Insecure Men at Scala

Live Reviews, Music Reviews, Uncategorized

A dimming of lights, hush of music and a roar of the crowd indicated that Insecure Men had entered. Amongst the shadows, a determined voice yelled “Can we have some lights on the stage, so we can see what we’re doing?”

With this, a rolling green light revealed a musical extravaganza: a vibraphone, slide guitar and saxophone being amongst the many instruments they could fit onto the stage.

Buttoned up in suits and with an intense flash of blue light the nine-piece opened with ‘Cliff Has Left the Building’. Immediately, the atmosphere was cosmic, encapsulating the Californian suburbs daydream air of their recently released, self-titled album, ‘Insecure Men’.

Like wind turbines on a desolate hill, the band remained relatively stationary throughout, completely entranced in what they were doing. Meanwhile, the performance was unfaltering in visual strength, bodies in the audience swaying, hypnotised, frolicking in the paint palette of light – there were slime greens, romantic reds, marine blues and hot pinks.

In an amateur way, Insecure Men announced each of their songs: “This song is about Heathrow. It’s called Heathrow.” The childlike jig played a pivotal role in really dragging people back into reality with the uneasy chugging that slows and grinds to a halt.

Mid-way through the set, Fat White Family frontman, Lias Saoudi, slinks onto the stage with a half drunk pint in hand. The spotlight shifts and soon as the song (‘Ulster’) begins, it’s over, and he slides back off the stage, as if nothing had happened.

‘Mekong Glitter’ upped the ante as the setlist reached it’s end, stressing dirty guitar and dissonant mess on the piano during the solo. Unquestionably, the song bounced off all the walls as the whole crowd joined in unison for the chorus: “Why don’t you ever ask why? Why don’t you ever ask why?”

Closing the set, the smoke machine relentlessly huffed and puffed transporting the venue into the steamy bathroom where ‘Whitney Houston and I’ exists, leaving the audience in the ethereal haze they first stepped into.

 

Words by Meg Berridge

 

Edited by George Kennedy

Prescription Addiction : Hip Hop’s dependence on drugs

Features, Uncategorized

Music and drugs have long since had a close and interlinked relationship. From early drinking songs harking back to viking times, to hippies prancing around a field with faces full of hair and heads full of acid, drugs have always played a vital role in the development and influence of music. It may be unclear whether the drugs came first and caused the music, or if the drugs just made the music better to listen to, but their prevalence in music survives till today.

Each genre and subculture has its drug of choice, for the Hippie’s it was Cannabis and LSD, for the Mods it was Amphetamine’s, and for the ravers it was MDMA, the trap scene is no different. Ever since the creation of the genre both listeners and the artists themselves use drugs ranging from weed and cocaine, to prescription pills and codeine. Obviously those that do take these substances have their personal reasons for doing so, but the similarities in usage among the community begs the question as to why these certain substances are used, and what their involvement is in the composition of the music.

The recent death of emo trap artist Lil Peep has caused many to ask ‘how far is too far’, in relation to the use of narcotics in music. The rapper, famous for his use of substances in his personal life as well as his music, was found dead in his tour bus on the 15th of November this year after a suspected overdose from the prescription pill Xanax. The drug played a huge role in his music, and was referenced in many of his songs, in ‘Praying to the sky’, he says: “I hear voices in my head, they tellin’ me to call it quits. I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep”.

Trap originated as a Atlantan slang reference to the place used for drug deals, often referred to as a trap house. Notable for having very little furniture and home comforts save for a place to sit and a place to sniff, snort, or roll various questionable substances off or on. The term was soon integrated into southern hip hop, with artists such as Outkast, Ghetto Mafia, and Cool Breeze referencing the term and the lifestyle in their music.

The widespread growth of Hip Hop during the 90s and 00s meant the term was vastly used and was soon attributed to the rising genre of Hip Hop that described and often glorified the drug dealing lifestyle in their music. An individual often noted as one of the forebears of trap was T.I.. Who in an interview in December 2012 stated “before I came in the game, it was Lil Jon, Outkast, Goodie Mob, okay so you had crunk music and you had Organized Noise. There was no such thing as trap music, I created that, I created that. I coined the term.” Whilst T.I.’s claim over the genre may sound somewhat dubious, his influence in the sound of trap laid the foundations for the signature sound that has become synonymous with the genre ever since. Expanding on the sound of artists like T.I., producer Lex Luger created the signature sound of Trap that most artists still use today, his use of heavy 808 drum machine sounds and synthesisers became the background to some of the most popular tracks in Trap.

