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LABEL NEWS: Clue Records announces ’24 Songs’ from The Wedding Present

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A brand new 7″ single every month throughout 2022

You heard it right. The Wedding Present will be releasing a new piece of shiny vinyl every month for a year, starting in January. Does that sound familiar? For Wedding Present fans you may remember The Hit Parade series.

’24’ Songs sees David Gedge writing with legendary Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart for the first time, and a more perfect union could not have been predicted.

The first release includes ‘We Should Be Together’, a gorgeous duet featuring David and Louise Wener [also from Sleeper] and it’s coupled with ‘Don’t Give Up Without A Fight’, which combines classic Wedding Present feistiness with a Krautrock finale.

‘We Should Be Together’ will be available to listen to at The Wedding Present’s official YouTube channel from Tuesday 19 October at 2PM.

Each of the records will come in a beautifully designed sleeve featuring brutalist photography by Jessica McMillan. And there’ll be a hand-numbered collector’s box to put them all in, too.

You can buy them one at a time or subscribe for the whole series by clicking here. They will, of course, also be available at all good record shops.

DAVID GEDGE TALKING ABOUT 24 SONGS

“In 1991, The Wedding Present were rehearsing in a studio in Yorkshire when we hit upon an idea that immediately thrilled us all. Our bass player [Keith Gregory] had been a member of the ‘Sub Pop Singles Club’ – a service that allowed subscribers to receive 7”s released by that Seattle label on a monthly basis. Keith wondered if we, as a band, could attempt a similar thing. In that instant, The Wedding Present’s Hit Parade series was born and, during 1992, we managed to release a brand new 7” single each and every month.

“The Hit Parade went on to become something of a significant milestone in the history of the band and it’s a project about which I’m often asked. As its thirtieth anniversary approached, I began to wonder if we should celebrate it in some way. A ‘Hit Parade Part 2’ didn’t feel quite right, though. Then, someone said to me: “Other bands have released music in similar ways but there has been nothing like the Hit Parade.” And they were right! A 7” single a month seems, somehow, very ‘Wedding Present’. So, inspired by that little idea from three decades ago, we’ve embarked on this new project, 24 Songs.

“Even though The Wedding Present have never been known for taking the easy route, the idea of recording 24 tracks and releasing them in this way could seem daunting to any band. However, I’ve been inspired by the music that has been written since Jon and Melanie joined the group. The thought of celebrating this exciting new line-up with an exciting new series has motivated us all… and I suppose we also didn’t want any of these songs to be hidden away in the middle of an album!”

MUSIC INDUSTRY NEWS: Calls For Government action to boost recovery as new report reveals Covid wiped out one in three music jobs

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UK Music has published its This Is Music 2021 annual report, revealing the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the music ecosystem, wiping out 69,000 jobs – one in three of the total workforce.

AIM joins UK Music in calling on the Government to introduce tax incentives and other employment-boosting measures to arm the sector with the tools it needs to rebuild after the pandemic. The sector also needs urgent action from government to alleviate the problems facing musicians and crew touring the EU, a vital export market for UK music.

The measures are outlined in a new Music Industry Strategic Recovery Plan included in the new report.

The key findings about the music industry contained in This Is Music 2021 include:

  • Employment plunged by 35% from 197,000 in 2019 to 128,000 in 2020
  • Music industry’s economic contribution fell 46% from a record £5.8bn in 2019 to just £3.1bn in 2020
  • Music exports dropped 23% from £2.9 billion in 2019 to £2.3 billion in 2020

Hundreds of UK festivals and live music events cancelled after the first in a series of lockdowns was imposed in March 2020 and touring was decimated by similar closures and travel bans and restrictions globally.

The impact was felt right across the industry as studios, warehouses, offices and venues were forced to close, and musicians, crew and others were unable to work. In a sector where three-quarters of workers are self-employed, many fell through gaps in the Government support schemes.

AIM’s Covid-19 Crisis Fund provided financial aid to many freelancers, self-employed contractors and sole directors in these sectors that were hit the hardest before government support schemes were set up. With generous donations from industry stakeholders, over £800,000 was distributed. The AIM Crisis Fund was one of a number of industry initiatives that helped provide crucial financial support during this period.

The report provides clear evidence of the need for swift Government action to help the music industry to bounce back and return to the growth seen ahead of the pandemic.

