Sunday, 24 November 2013

Pebble Music

After a few weeks of late nights and endless emails and facebook messages, Pebble the website has finally launched! I'm the Assistant Music Editor, and it's taken quite a bit of work to get to this stage, so it'd be fab if you could take a look! Thanks!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Blog: Oya Festival - Day Four

(Originally published on The Fly)

After three days of teetering on the edge of the giant body of water next to Oya’s Enga stage, it’s about time someone went for a paddle. Enter Este Haim. “I have a slight feeling I’m gonna end up in the water by the end of the set!” she claims, before her plans are quashed by disapproving looks from her sisters.

After a run of approximately 2000 festival dates this summer, Danielle Haim has lost her voice, and Alana and Este take over on vocals. It means we miss out on a large percentage of Este’s patented “bass-face”, as she’s too busy singing to gurn, but both girls more than hold their own, especially on a stripped-back version of ‘Falling’. By the end of the set, Este’s dress has been peeled off and discarded on the floor, and Alana is running around the stage playing with her sisters’ hair and rolling around on the floor. Sceptics may suggest the girls’ on-stage antics were attempts to fill the ambitious hour-long set time, but when they’re as entertaining as this, it’s hard to care either way.

Strolling past the Sjosiden stage, we stumble upon what sounds like it could be an unannounced second set from Grimes, but turns out to be Norweigan artist Truls. With the face of Action Bronson and the voice of Kate Bush, he turns out to be as confusing as he is wonderful.

It's then on to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who bring extended guitar wig-outs, drum solos and an effortless swagger to an equal number of tracks from their self-titled debut, and this year's fantastic follow-up "II". Where the records are a fairly laid back affair, each song transforms into its own world in a live setting, leaving the crowd bewitched by Ruben Nielson's wizardry.

Nothing could prepare what followed in The Knife's headline slot, providing you'd somehow avoided the umpteen blogs/thought pieces/rants/tweets about their already infamous "Shaking the Habitual" live show. Rolling up to their set 10 minutes before their allotted start time meant you were greeted by the delightful warm-up act - an androgynous pirate giving an aerobics lesson of sorts to The Rapture's "Get Myself Into It". All very run of the mill...

Or at least it was made to appear so, in contrast to the absolute lunacy that followed. The Knife brought dancers in abundance, who were at times literally throwing shapes, and sort-of played live, in something that can only be described as Sweden's answer to Stomp, reimagined in the year 3000.

Blog: Oya Festival - Day Three

(Originally published on The Fly)

Following a late cancellation from Azealia Banks, Parquet Courts get to steal a big share of the crowd for their late afternoon slot. Although scattering four new songs in your opening six is no way to keep them there, thankfully most stay to witness the set’s crowning moment of “Master  Of My Craft / Borrowed Time” – boasting possibly the best segue that garage rock has ever seen.

I’m happy to admit that I’ve enjoyed listening to Disclosure’s album in the car a couple of times. With the windows down and the wind in your hair, the soulless, hollow beats sort of make sense. Disclosure’s role today seems to be getting in my car and pressing play for me whilst I drive, because watching them play “live” is to listen to their song with a large number of other people who probably wish they were in their bil too (that’s Norweigan for car, FYI).

The crown jewel in Disclosure’s recorded work is the broad range of featured vocalists across the tracks, but with those guests’s presence coming in mp3 form today, you’re left thinking that Disclosure might as well have stayed at home too.

James Blake returned to the festival circuit this year, and thankfully brought a band with him this time. Seeing him in this setting on his first album tour, with only his keyboard for accompaniment, was almost cringeworthy – as drunk punters talked their way through his more delicate moments, merely waiting for that bit of bass in “Limit To Your Love”.The full band James Blake show really beefs things up, with “CMYK” benefitting the most from some carnival-esque drums. Though the slower songs still tests the audiences patience, the Londoner now provides a much more engaging live experience. Bravo.

Back on the Sjosiden stage, a small crowd gather for Beach House’s headline slot. Clashing with three dimensions of Kraftwerk was always going to prove problematic for the Baltimore duo, and as the minutes tick by before their arrival on stage, it looks as though the Germans will be stealing their spectators, and their thunder. All is not lost, however, as flocks of people come rushing down from the main stage as each song passes, discarding their 3D glasses in the mud, and swaying along in unison to dream pop hit after dream pop hit.

