists Music

My First...

I'm not an authority on music, I'm leading with that. I'm not even an authority on lists. But I do like them (click here for proof) and I do like music (click here for even more proof). So, if I set your expectations there, this should work out.

As this is my first list for NE:MM, and never one to ignore the writers life-raft better known as a 'theme', this is my list of music-based firsts...

1. The First Song I Heard

‘Caravan of Love’ ~ Housemartins

I’m exercising a bit of artistic license with ‘first heard’; this came out at the tail end of 1986, at which time, I was two years old. Undoubtedly, I’d heard other songs before then, but this is the first one I remember hearing, and the one that my family mercilessly bring up in the presence of any man I’ve ever introduced them to.

I still quite like this song, but none of the other stuff by the Housemartins. I am marginally comforted by band member Norman Cook who eventually, released from his cocoon became Fat Boy Slim, who was pretty influential in my music tastes as I grew older, but this is soured by other band members forming The Beautiful South; a group that would certainly be top of my “cannot, will not, listen to” list.

2. The First Band I Loved

The Strokes

Before The Strokes, there was Nirvana, The Prodigy, No Doubt, Stereophonics, Ocean Colour Scene, Oasis – loads of bands, that I thought I loved. But it wasn’t a true, enduring love.

The Strokes were the first band that I adored, completely unencumbered by friend’s opinions or peer pressure… peer pressure is what makes you listen to ‘Good Riddance’ by Greenday on repeat every day, peer pressure forces you pretend that you actually care about the Blur/Oasis rivalry, peer pressure makes you deny your deep seated love of UK Garage. Peer pressure is no good for no-one.

Is This It? by The Strokes is without question one of the most unstoppably fucking brilliant albums of our generation. It’s nonchalant and laced with apathy whilst at the same time capturing moments of fervent spontaneity and excitement.

This album was right place, right time, right sound, right band.
And Julian Casblancas is probably the coolest man on the planet.

3. The First Single I Bought

‘Bump n Grind’ ~ R Kelly

I was ten years old (too young for R Kelly?)
It was a cassette tape. It was £1.99.
I’ve got nothing else.

4. The First Band I Saw Live

Ocean Colour Scene

I saw Ocean Colour Scene in height of the Britpop hullaballoo following their “critically acclaimed” album Moseley Shoals (incidentally, featuring on the front over, Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa – my former hometown and home of Nizlopi…); I was about twelve I think, and to be honest was less fussed about seeing the band and more about impressing an older boy who was obviously, a Lambretta sporting Mod-a-like disciple of the British indie band movement that occupied much of the mid-90s.

The gig, was overwhelming and brilliant and slightly terrifying, being essentially, a child.

NB: Around the same time, I accidentally walked past Steps, performing at the Coventry city centre Christmas light switch on. This is an illegal submission based on the definition of ‘band’ – a group of musicians and vocalists.

5. The First Band That Changed My Mind

Bloc Party

Silent Alarm is another one of those albums, alongside the likes of Is This It?, Nirvana Unplugged in New York and Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj (no? Just me then…) that just smacks you in the face and changes your opinion and playlists for ever more.

My major music influences were handed down to me from my dad; The Jam, The Smiths, The Kinks. Or, put simply: GUITARS. Men and guitars.

Then; Oasis, The Strokes, Nirvana, Stereophonics. Or, put simply: more guitars. I knew in which camp I resided, and it certainly was not the electronic or syncopated or techno or house “camps”. Eurgh.

And then this. A band that seemed to bridge the two genres of indie and dance (“dancepunk” people in the know call it) and undoubtedly paved the way for the likes of Late of the Pier, MGMT, Foals and Klaxons; to name just a few. For me anyway, they were a gateway to a whole world of music I’d never have considered before.

Bloc Party are intense and frantic and rousing and thoughtful and melancholy. And they play guitars sometimes.

Words: Laura McBeth

27 Oct 2013

TRAVIS - Sage, Gateshead - 23rd October 2013

In my mind a venue like Sage Gateshead is usually reserved for high brow classical, jazz and soul acts. Tonight it is host to a Scottish indie band who headlined Glastonbury in 2000. Travis are welcomed by a crowd who probably remember them first time around, and then some.  The Glasgow guys enter a darkened stage and open with the new track ‘Mother’ then into the catchy 2008 track ‘Selfish Jean’.  It is worth noting their new album ‘Where You Stand’ is their first after taking a five year hiatus to ‘become Dads’ according to front man Fran Healy. 