UK Music, AIM and its other members, are outlining five key areas where swift action from the Government would help the industry create thousands of new jobs and provide a rewarding career for thousands of people:

  • Tax incentives for the music industry to stimulate growth and jobs – AIM has been leading this work for UK Music and consider it central to recovery and future growth.
  • Urgent action to remove barriers to touring the EU, the UK’s closest export market
  • A permanent reduction in VAT rate on live music event tickets
  • Extending funding and support for music exports, including ISF and MEGS
  • Boosting funding for music education and for the self-employed to help secure the talent pipeline

There were some positives to take from the year. Physical music and merchandise sales including vinyl performed well as the specialist retail and distribution sectors pivoted quickly to online retail, supported by labels, artists and fans, including through campaigns such as Record Store Day and Love Record Stores.

PPL collected £225.7 million in revenue during 2020. This was less of a reduction in revenues than first feared with a fall of just 17% from £271.8 million in 2019. With PPL collections reflecting previous years’ airplay, it is expected that there will be an ongoing impact on these revenues, but it is testament to clear-sighted management and great work by the PPL team to see collections of this amount considering the circumstances. PPL went beyond this in helping the industry through a difficult time, including generous donations to AIM’s Covid Crisis Fund and others.

In addition to UK Music’s research, UK Music also commissioned Public First to survey the views of the general public on the music industry.

The survey by Public First found:

  • 75% of the public are proud of the UK music industry and its heritage
  • 59% believe music improves the UK’s reputation overseas
  • 74% say music is important to their quality of life
  • UK listens to 60 billion hours of music a year – the equivalent of 7 million years
  • 1 million people took up a music instrument during lockdown

Read the report

ALBUM REVIEW: Fold – ‘Aphelion: a tribute to Lorraine Hansberry’

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A Fold album can be appreciated on two levels. Firstly musically as fantastic music that is intriguing and compelling and, secondly, on an intellectual level because their music has a message and a meaning. The full experience, of course, is obtained from combining those two into one whole.

So first off this is a tribute album to Lorraine Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965). I admit that I had to look up who she was. She was a playwright and writer, and civil rights activist. There’s some links below which I recommend you follow to learn more about her and her life.

Largely defined by her trailblazing play A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry died in 1965 at the age of thirty-four. A prolific and probing artist, she was also one of the most radical, courageous, and prescient artist-intellectuals of the twentieth century—and one of the least understood.”
Imani Perry

Musically the album fuses Hip-Hop, Rap, Jazz, Soul, recordings of Lorraine Hansberry, plus other spoken words contributions.

Fold say “ Drawing from Lorraine Hansberry’s recorded speeches and interviews, we’ve assembled a body of interrelated narratives and composed 12 tracks around them. These narratives address not only the burning issues of Lorraine’s past, present and future but, through her extraordinary vision, ours as well. Complemented by additional posthumous words from Coretta Scott King and EF Schumacher along with bridges to the present drawn by UK poet Mr Gee, a compelling portrait of an extraordinary woman emerges”.

It’s difficult to review this as I would other albums – either by reviewing every track or selected tracks – because to my mind this album is a cohesive whole rather than a series of songs. I could put it like this; it’s more of a book with chapters, rather than a book of, possibly connected, short stories.

Like a film documentary using film of interviews and voices over appropriate visuals to drive and emphasise the narrative; this is an audio documentary where the music drives and emphasises the narrative. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, it feels very ‘visual’; I found myself seeing an internal visual of the narrative.

My first thought on reading the material that Fold sent me was that perhaps the music would reduce the power of the words but it doesn’t it compliments, increases the power of the words. Fold have clearly spent time and taken care not to overwhelm the words.

The music is incredible; different styles and feels span the album. Sometimes atmospheric, sometimes driving and uplifting. And sonic surprises are there in plenty. And yes, you could listen to the album as music (but that would be missing the point). The words and music perfectly compliment each other.

This album succeeds on many levels – musically, as a narrative and as a gateway to Lorraine Hanberry’s life and work. It puts the message over but gently; at no point does it berate or hammer it home.

I highly recommend this album on all three of those levels. If you were already aware of Lorraine Hanberry’s work then I think it’s going to enhance your understanding. It’s education through entertainment to use a well-worn cliche. It does this so perfectly I don’t have the words to explain.

The info

Fold say:

Drawing from Lorraine Hansberry’s recorded speeches and interviews, we’ve assembled a body of interrelated narratives and composed 12 tracks around them. These narratives address not only the burning issues of Lorraine’s past, present and future but, through her extraordinary vision, ours as well. Complimented by additional posthumous words from Coretta Scott King and EF Schumacher along with bridges to the present drawn by UK poet Mr Gee, a compelling portrait of an extraordinary woman emerges.