After the festival site closed for the day, a midnight excursion to the candlelit Oslo Botanical Gardens proves the perfect seeing to see Norweigan songstress Jenny Hval. Playing through tracks from new album ‘Innocence Is Kinky’, Jenny manages to silence the crowd and induce blushes, muttering “At night I watch people fucking on my computer” with a confidence you wouldn’t expect from the softly spoken, cardigan-clad singer songwriter.

Blog: Oya Festival - Day Two

(Originally published on The Fly)
After an apocalyptically rainy start to Oya day two, it’s the task of Local Natives to get the soggy crowd shuffling in their wellies. Starting their set off slowly, with a cluster of tracks from new album Hummingbird, the band struggle to keep the attention of the crowd, who snake off to see Rodriguez mid-way through. Unfortunately for the deserters, the second half of the LA boys set is where their trademark harmonies come to the rescue, and they finish with a triumphant trio of fan favourites in the form of ‘World News’, ‘Who Knows, Who Cares’ and ‘Sun Hands’.

Next is the turn of Danny Brown, a man who evidently knows how to have fun onstage. However, starting his set with four non-album tracks renders the crowd indifferent. Luckily, a barrage of tracks from 2011’s acclaimed “XXX” leaves a thousand Scandinavians putty in his hands, and by the time he joins the crowd for the entirety of “Monopoly”, things get a bit feral.

Mr. Brown’s belt choice doesn’t seem up to the task of holding up his trousers, and the crowd cheer as we get a glimpse of rear end as he hops back onto stage. Fortunately for them though, the polite Norwegian crowd are not exposed to any of his saucier stage acts this afternoon.

Oya’s first booking mishap comes in the shape of Canadian Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, whose dual-keyboard set-up doesn’t quite match up to the gargantuan space of the Sjosiden stage, the second biggest of the festival. Unfortunately, no amount of stage presence can make up for poor sound and a disinterested crowd, regardless of how much Claire seems to be enjoying herself. She certainly knows how to put on a show, clad in a floor-length velvet cloak and cutting some seriously bizarre shapes throughout, but her energy doesn’t rub off on the crowd, and you get the feeling a Grimes show should really be reserved for somewhere much smaller and much, much darker.

A first foray into Oya’s smallest stage nearly ended in tears, as the festival’s only tent boasted a winding queue to get in, as Iceage arrive with opener “Awake”. Fortunately, Elias Bender R√łnnenfelt’s growl is enough to force out the more casual on-lookers, leaving a tent a free-for-all by the time they launch into second track “Everything Drifts”.For all the plumes of smoke lingering in the dingy gazebo, it could be anyone up there, but there’s no mistaking that this was the real deal – Denmark’s hottest export since Junior Senior.

Just two songs into his headline set, Kendrick Lamar drops “Backseat Freestyle”, and the line “she make me come fast, but I never get embarrassed” tucked away in the second verse could not ring truer – Kendrick is in danger of blowing his load too soon by playing probably his most recognisable song after 5 minutes, but him and the crowd are having too much fun to care.

Luckily, he pulls plenty more out of the sleeve of his Frankenstein jumper over the next hour, delving deep into last year’s masterpiece “good kid, M.A.A.d city” whilst also dropping in choice cuts from the rest of his catalogue, including a riotous rendition of his part of A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems”.

The crowd is unbelievably bigger than the one Blur managed to draw yesterday, and taking into account the masses at Wu-Tang yesterday, it’s clear that Norwegians take their hip-hop very seriously indeed.

Blog: Oya Festival - Day One

(Originally published on The Fly)

A trip to the Edvard Munch Museum, just a stones throw from the festival site, provides a morning of screams to kick off proceedings. What feels like the opening of the festival is actually the second day, with the first day proper being dedicated to Norwegian acts only. However, on the festival site, the local talents must feel somewhat overshadowed by the juggernauts flown in from Britain and America to headline each day.

If you have £12 in Norweigan Krone to your name, you can do worse than pick up an Illegal Burger for on-site lunch. £9 in Krone will get you a pint of local lager to go with it too. “Festival prices” are a sore subject in the UK, but in Norway they are on another level.