The band throw in classic singles such as ‘Driftwood’ and ‘Side’ between new material reminding the audience of the rainy summer of 2000. The show climaxes with Healy belting out their breakthrough ballad ‘Turn’ demonstrating they have still got it. 

The Scottish four-piece exit stage left but the show isn’t over yet. The crowd erupts as Travis re-emerge and turn off the amps for an unplugged version of ‘Flowers In The Window’ using the Sage’s brilliant sound design, their voices and acoustic guitars. A truly magical performance.  Power is back on as they finish with ’Why Does It always Rain On Me?’ which has a lasting impression with t-shirts reading ‘Is It Because I Lied When I Was 17’ in the lobby. 

In essence a classic performance from an indie band who shouldn’t be invisible. The band who paved the way for today’s acts like Mumford and Sons and Tom Odell. 

Words: Neale McGeever

25 Oct 2013

WILKINSON - Lazers Not Included

The rise of drum and bass producer Wilkinson is probably only a couple of asteroids short of being meteoric. He first came to attention with a tidy release on the Hospital Records compilation Sick Music 2, a cute, uplifting, number entitled ‘Hypnosis’, which despite being one of the better tunes on the compilation seemed to slip under the radar somewhat. As a result, when he was signed exclusively to (arguably) the biggest drum and bass label in the business, Ram Records, many brows were furrowed and several ribs were nudged. “Who’s this Wilkinson fella?” we muttered incredulously. “He’s just signed for Ram, apparently. But who on earth is he?”
I guess this is testament both to Ram’s knack for spotting unpolished talent, and also to the relative uselessness of drum and bass watchers (i.e. me). For what followed was rather astonishing. His first single, released in 2010, was called ‘Moonwalker’. Innocuous enough title, you may think, but deary deary me. Hell fire and brimstone. When I first heard it, I was, like everyone else, completely unprepared. Consequently, when that drill-like synth and those space-age beeps came whirling out of my speakers, my face melted like Swiss cheese on a George Foreman and my eyes widened to the size of Mystic Meg’s crystal ball. It was quite simply one of the biggest tunes of the year, and it came out of absolutely nowhere. Then, on the other hand, we’ve had releases like ‘Tonight’, which refrain from liquefying your face and instead lull it into a blissful state of hands-in-the-air euphoria.  Thus, we have the two main styles of Wilkinson’s music: the face destroying (Moonwalker, Overdose, et al) and the face soothing (Tonight, Every Time, and so on). This is not to say that the face soothing is not dancefloor orientated: it absolutely is. With these few singles under his belt, both approaches have now been thrown into a melting pot, the result of which is his debut album, ‘Lazers Not Included’.
With this, Wilkinson becomes the latest drum and bass producer to poke his head above the parapet of mainstream success. It has become somewhat of a blasphemy to do this recently, as, in drum and bass circles, mainstream success is now almost instantly associated with selling out: with betraying your ‘original’ fans for money and wider recognition. This is, of course, utter nonsense in most cases, and is even less the case with this album. The majority of the ‘face soothing’ tunes on here absolutely sparkle. ‘Afterglow’ is the obvious contender for such a critic-bashing, having reached No. 8 in the UK Charts, but it is a superb, dreamy affair, with Becky Hill (the one off The Voice) layering a pleasant vocal over a stunning arrangement of sparse breaks and deep bass. If Rudimental gave Calibre a massage, it might sound like this. Further down the tracklist, ‘Need to Know’ features a nice guitar intro, reminiscent of Marky and Stamina’s seminal ‘LK’, before the deep, smooth bass and euphoric synth take over. ‘Take You Higher’ and the vinyl only ‘Casino’ fit into this mould rather well too, and it is all very well done: laser (or, more aptly, ‘Lazer’) precise and skilfully arranged.
The ‘face destroying’ sound is well covered as well. For instance, ‘Like It Hard’ is a brutal, swinging Dillinja-esque affair, while I expect listening to ‘Sleepless’ on an even half-decent sound-system will induce a facial expression not dissimilar to the one depicted in Edward Munch’s painting of The Scream.  In fact, the bad parts of this album are very few and far between. There is only one tune on it that I heartily dislike: ‘Heartbeat’, with P Money and Arlissa on vocals. I’m not sure if it’s trying to be a moody, grime tinged clash or a no nonsense drumstep banger, and in the end it unsatisfactorily ends up being neither. Even if it succeeded in being one or the other, I probably still wouldn’t like it. The fusion of grime and drum and bass has never sat well with me for some reason, and neither has drumstep. But this doesn’t really matter. For the real selling point of this album is that Wilkinson’s seamless standard of production permeates through at every turn, oozing through both the face destroying and face soothing sounds. I don’t like ‘Heartbeat’, but to deny it is expertly produced would be as silly as removing your trousers in the middle of a shopping mall. 
All in all then, this LP is simultaneously a very good drum and bass album and a very good breakthrough album. It achieves a happy (and hard to achieve, it should be said) balance between the fizzy, over-polished sound of the likes of DJ Fresh and Sub Focus and the dark, gritty sounds of Dillinja and Mampi Swift. As a consequence, it is easy to recommend, whatever style of electronic music you may happen to be into. So, dear readers, pick it up and give it a listen. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Words: Matthew Scott

