New writing

I’ve added a new section featuring some of my written work that’s been published.  Here’s a recent review I wrote for digyorkshire.com.

Mahjongg / Menomena / Cissy

The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Saturday 4th December 2010

Originally published at http://www.digyorkshire.com/HighlightDetails.aspx?Article=1044

Above: Cissy. Photo by Sarah Burton (www.sarahburtonphotography.com)

The snow was thick and treacherous, and it was dark. The temperature was minus something. I arrived, freezing, at Leeds’ coolest music venue, in the student hub of Hyde Park. People were standing outside in T-shirts smoking. They must be insane, I thought.

The Brudenell’s reputation precedes it, having played host to countless famous and influential bands from all over the world, and featuring a notoriously cheap bar. Judging by my ticket, there were at least two more bands planned for this gig, the combination of illness and snow meaning that we were down to just three. For six quid, though, I certainly got more than my money’s worth.

Kicking off was a band that are a bit of a local legend. Cissy are a four-piece who form part of the Chinchilla Collective – a gathering of highly talented musicians residing in Leeds. Regular adjectives fail to convey Cissy’s sound, but they play a form of angular synth-punk jazz-fusion, mixed with a joyful Afrobeat sound reminiscent of 1960s West African Hi-life. In other words, it was incredibly catchy, and anyone with a pair of ears will find it impossible to dislike them.

Next up were Menomena, who due to a last minute re-jig were no longer headlining. A four-piece from Portland, Oregon, this was their last date on a rare UK tour. I’m quite a fan of them, but until this evening, I admit that I didn’t know how to pronounce their name (it’s ‘minom-inna’, by the way). Menomena are phenomenal. Their music is composed using a piece of software that they invented for themselves, called Deeler, which combines hundreds of improvised loops of their instruments to create an atmospheric, glitchy rock that rests somewhere between electronic and post-rock. The band replicate the dense musical arrangement of their recordings in their live set with a combination of the Deeler, a series of complex footpedals, and by regularly swapping instruments. Between them, they play guitars, glockenspiel, bass and even baritone sax, all of which add up to an intricate and unique sound that has to be heard to be believed. The only downside was that they couldn’t play for longer.

Last on were Mahjongg, another American four-piece, this time from Chicago. The Windy City’s recent musical history is rooted in electronica, and the band undoubtedly draws on this scene with a mashup of electro, glitch, punk and synths, plus a rather funky drummer. The band cleared the floor – not in a bad way, they literally occupied the dancefloor – allowing the crowd to gather closely around them while they let rip. The result was a really intense atmosphere, but unfortunately I could no longer see, so I went and sat down again. Nevertheless they managed to splice together several different sounds – some songs sounded like they could have been unreleased beats by Flying Lotus, others by a more extreme version of LCD Soundsystem.

To sum up, no one band stole the show: they were all equally great musicians, each band with their own distinctive sound. I recommend that you go and listen to them all.

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