Hip Hop’s long standing relationship with narcotics is something of a controversial one, with many concerned about the glorification of the use and abuse of these substances in the lyrics having an adverse affect on the impressionable children listening to the music. However in recent years the number of references has increased dramatically compared to at the birth of Hip Hop. A study performed at the University of California noted that during the last two decades positive portrayals of drugs, and references, have had a sixfold increase from 11 percent to 69 percent. Not only are artists talking about drugs more nowadays, but they also appear to be taking more. Through the rise of social media platforms artists can let the world know what they’re taking, and how much they’re taking. Minutes before his death Lili Peep shared a video to his Instagram followers of him dropping six of what appears to be Xanax pills into his mouth. A prominent feature of trap music videos are joints hanging out of rappers mouths, whilst THC laden clouds of smoke hang around them like a bad smell, or a nice smell, depending on your preference.

Drug influence in the lyrical side of Trap is obvious and plain to see, however it exists in the music too. The long slurred words and mumbling commonly heard from artists most likely originated from the rappers drinking lean, a drink also referred to as sizzurp, concocted from a mixture of codeine, sprite, and a boiled candy. Due to codeine being an opiate derived from opium, from which heroin is derived from, it has the effect of turning the user into a well educated chimp, albeit a very relaxed and well educated chimp. Whilst this mumble style of rapping most likely evolved as a result of the use of lean, or as a result of becoming brain dead from the use of lean, it has now become style in itself, with people copying it purely because they like the sound. Musically the melodies and rhythms of Trap followed the sound of artists vocals, incorporating almost rolling or droning synth sounds, often with a very heavy bassline. The drum beats are the only feature that remains untouched by the drug filled haze of trap artists, the 808 style retains the same legendary status in Trap as it does in Hip Hop.

The illicit nature of drug use and dealing means that anyone connected to it is often viewed as a criminal. In this day and age of Hollywood crime films, the glorification of crime gives these criminals an often hero like quality, the Trap scene is one that plays on this greatly, the artists that talk about their dealing with narcotics become protagonists to their huge cohorts of fans who believe that they can do no wrong. This may be largely damaging to culture, especially to young fans that will often attempt to mimic their idols, however one could argue that rebellious idols are always going to be admired, and if it isn’t these artists it could be something much worse.
There is an over abundance of drug culture in Trap, without which Trap would not be able to exist in the form that it does today.

 

Words by Jamie Raybould

 

Edited by George Kennedy

Justin Currie and The Pallbearers at The Jazz Cafe

Live Reviews, Music Reviews, Uncategorized

Looking over the sea of wrinkles that was the crowd, it was clear that no one here, save the little boy playing on his parent’s or maybe even grandparent’s iPhone, was under the age of 25. A mass of pale bald scalps filled the room while the odd aroma of old spice mingled with ale, stout, and feet rose from the floorboards. The venue itself, for all of its history hosting world famous artists such as Amy Winehouse, Ben E King, Kym Mazelle, and Edwin Starr, looked completely modern.

The wooden detailing and warm ambience gives the cafe a cosy atmosphere. One thing which was a little strange to me was the first floor restaurant, which housed viewers throughout the night who ate as the performance took place, however the smell of the food could not mask the scent of middle occupants on the floor below. As the support act walked on stage the landing crowd took their places, a large number of them fought over the very few seats at the back of the room, fearing standing on their feet for an hour, while the brave ones filtered to the stage.

Les Johnson and Me opened the night, a Scottish bluegrass singer with a movingly deep soulful voice, unfortunately many of the crowd were unfamiliar with him or his work so the atmosphere suffered somewhat. An hour later the man everyone was there for took the stage. Justin Currie with his backing band The Pallbearers.