23 Oct 2013

GOLDHEART ASSEMBLY - Cluny, Newcastle - 22nd October 2013

I wasn't too familiar with the music of Goldheart Assembly before I decided to attend this gig. I knew the local support bands and liked them so decided to go along in the hope that I'd like the headliner and in the expectation I'd enjoy the openers. 

The Shooting Of... started the show. Paul Jeans is a really talented chap. Excellent writer of quirky keyboard-based songs who also plays drums, guitar and kazoo! His between song banter is always good and though his vocals seemed slightly hampered by an ear condition he was close to his usual excellent self. 

Cattle & Cane are a band I've long followed though never seen live. Perhaps my expectations were too high but I'm sad to report that they did not wow me. The songs are good and the lead vocalist excellent but the close harmonies I was hoping to hear didn't impress, lacking impact somehow. I should say that I was probably in the minority in this view; the crowd around me certainly didn't seem disappointed, rather very satisfied. 

Goldheart Assembly began their set with a superb cover of Tom Waits' 'Clap Hands' and I was instantly hooked. The London 5-piece displayed swagger, personality and craft throughout a thrilling and engaging set of folk-rock songs that brought to mind Midlake, Dry The River, Band of Horses. Vocal duties were shared between James Dale and John Herbert. Dale's voice in particular was impressive; tender and fragile (think Jason Lytle of Grandaddy) at times but strong when it suited. Kyle Hall's guitar work was excellent but no one member outshone the band as a whole. Unfamiliar tracks that stuck in my mind long after the gig included 'So Long, St. Christopher' from the band's debut album 'Wolves & Thieves' and the brilliantly titled 'Stephanie and the Ferris Wheel' from new album 'Long Distance Song Effects'. Both cds are now in my collection. Goldheart Assembly have a new fan. 

Words and picture (phone, sorry): Russell Poad

17 Oct 2013

TAMIKREST - Sage, Gateshead - 16th October 2013

The venue is encouragingly full for desert blues band Tamikrest's first appearance in Newcastle and there is a wide range of ages in the wonderful Hall 2. The band, from Northern Mali, are all about struggle and protest and the songs reflect their radical views on women's rights and the role of youth in the country. Recently Mali has been caught up in that struggle between the Government, radical Muslim fundamentalists, Al-Qaeda and the Toureg tribes to whom Tamikrest belong. This complex mix resulted, at one stage, in music being banned! The band have found themselves at the centre of that struggle when their female singer's husband was murdered, a crime that remains unsolved.

Tonight though the emphasis is on the music and spectacle as the musicians in their colourful desert robes take the stage to warm applause. The music is dominated by Ousmane Ag Mossad's spiky guitar and mesmeric vocals whilst their outstanding female singer Wonou Walet Sadati (who recently defected from Tinariwen) provides rhythmic handclaps and thrilling high pitched yelps and chanted vocals. The music is spiritual and mesmeric and a soulful five string bass anchors the whole thing down whilst lush four part harmonies give the whole stew a trance like feel.

The centre piece of the masterful 90 minute set is a stunning acoustic section with four guitars and tabla drum with a bluesy steel guitar running through the core of the music. The sound of Tamikrest is the sound of the shifting desert sands with flecks of reggae. Ousmane's stinging bluesy runs recalls the great delta blues men with the look and sound of a young Peter Green. The night ends on a high with the crowd stomping along with the shimmering desert blues.

