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:: Easter :: Young British Artists :: The Steals :: Charlie Barnes :: The Kill Van Kulls :: Patterns :: Ghost Outfit :: Wode :: Tigercats :: Girls Names :: Anchorsong ::
01 May 2011 / Various Venues / Salford
By Jon Ashley

Another year and another Sounds From The Other City, the event that provides the opening shots to the summers music festivals. Salford, the place, itself continues its transformation. Buildings are levelled in a small scale repeat of 60’s regeneration and whilst old pubs are boarded up, those that remain, succumb to the gentle gentrification that is slowly homogenising the areas surrounding Manchester City centre.

Salford provides its very own tale of two cities – from the better heeled borders it has with the northern capital and the enhanced banks of the Irwell and waterways of Salford Quays and its media village, to the sinkhole estates which continue to remain pretty much out of bounds to all but their residents.

Music it is said, is a great leveller, but as the event now stretches across Chapel Street and The Crescent, so perhaps does the experience. Former festival days concentrated everything into a compact triangle of gents boozers, but it would seem drinking habits and the economy have conspired to undermine that early philosophy.

Sounds From The Other City is bigger this year, with more promoters and certainly more bands, most of whom (in the now established tradition) are unknown and, as part of the SFTOC philosophy are performing in unconventional places.

Somehow Salford also seems to hold the mantle of hosting the largest number of places of worship that double up as gig venues. St Philips Church is hosting the HIGH VOLTAGE menu and how better a start than the rising star that is CHARLIE BARNES.

~ Barnes - Deadly Sins ~

For todays session (or sermon?) he gives service as one man, a Mac, a sampler, a guitar and a chair. For those in the know, Charlie Barnes has supplemented his solo work with previous contributions to Oceansize and Amplifier’s last recordings. There's even the odd nod (referencing the Size’s “Unforgiven”) and loop added to his set . Much of his songs here are excerpts from his rather excellent album “Geekk”. The first number amplifiers his Fender around the naturally echoey surroundings, but Charlie stands away from the mic, using the natural acoustics of the church - it's effective and inspired. His work is loaded with loop stationed antics and ambient overlays, but it's his startling voice and effective piano playing that largely impress. He does however need to learn that swearing in Church isn't out for lightning bolts Charlie..

Next on the list is THE OLD PINT POT, where POSTCARDS FROM MANCHESTER are presenting LOUCHE FC. Here we have jangly fuzztones and monotone girl vocals. At their peak they remind of Dinosaur Junior meeting Throwing Muses in a 60's beat club. The PA sound is a little conspiring - not the best and later this evening it will fail to impress again, but Louche FC’s well planned output rings true and loud...yet some tracks still need some sharpening.

~ me ~

PARADOX are controlling affairs at THE ANGEL. New band WODE are about to attack the café’s assembled intelligentsia with some two piece, dirty filthy heavy death metal. This is the work of Tim on drums (ex-Sonar Yen legend) and Michael, on guitar and vocal shreds. Thrown across the room are thrusting drum beats and blocks of head splitting guitar skuzz. This is a destructive sound with the guttural pummelling attached to a Lo-fi high frequency squall, on which the singer pins some liver shredding growling. It's a noise that is left lingering in the memory, like Motörhead notched to 11 whilst chewing attention deficit pills that don't work...

~ Ghost Outfit - Boo ! ~

Downstairs at THE OLD PINT POT, WOTGODFORGOT have maybe one of the best line ups of the event. In front of us are another duo in the form of GHOST OUTFIT.They thrive on an energetic display of rugged pre/post punk guitar and drums from Manchester, via bits of a noisy Wire / Gang of Four that's succumbed to the modern sound of the New York underground. Tunes are also fully present and this is the best band of the night so far without a doubt. Exciting, edgy, their animated style is something that's been missing so far, so it’s a welcome wake up. It's a compact crowd but one who know where it’s at. Excellent.