Opening with a rocking song from back in the Del Amitri days, ‘Just Like a Man’, an obvious crowd favourite from the reaction, the scintillating guitar tone mixing perfectly with the rough Glaswegian twang in Justin’s voice. A voice that hasn’t aged a day from his first record with Del Amitri back in 1985. From there they quickly rattled off the greatest hits of the Del Amitri days, ‘Be My Downfall’, ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’, ‘Tell Her This’, and ‘Always The Last To Know’ were particularly well received by the crowd, almost all of which sang along, knowing all the words to each and every song.

After warming the crowd up with the classics he moved on to the latest songs from his new album ‘This Is My Kingdom Now’, including the title song, ‘No Surrender, and ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge’. His experience shines not only during the performance, but also in-between the songs, as the band left the stage for one of the more intimate songs he quipped “they hate the sad ones”, to a murmur of laughter “but then again, they’re all sad ones”.

Finishing with perhaps his most famous hit from the Del Amitri days, ‘Driving With The Brakes On’ was met with rapturous applause, as the crowd quickly moved moved out to catch the next train back in time for bargain hunt on BBC One.

 

Words by Jamie Raybould

 

Edited by George Kennedy

Shy FX at The Rainbow venues: Crane

Live Reviews, Music Reviews

There is a place, on Bowyer street, in the heart of Birmingham, that by daylight shows to be nothing more than a derelict building. A monument to the history of the city, it melts inconspicuously into the background, never showing its true face until the cowl of night smothers the area and the hordes of mangled, hammered and twisted creatures line up ready to be unleashed through the gates of hell (there were quite literally gates at the entrance). It was within this mob that I found myself that fateful night on the 14th of September in the year of our lord 2017, hoping not to enrage any of the beasts surrounding me who scrambled at the hiss of a Nos cracker like the call to arms of some strange serpentine monster. Soon however, the time came to release the crowd into the bowls of the abyss, known locally as the newly renovated Rainbow venues location: Crane.

As the mass stumbled clumsily down the stone steps into the warehouse, one can’t help but wonder which health and safety genius thought it a good idea to have hundreds of inebriated girls in high heels walk down a flight of steep stone steps, nevertheless the result is wildly entertaining. Once inside the venue the enormity of the space is rather disconcerting, an agoraphobic’s worst nightmare, the warehouse could easily house a Boeing 747 along with a couple of its buddies. The space soon filled up, however, and as soon as Shy FX took the stage, the crowd exploded with a paroxysm of movement, pulsating along to the tumbling beats rolling out of the huge monolithic slabs of speakers.

Starting off with the classics, ‘Original Nuttah’ bursted into the room and set the tone for the entire night, one of rapid-fire beats and machine gun MCing. Following that the old favourites return, ‘Shake ur Body’ and ‘Everyday’ excite the crowd, and interspersing his own songs with jungle remix’s of popular songs like ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’, a song rather appropriately titled for the setting and the genre of the night. One fact quickly became apparent to everybody that was there, Shy FX was not letting up.

Track after track he kept drilling as if mining for gold, hammering down on us with heavy baselines and rolling melodies until the last song, a remix of ‘Bricks Don’t Roll’, a drum and bass classic which revived the crowd and sent them into a mass frenzy before barraging themselves through the gates into the night. Many DJ’s find themselves becoming obsolete within a few years, unable to keep up with the wants and needs of new fans, but even after 25 years since his first record Shy FX is still cemented as one of the best Jungle artists around.

 

Words by Jamie Raybould

 

Edited by George Kennedy

Dave drops visuals for “Hangman”

Music Reviews, Uncategorized

After reigning the year of 2017 with his hit records No Words and Question Time, collaborating with Joey Bada$$, a sold out tour to making an appearance on Drake’s album “More Life” it seems 2018 will be another victorious one for the London rapper with the release of his first single of the year “Hangman” accompanied with visuals.

Directed by Jeaniq and Dir. LX, Dave is captured at ease in his naturalness spitting some intelligible charging verses on the streets of his hometown Streatham with his friends bouncing their heads and smirking at his clever use of wordplay.