Their new album "Chatma" (meaning "Sisters"), is pretty much played in its entirety tonight and is an excellent introduction to this fine African band and is well worth investigating.

Words: Greg Johnson

15 Oct 2013


Last week an unsigned pop-punk band, known as Second Place Hero opened for Madina Lake on their farewell tour. The five-piece met at college and shared a love for pop-punk legends such as Blink 182, The Wonder Years and Four Year Strong . Of course the Newcastle lads were thrilled to open for an act like Madina Lake alongside ‘next big thing’ Fearless Vampire Killers: “It was unbelievable. We all loved them when we were growing up and to be able to play with them was pretty surreal,” confesses frontman Graeme Costello “We're still quite new ourselves, we haven't even been together a year yet. Tonight was our first gig as a five piece.”

The band already have a following and even sold official ‘I slept with Lynch’ t-shirts at the gig (referring to their bassist, Josh Lynch). But as newcomers they took some wise words from the headline act “Nathan Leone was telling us about how they ended up getting sued before because his stage dive went wrong so we'll be making sure we're always careful not to injure someone at one of our gigs because we're skint enough as it is already.” Now Second Place Hero have supported one of the biggest bands of the genre, what next? “If we somehow got the opportunity to open for Blink-182, it would be a huge dream come true.” The unsigned band will be gigging again later in the year including The Cluny in December.
Words: Neale McGeever

10 Oct 2013

LIVE TRANSMISSION Joy Division Reworked - Sage, Gateshead - 2nd October 2013

LIVE_TRANSMISSION is an audio-visual tribute to Joy Division. The show came to Sage on 2nd October in the 1640 capacity Hall One. 
The performance combines the strings and horns of the Heritage Orchestra and the musical mastery of Robin Rimbaud, better known as electronic artist, Scanner along with members of Three Trapped Tigers and Ghostpoet. The collection of musical talent is topped off by visual projections by artist, Matt Watkins, whose work is married perfectly along with the music.
Despite the original concept sounding like conflicting genres jumbled together, the show comes across as a tasteful blend of styles that have been united perfectly. The sanctity of Joy Division is well kept as the cheap clich├ęs of modern electronic music are kept to a minimum, not a bass drop or auto-tuned vocal in sight.  The visuals at times seem like a direct insight into the mind of Ian Curtis, showing dark, twisted urban landscapes and industrial style machinery which is contrasted by moments of wonder and beauty at times.
Upon entry of the venue there was an ominous drone accompanied by a cloud of smoke, setting the tone for the performance instantly. As the lights dimmed, the drones gradually intensified before cutting out to the choppy bass riff of ‘Transmission’.  This was the first glimpse of how the classic new wave anthems were reborn with the new orchestral arrangements. The interpretations of the songs we’re only loosely based on the originals, allowing for artistic flare to shine through and impress rather than simply playing the original melodies with a string section.
Blocky, analogue synth tones filled the venue for one of the more electronic style covers before a minimalist, eerie version of ‘She’s Lost Control’. The haunting, celestial vocals from the 2 man choir and projections of the lyrics being jotted onto the smokescreen had the audience mesmerised. This was followed by some stunning artwork of the Unknown Pleasures album cover reincarnated as a mountain range which moved in such a way that it was like the audience was travelling through it.
The performance continued with some sort of Skrillex-esque breakdown backed with swooping dynamics from the orchestra with erratic trombone accents which showed just how well the genres had been married together. After this dramatic burst of energy came the orchestrated adaptation of ‘Atmosphere’, the euphoric blend of sustained notes and subtle percussion intensified into a wall of sound before fading to black which seemed metaphorical for the death of Ian Curtis.
Just when it seemed like the performance was over, the lights and projections started up again before a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ with the original vocal track sampled over the delicate tones of the sting section. The performance was under a hour long which may seem short at first, but  Joy Division are a band that released only two albums, yet still had such a large impact on music today, and thus seems rather appropriate.
Words: Alex Greenup

7 Oct 2013


‘It's funny; we've always felt out on our own really.’ Jack Barnett muses on his band These New Puritans. ‘Even when we first started, playing little clubs in Southend, we just had this natural inclination to move away from what was happening around us, musically.’ This year saw the release of These New Puritans’ third album, ‘Field of Reeds’, a sparse, restrained record which draws more comparisons with modern classical than with the angular post-punk of earlier releases.