The aphelion is the point in the orbit of an object when it is furthest from the sun. Metaphorically speaking, the world of today feels further from the light than ever before. Lorraine Hansberry was among the few in her time who recognised that we are heading in perilous directions. Through her depth of historical knowledge she understood that this hadn’t changed much over many centuries as we’ve remained unable to widely perceive the underlying mechanics of our world. Alas, the world she fought so hard to illuminate still has a dangerously dim outlook. We need her light now more than ever to help guide us out of the darkness.

This tribute is, perhaps selfishly, a way of keeping Lorraine Hansberry alive and hopefully expanding the reach of her legacy. As long as she’s still talking and people are still listening, some part of her lives in the present. To us, in these dark times, that is a deeply comforting thought.

Links

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Hansberry

Young, Gifted and Black: who was Lorraine Hansberry?: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/blog/young-gifted-and-black-who-was-lorraine-hansberry

“The Black Revolution and the White Backlash”
Forum at Town Hall sponsored by The Association of Artists for Freedom: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/lhansberry.html

Making Gay History – Lorraine Hansberry Podcast: https://makinggayhistory.com/podcast/lorraine-hansberry/

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart – documentary: https://www.sightedeyesfeelingheart.com

Imani Perry’s biography Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Looking_for_Lorraine/QtdGDwAAQBAJ

A list of Hansberry’s writings: https://www.lhlt.org/primary-resources

A Raisin In The Sun – BBC Radio: https://archive.org/details/araisininthesun1/A+Raisin+In+The+Sun+1.mp3

EP REVIEW: Ruth Toynton – ‘Retrograde’

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I know very little about Ruth beyond the facts that she’s a Hull based singer and writer who’s in love with Soul, Jazz and Blues. One thing I do know is that the music she makes is wonderful; and that’s the important thing.

What she does is either modern jazzy HipHop soul with a hefty dose of old style jazz or old style jazz with a hefty dose of jazzy HipHop soul; you basically pays yer money and takes your choice.

Opening track ‘In the strange.’ takes a modern take on jazzy soul. There’s what we might describe as ‘the usual jazz instrumentation’ but it’s put together differently. It’s kind of trip-hop like; sounds dart out at you, sounds don’t quite sit where you’d expect them to. It’s beautiful and takes you on a journey. But over this is Ruth’s voice. Her voice is pure, striking, comes with the odd compelling twist, and is all about emotion.

On ‘Is this love?’ what hits you is the bittersweet in the words and in her voice. And this accompanied by the smoothest sparse music. But this is a track that is very much more than the sum of its parts, it has a quiet power.

‘Glowing in the dark’ flits vocally between being HipHop-y and jazz. While musically it sits in the classic jazz with stabs of the new. It’s odd in a very good way; the sounds and vocal don’t seem to fit but they do. I guess you could describe it as being somewhere in the Nu-Soul area, if you had to. I’m not entirely sure.

Final track ‘High’ does jazzy soul to the max. It’s retro but also very much of now. Musically wonderful piano drifts through the track, backing vocals like caramel caress your soul, and a gorgeous trumpet sings to your heart. It is beautiful.

This EP is so incredibly accomplished. The vocals, the music, are all so perfect technically. But the thing is that that isn’t the important thing. This is music with heart and soul. It’s about emotion and mood. It’s about the writing and arrangement but more importantly the way the songs are sung and the music played. Ruth can not only write but has a voice you could fall in love with. These are beautiful songs played and sung beautifully.

EP REVIEW: The Battery Farm – ‘Dirty Den’s March of Suffering’

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The Battery Farm make raw, sometimes raucous, visceral music. This, their second EP, has build on that, they’ve stretched out and showing they are capable of much much more.

The first indication that this is something more than just a collection of songs is that this EP starts with what I’m going to call an ‘introductory sound piece’ called ‘Don Brennan’s Lament’. I’m guessing that this is a nod to the Corrie character, and not the baseball player, given their Manchester origins. Although given that the band are mischievous characters it’s quite possible that they are referring to the cricketer.

The first track proper is ‘When The Whip Goes Crack’. This does the quiet/loud thing – tuneful and melodic and then hard and heavy as fuck. And remember that the band are gutter punks, both of these come with a punk attitude and sound to the max. That contrast between the melodic and the heavy is an absolute joy.