~ Kill Van Kulls - living in the 80s ~

Back at ST PHILLIPS and it's the KILL VAN KULLS at High Voltage. This is an 80's Breakfast Club soundtrack in a church, and KVK are able to manufacture a noise of sufficient magnitude, as their aimed-true soaring vocals and keyboard / guitar pop hooklines bounce outside, navigate the graveyard and melt into the hard walls of the rectory. The 7 foot man in drag with "Faggot Power" emblazoned across his vinyl dress, seems oddly bemused..

~ Easter - right name right time right place ~

Next door, EASTER are fully plugged in at THE ANGEL CENTRE. As effective as ever, Easter create epic clangs and anti-country post rock climaxes. - their guitars create visble waves that mesmerise, their riffs and hooks colliding with an organic bent that only comes from the hands of authentic bands. The sound here, is the best so far, allowing their hard chimes to interweave with the blister of guitar and drums. They’re consistently one of the best and more interesting bands in Manchester and from what sounds like a new track to me, they hit a Chameleons influenced high, mid set. They remain truly magnificent.

~ Tigercats - London Purrveyors of indie pop ~

Another trundle up the road and London’s TIGERCATS are on the Postcards stage upstairs at the Pint Pot. Their rumbling pop and solid baselines exploit the world of twee indie jingle, name checking Jilted John and coming across like a prepubescent garage pop band. If you like jolly happy go lucky yet slightly unhinged indie, then this is your band; even if their songs can take some getting use to – when they get heavy, they do however get interesting...

~ The Steals - emotional theft ~

Just a staircase below at WGF, THE STEALS are distilling their mix of beautiful, dark melodrama - it's the most considered set so far tonight - deep 4AD moves and an even deeper ambience prevail . It's the first time I've seen them as a full band (unfortunately on this occasion without the added bonus of Daniel Land, who enhances this formula yet further), but this splendid female voiced folk-gaze, mixes an 80's outlook with some cutting, powerful marriages of atmospheric rock and psychedelic leftfield ballads.

GIRLS NAMES are up next on COMFORTABLE ON TIGHT ROPE at the KINGS ARMS. Here the Belfast band (who are now on a Brooklyn record label) present a jingling jangling satisfying brand of (sub-Drums) pop - there's nothing dangerous here, just the ghost of Martha &the Muffins revisiting a surf soundtrack. It’s low key and fairly anonymous and like much of this genre, averagely played. At times there seems to be an inkling of the Smiths, but more so, a lo-fi Housemartins.

~ Young British Artists - melee ~

YOUNG BRITISH ARTISTS are taking over the upstairs of the Old Pint Pot . This is a melee of purposeful rock, but it doesn’t always punch out the tunes it promises. Somehow the songs don’t seem to be getting out there – is it the venue or an off day ? YBA need to impress beyond the scene based plaudits they've enjoyed for so long – anyone who’s heard “Lived In Skin” knows that they can do it - and with ease - and there’s no time like the present...

Affairs are taught and original downstairs (WGF) with PATTERNS -they loop and tumble with a prog / lo-fi expanse that defies the sum of their parts. Bolstered by electronica and a supplemental background of satisfying synthesis and effects, Patterns emerge as a wholly original and engaging combination of sick bass frequencies, sharp guitars and smart drum beats – this is a futuristic and essential exercise in Manc based experimentalism. The bass sonics are occasionally over-cooked by the engineer, but by the set closer they remain standing on their own merit...they retain their hotly tipped status, unflustered...

With warnings all round to arrive at the Mill early to see D/R/U/G/S, that’s where we head to find the shows running about an hour behind. The Mill is looking spectacularly organised and well equipped these days. I have a long discussion with Cath A about laptop only performers, but sound tracking this are ANCHORSONG who dispense some mellow, dramatic and effective highlights. It’s all validated by a form of spontaneity that is rare and precious, so I have to relent on my side of the argument.

Even leaving at half one in the morning, D/R/U/G/S are yet to appear and the party’s still in full swing, no doubt making it a full twelve hours of celebration for hardier folk. That’s what SFTOC is all about; celebrating differences, exposing the unknown and having a damn good time doing it.

My jaunt just touched the surface (yet again) of another magnificent exhibition of this annual spectrum of music – long may it continue ...

All Photos - massive thanks and (c) to Ged Camera - 2011

Sounds From The Other City 2011
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