 Jack is quick to explain that flux is second nature to the band.‘I'm just reading about the colonisation of Mesolithic Europe by Neolithic farmers moving east to west. The Neolithic farmers crossed Europe, so about a thousand miles, in about 500 years. That's incredible; what drove them to do that? Every generation would have to move something like 25 miles. Anyway, we've always had the instinct to keep moving.’

Given that These New Puritans is a unique project, I ask Jack whether they feel an affinity with any other artists.  ‘TNP draws in enough strange characters on its own. It's us 3 as the core but there's a lot of people coming in and out of our orbit for us to make albums or play live. I think this album has something like 55 people credited on it. But right now there are some young jazz people who I think are great - there's something going on there - this band called Blue-Eyed Hawk for example. We supported Bjork at the Hollywood Bowl in LA earlier in the year, and she's a good person.’
With 'Field of Reeds' These New Puritans have cast aside some of the heavy percussive elements of 'Hidden' and 'Beat Pyramid'. Jack explains the evolution of the band's sound. 'It changes over time. I think because the albums are all very different it might look like we sit down in a very premeditated way to plot what the next album will sound like. But really it's just putting one note in front of another and seeing what happens. Especially with this album, when I was writing the songs, I suppose the feelings I wanted to try and get across would just override any other sort of consideration, so I wasn’t really in control. It's more that change is just natural for us. I can't imagine making the same album over and over again, that's what would be really odd, and boring. But also we get to see the evolution between the albums whereas you only hear the albums themselves. It's a bit like seeing photos of someone taken at 3 year intervals. They might look different but it's been a natural process day by day.’

The album features a large number of musicians and Jack himself plays multiple instruments, but he seems confident about performing Field of reeds live. 'We did a micro-tour earlier this year, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London, LA and we're using the same band for all the shows this year. We have a 7 piece band; trumpet, French horn, piano, Elisa, Tom on electronics and George on drums / vibraphone. Oh and me. It's good - not too big, not too small. Agile but we can still make a big sound. It's perfect. Some top musicians. Elisa is singing with us which is a pleasure. Because this album is a lot more melodic and harmonic, it's quite easy to play live. You could play all these songs from start to finish on piano if you wanted. So it quite suits a honed version, it definitely brings something to the music. It intensifies it. I really love this band at the moment; it would be good to record something with them. And because now that Elisa is doing 50 percent of the singing I can focus on my 50 percent and not try and do everything. I just do what I do. I’m really enjoying it. It’s great singing with someone else, suddenly everything slots into place. You get to specialize a bit.’ 

 2010 saw These New Puritans undertake a series of concerts performing the album Hidden live. Jack explains some of the challenges organizing a large, unconventional touring band. 'We did these shows, Hidden Live, with the full ensemble of 30-odd people or whatever it was that played on the album, with all the brass, woodwind, foley techniques, children’s choir, electronics, 2 pianos etc at the Barbican, Pompidou Centre etc. Anyway, wherever we went we had to find a different children’s choir, because you can't transport them around on a bus, you'd lose too much money. It was a bit of a nightmare. I remember in France there are all sorts of labour laws, kids can’t work for more than 3 hours, can’t stay up past 9 if they’re working, all this sort of thing. It was quite illuminating, all the different nationalities of Europe. We used live Foley techniques which involved smashing a melon with a hammer. The first show we did, when it came to the song with the melon in it, Firepower, the second percussionist hit them and bits of melon went flying all over the kids and into the pianos. We had this perspex case made for the next shows.’

It's evident that Jack has a deep and genuine love of playing live. He recalls the initial difficulties of early shows with a wry sense of humour. ‘We took quite a long time to come to terms with the idea of playing live. Haha, I remember when we first started we'd always only play for about 10 minutes, all of the songs about 4 times the speed that we'd rehearsed them, which you can sort of get away with in clubs in Southend and London but I remember for our first gig in Italy someone had signed a contract that we’d play for an hour and a half and we did our usual 10 minute set and they tried to physically stop us from leaving the stage and force us back on. I think we managed 20 minutes the next time. But anyway, we really enjoy it now. I think we're the best we've ever been live. I really like the fluidity of the music, keeping the songs alive a bit show to show. Yazz, on trumpet, is great - her solos at the ends of Organ Eternal and V [lsland Song] both of which we really extend, I really enjoy listening to. I kind of step outside of the performance and just listen.’

These New Puritans will play Hall Two at Sage Gateshead on 18th October.

Words: Gary Cossins
Picture: Willy Vanderperre