Centred around an unembellished piano driven production by Nana Rogues, The Brit nominee raids the progressive beat with his gripping storytelling and eloquent rhyming, with references to knife crime to the TV series Peaky Blinders – “I brought the fam together like when Tommy got the black hand” 

Tunes like Thiago Silva and Samantha, the rapper’s love for composer Hans Zimmer and mentions of politics in his music proves Dave is an artist that cannot be categorised. But with a stripped back video matched with simple yet striking words sold with passion and sincerity, the rising star delivers the song as a powerful message to be heard.

Watch the visuals for Hangman on YouTube now.

 

Words by, Melissa Kasule

 

Edited by George Kennedy

PARTYNEXTDOOR at Brixton Academy

Live Reviews, Uncategorized

PARTYNEXTDOOR’s ‘Infinity Tour’ arrived at Brixton, providing an evening of celebration of his best music and the many successful hits he’s written for other stars. Support act Jessie Reyez was energetic and lively, although her set was seemingly longer than most of the audience had wished for it to be. Her set excluded props and other performers, meaning her isolation probably disappointed the crowd.

The main man was far from disappointing though, and he didn’t wait to perform the fan-favourites. Opening with the ‘Recognize’ collaboration between himself and his label’s founder, Drake, he followed up with the infamously short ‘Break From Toronto’. The crowd was successfully hyped and ready for more. With little dialogue between tracks and PND taking several short breaks for refreshments, there were times when it was unclear to the audience exactly what was happening, despite the constant flow of smash hits. Deciding to change outfit halfway through the set didn’t exactly help PND with the fluidity of the show.

His stage design was excellent. Drummer, guitarist and pianist were physically divided by their own individual open glass boxes in which they performed, and performed thrillingly, worthy of their ovation at the end.

Switching between newer hits and old mixtape classics, PND served up something for every type of PND fan. He performed his smooth R&B, his dancehall numbers such as ‘Not Nice’, and his chart successes. He even saved time to debut his new Calvin Harris collaboration ‘Nuh Ready Nuh Ready’, which did unfortunately lead to a brief dip in atmosphere, considering nobody knew the lyrics.

Tracks from both 2017 EP’s were performed, including the Halsey collaboration ‘Damage’ and ‘Freak In You’, which Drake remixed last year. The variety of sounds and projects PND was able to refer back to was a solid reminder that he’s the closest thing OVO has produced to the label’s kingpin, Drake himself.

Upon reflection, it seems that PND has somewhat outgrown arenas of Brixton Academy’s size and nature. His elaborate stage design and band set-up would be even more effective with more floor space, plus the demand for tickets was much higher than the supply.

 

Written by George Kennedy

Daniel Caesar at KOKO

Live Reviews, Uncategorized

 

The first of Daniel Caesar’s two shows in London as part of his Freudian tour, was chilling and magic. KOKO’s intimacy and stripped back nature as a venue played right into the musically gifted hands of Caesar and his band, each of whom received an ovation halfway through the night.

Despite recent project ‘Freudian’ being his gateway into the wider R&B audience, Caesar performed some of his past work too, shining enormous light on his abilities and his faith in an audience to be invested in his artistry.

Allowing the band to showcase their quality early on proved a calculated step. People wanted a gentle and romantic evening, so after a few tracks he grabbed a stool, reached for his guitar, and serenaded the fans up until the end.

Performing tracks which originally have guest features worked well for him as he sang them entirely uninterrupted, beautifully, and with a raw confidence. Even if not every audience member knows every lyric – Caesar invents such a pretty ambience when he performs his music that you can’t help but be entranced by what’s on stage.

‘Best Part’ and ‘Hold Me Down’ were exquisitely executed and the crowd adored it all, but when Caesar left the stage after just 40 minutes on it…everyone cried out for his hit single, and arguably his best song, ‘Get You’ to finish off.

He, of course, came back. He, of course, performed it. And, of course, it was marvellous. An entire building of fans singing the sexual and sensitive ballad, each to the best of their ability, was something to behold.

Caesar often ended up directing the choir that was the audience – fans so eager for songs that they began singing them before they had begun. Jamming his guitar, strolling round a stage designed to look like an inviting bedroom, he was at one with the crowd. With lyrics and instrumentation so mesmerising, it was physically moving to hear Caesar’s angelic voice at full flight, live.

 

Written by George Kennedy