‘I’ve Never Been To Gorton’ is, at heart, a modern take on old style punk. The modern take is that this song has lots of clever touches – clever little sounds that pop up, My helpful friend says that it has something of a punk indie feel; I get that. It is of course about parts of Greater Manchester that have been visited but not, as you may have worked out, Gorton.

Another interlude – ‘Sunita’s Last Gasp’. Given the previous reference to Corrie, I’m guessing this is another.

‘Drowning In The Black’ starts eerily; sinister sounds swirl, a rhudding bass. And then it starts to gradually take off. It has, to my ears at least, a sound that mixes ‘that Manchester Sound’ and post-punk. Guitars stab and slash, fast as hell sections that positively reek of loud punk. It’s angry, it’s raw, it’s more than a little bit scary.

And now for something out there, loud and heavy. An unholy mix of punk and heavy rock ‘Roy Keane Isn’t Real’ hammers you into pieces, it roars out of the speakers. It dares you to throw yourself around violently, to annoy the neighbours.

Another interlude ‘Michael Rodwell Dies Alone’, another Corrie reference. There’s a kind of connection in the interludes, isn’t there? One that goes beyond Corrie.

Oh fucking hell do the band throw in one last surprise ‘We’re At The Top’. A ballad, a lament. Glorious backing vocals, slightly Spanish guitar, a lead vocal that tears at your heart. Gorgeous swells of sounds that astound. A build that takes you to the top and let’s you down gently.

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Yes it’s raw and visceral, but it’s taken that and added sophistication and cleverness. The great thing, the best thing, is that while the music has all these touches, it still has that punk attitude. This is music with attitude and soul. Music that is grounded in the band’s life. It is ‘real’, not constructed. It’s a band doing their own thing because they love it.

This EP is incredibly impressive. The individual songs shine through but the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts. It demands your attention; it makes you want to listen to the whole not skip and choose. Fantastic stuff, listen and be amazed.

 

EP REVIEW: Delilah Bon – ‘Ready To Kill’

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A super scary Halloween EP release from Delilah Bon (AKA Lauren Tate of Hands Off Gretel). Delilah Bon’s style is a hip-hop/rap/rock mix. It’s fierce people.

Opening with scary doomy sounds ‘Coffin’ features waking from the dead, a dead woman’s scorn. And the words, the words are so cool. The feel is hip hop rock with a huge Goth edge. It’s scary, it’s fierce, you can dance to it. Need anything more.

More atmospheric sounds and spoken word bring the short interlude ‘Ready To Kill’. ‘Voices In My Head’ continues the story. The tale – unless I’m mistaken – of a woman ready to kill. Chainsaws are a feature here. Bursts of heaviness thrill. The bloodlust drips from this track.

‘Cannibal Summer’ where the girl leads a boy to a perfect spot for the cannibal act. Delilah spits the words, the great words, You’ll be on repeat to get them. It’s kind of California Rap twisted to a horrible end. ‘Clown’ is about killer clowns. This is no laugh show. Guitars grind out the horror. ‘Rat Boy’ takes that hip hop rock feel and takes it more into rock, heavy loud rock. Boy oh boy.

The temptation is to think of this as a Halloween thrill. It is but there’s more to these tracks than that. They’d be a serious part of any spooky night’s playlist. But there’s more to them than this. These are tracks where the words matter, the words are fantastic, scary fun yes, but really well written. And musically the Halloween theme, the scare is there but it doesn’t go over the top. Right to the edge, even hanging over it, but not over the top into parody. The music is really well put together. And hey this is dance music, so dance to it.

Get your scary on, people.

SINGLE REVIEW: Blue Kubricks – ‘Comfortable Ride’

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Gloriously you can never be sure quite where this band will go. ‘Comfortable Ride’ is one part indie, one part funky disco track, and 100% fun. There are hints of Earth, Wild & Fire aplenty here. It’s sprinkled with choppy guitar riffs, horns. This, people, is the soundtrack to groovy night. This song is so fucking funky.

So that’s it musically but this has words, words that tell a story. Jim explains “This song was written when I was f***** and chucked by a girl in high school who then told me, two months later, she wanted to try again. It is not a nice feeling being treated like a yo-yo, ow no-no. I told her ‘I’m not your comfortable ride’”.

The combination of the words and music makes this so-so good, instantly addictive and a guaranteed floor-filler.

Enough of the words, get on this right now, get up and shake your thing like crazy.