As the majority of punters leisurely basked in the late afternoon sun, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos of Mount Kimbie got down to business. Keeping a hot and bothered afternoon festival crowd entertained for almost an hour was always going to be a stretch, and at times it felt like the heat had sapped all energy from the crowd. However, the final hurrah of of “Made to Stray” followed by “Carbonated” made sure band and crowd alike left the set in a state of sweaty glee.

In comparison to the heaving masses running around the festival site in Tame Impala t-shirts, the turnout for the band’s set on the main stage was surprisingly low. Probably owing to a poorly-timed clash with Wu-Tang clan, the band find themselves playing to a crowd barely half the size of their giant Hammersmith Apollo London only a month before. Despite this, the boys play through first and second album tracks in far tighter and more enjoyable manner than their meandering, five-minute long jams that they’ve been favouring so far this year. The setlist was given a much-needed shake-up too, and finishing with ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ gathered the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd, small as it may have been.

At the second stage, DJ Mathmatics warmed up the crowd for Wu-Tang’s arrival, and was greeted with a sea of W-hand signs from a crowd that eclipsed any others that the day had seen so far. Slowly, the clan began to fill the stage, starting with founder member the RZA, followed by the likes of Ghostface Killah and Rakewon. However, it wasn’t until Method Man arrived three songs in that things took a turn from the hedonistic to pure brilliance. 

With a presence like no other in hip-hop (as hard as others try) the man born Clifford Smith borders unbelievable arrogance to whip punters into a frenzy. It works though, and Wu-Tang powered through their greatest hits to a rapturous reception, including a tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

The evening was leading up to a headline set from Blur, a band that have been back on the festival scene for so long now that it’s become increasing difficult to believe they were ever away. A slow start left the band looking slightly miffed, in stark contrast to the 50,000 screaming every word back at them in Hyde Park last year, but it’s hard to know how much of Damon’s cockney drawl makes it through the language barrier. Thankfully, the horde watching on ballooned with each song, as people joined from across the park to witness a spectacular tail end to the show. Finishing on “Song 2” ensured everyone left the park singing from the same page, regardless of nationality.

Review: Swim Deep - Where the Heaven Are We

Where the Heaven Are We has been a long time coming. Swim Deep’s first souncloud upload, ‘Isla Vista’ was released to the internet 2 years ago, when they first started appearing on ‘ones to watch’ lists. Since then, they’ve released a string of well-received singles, graced the pages of most every music magazine going, and sold out London’s village underground, all without an album to their name. Now they’re finally releasing their much-discussed and long-awaited debut – is it any good?

In short, yes. The boys original plan was to release the album earlier in the year, with vague suggestions of April and May being thrown about last year. The delay couldn’t have worked more in their favour, as Where The Heaven Are We is undoubtedly a summer album.  Comprised of singles as well as a few unheard tracks (although definitely not unheard to those who’ve seen the band live – they’ve been playing ‘Make My Sun Shine’ live for over a year) the album is an incredibly easy and pleasant listen
Opening with the slightly misplaced Intro (which definitely would’ve made more sense followed by She Changes The Weather), the record kicks off as it means to continue, with Austin’s floaty, laidback vocals eerily layered over gentle guitars. Unlike their long-time Birmingham pals Peace, the Swim Deep boys have a more distinct style running through their album, which makes for a more cohesive listen than ‘In Love’.

That’s not to say the songs sound the same. Like early demo ‘Beach Justice’, new track ‘Make My Sun Shine’ pairs Austin’s deceptively androgynous vocal over a breezy, catchy chorus that makes for one of the album’s more immediate highlights. Others include ‘Stray’, a more urgent and percussive take on the Swim Deep sound that’s just begging to be a single , and of course their most recent and accomplished effort ‘She Changes The Weather.’

Besides a few lyrical hiccups (‘Do I want my head in the clouds / if the cloud is raining’ is nestled in the otherwise lovely ‘Colour Your Ways’) Swim Deep are releasing the nostalgic, romantic, irritatingly catchy album they’ve always been capable of. It may have taken them a little longer than expected to release their debut, but it seems to have been time well spent.