The info

Blue Kubricks are an up-and-coming Leeds-based alt-pop funk-rock band signed to Monomyth Records.

‘Comfortable Ride’ is the lead single from their first full-length EP ‘Manuka’ – it’s all honey!), which will raise money for endangered bees with the charity Flora & Fauna International. The EP is due to be released in February 2022.

ALBUM REVIEW: Sandra’s Wedding – ‘Pleasure Grounds’

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What I’ve come to expect from Sandra’s Wedding is a great tune wonderfully put together with great words. And the songs on this album haven’t let me down.

Opening track ‘When I Stall’ comes with something, a little something, of a Beatles’ feel. That’s the poppy melodic Beatles by the way; because this thing has a tune that’s going to enter your head and not go away.

‘Should Have Got A Trade’ comes with great words, the likes of which I haven’t heard since Squeeze. It’s a tale of life. Another great tune that weirdly, at least to me, comes with a touch of that REM sound; biting jangly guitar, you know the sort of thing.

‘Lovin’ Life’ is a great pop song; fab tune, boppy enough, suitable for all the family. Fantastic little acoustic breakdown. A joy. ‘Love Everyone’ is a pop song that, sonically, comes with a wistful sad edge. This one’s a grower, people; you are sitting there listening to it and suddenly you feel a need to play it on repeat.

Title track ‘Pleasure Grounds’ steps away from that strummy boppy pop to give us a smooth smooth sound, bursts of gorgeous trumpet. It’s got a classic retro pop ballad feel. Matching that feel the words seem to sing of times past on a sunny day. From any Sandra’s Wedding rease of more than three tracks you can expect one big song, this it it. An album highlight for sure.

‘Waiting’ starts quietly, and then bursts into life. A chugging guitar throbs away in the background. But this track does the quiet/loud thing – obviously not in an alt-rock way – but it does. Strangely it sounds like a fairly raucous rock track that’s been ‘calmed down’ soundwise but it still comes with power.

‘Council Pop’ surprises with a psychy-pop feel. Edgy warped guitars, voices echo. Groovy maaaannnn!

‘Devil On My Stuntpegs’ is yet another surprise. Latin feel, sinuous trumpet, strummed guitar. This musically takes you on an ever changing journey; you think you’ve got it pegged, it takes you in another direction. This is put together so well; it builds, it falls. Another surprise, another big song.

Sandra’s Wedding songs have this habit of creeping up on you. There you are listening to what are a set of fantastically put together pop songs and ballads, and suddenly you just can’t stop listening to them. This is because there are always subtle and clever things in their songs musically, and their words are great. Their lyrics are about life, seemingly simple and hugely compelling.

Quite how the band manage to release song after song of perfectly put together music and lyrics I don’t know but they do. And it’s never boring because there’s always a twist, the unexpected. Great songs, great words, played wonderfully; I, for one, don’t need anything else.

ALBUM REVIEW: John Reed & Ali Karim – ‘Breathe’

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John Reed is progressing on his journey into ‘folk influenced music’; this time collaborating with Ali Karim. They emphasise that this is a collaboration of equals; for those of you who followed John’s musical work – both with others and solo – you’ll be aware that Ali has had input into those releases and live shows.

They say ‘BREATHE reminds us that few things are ever truly important, and that without them the point of life itself comes into question. Our VISION is for the album to provide a reflective hour of calm, moments of peace for busy lives.

‘We need to breathe fresh air, feel the cool of the trees, and understand the CYCLES of the sun and the moon. We all need SOLITUDE, an existence uncluttered by opinion and influence. We need TIME to see a clear way forward, and to prevent a DESCENT into madness. We need to be WELL’.

Reflecting this the music is a heady meditative mix of John’s folk influenced music and Ali’s urban sounds. That mix varies across the album; sometimes to startling effect.

Title track ‘Breathe’ – and album opener – takes John’s folk ballad influenced vocal and combines that with an almost religious backing. Gentle guitar, organ-like sounds. The religious feel is appropriate as this is a song in praise of the air that we breathe and our Earth that provides this. There’s a moment in this song where I fell in love with it, the moment when the most glorious piano comes in, and takes us to the end of the track.

With ‘Solitude’ the compelling lyrics force us to ponder deeply on their meaning. It would be better described as a sound piece rather than song – John sing talks the words over a backing of carefully chosen sounds that draw you deep into their soundscape. A soundscape that is both urban and rural, both folk and Urban.

The song ‘Vision’ explores, at least to my mind, the topic of communication and being, and not being, with people or perhaps a particular person. References are made to what I’ve interpreted as lockdown. The overall feeling is one of missing somebody or people in general; at times getting a glimpse of them that vanishes as quickly as it came. The words are moving and come from the heart. The music is atmospheric and gently Urban.

Atmospheric washes of sound sweep through ‘Descent’. The words speak of a path; this path perhaps represents our journey through life. And as the song goes on the washes of sound build into a sophisticated urban track – layers of sounds and beats arranged carefully. We are feeling our way along that path, then striding towards an unknown end. For me it has a hint of the spacey feel of say the soundtrack to Bladerunner.

‘Encounter’ lyrically takes the form of a story; a mysterious encounter. Musically it melds folk sounds and that urban electronica into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s sonically complex, the music reflecting the story. It seems to shift between the strange creature encountered – electronica – and the person having the encounter – a progressive folk sound. Quite how you’d describe this I am at a loss to do; the complexity and ‘story-telling’ form of the music has something of a ‘prog’ feel, there’s clearly both a folk and Urban feel. Progressive urban electronic folk perhaps. However we are going to refer to it it’s filmic; you can see the encounter described.

‘Cycles’ seems to describe a scenario where the insects take over the Earth. The vanguard of the other much more numerous inhabitants of the Earth. Musically washes of sounds are overlaid with what I can only describe as ‘tasty guitar. And this my friends is some out-there stuff. It’s dark and mournful. There are echoes perhaps of Pink Floyd and even Led Zeppelin in the music. Startling, moving and quite scary if I’m honest.

There’s a return to a more folky feel with ‘Time’. The song meditates on somebody reflecting on a person who is no longer there. It does this in direct and strong words. Musically it starts in a strongly strummed acoustic way (this may in fact be John’s instrument of choice, the cittern) but it builds into a full on electric feel. An electric guitar almost seems to improvise under the vocals; reflecting the words, the feel. It’s a heady sound that you just can’t help but feel ‘somewhere deep inside’.

‘Well’ is a hymn to all that is us, the world we inhabit and the Universe. Of how the good and bad are all part of the same thing – life. It melds Eastern sounds and folk. It uses drones to carry the song through. There are hints here, although not bombastically, of Led Zeppelin in Eastern drone mode. But wait, there’s more. There are dramatic changes in feel – at one point that strong folky strum builds into an almost grunge sound. And all of this is dome seamlessly, it’s not jarring at all. Frankly fabulous.

This collaboration of John and Ali has allowed them both to take what they’ve done before to places that amaze, and to push through the envelope of their folk/urban sound to something beyond, to places that are unexpected and are beautiful, atmospheric and huge.

The fact that they have allowed themselves to stretch the songs – these are long songs, they go beyond what we’d call a song to being a piece – gives them space to experiment, to develop, for the music to take on different feels. And this is a wonderful thing.

This is an exceptional album of music played by two talented musicians; who, despite coming from different places musically, have made their own sound. The icing on the cake is the words which are compelling and meaningful, and make you think.

If this is where the two of them are now, I can’t imagine where else they’ll take us. Wherever that is, it’ll be wonderful.

The info

John and Ali say:

This is a fusion of styles: John’s progressive folk with Ali Karim’s urban-indie. Working together on various projects over the years has created an intuition between the two, so Breathe can be seen as a folk album with hints of urban or an urban album with a folk twist. Its aim is simple: to encourage people to sit back for 47 minutes and just soak in the sonics. Listeners can interpret the lyrics as they wish, and we hope they bring comfort and peace to their lives.

John has been involved with music since his teens, but took a long hiatus to raise and support his family in a 30+ year career in international trade. He bought a cittern in 2014, which sparked a song-writing spree that has since seen the release of three albums (one a double) two EPs, and a collaborative album as Nightsong with Ali Karim and Jo Beth Young.

Ali Karim was bass player with the Manchester Indie band Fear of Music for three years from the age of 15. When the band split, he pursued a career in sound engineering and production, learning his craft in the studios of Trevor horn, John Leckie, Dimitri Tikovoi and others. When he met John in 2015, Ali’s main work was with urban music, producing for Manchester grime artist Bugzy Malone who he also managed for a couple of years and has more than 5 million streams and several number one records to his name.

Neither of the two are especially interested in putting their music in convenient boxes, believing that it stifles creation. With Breathe, they took off the gloves and challenged each other to play new instruments in a recording process for each song that saw first mixes created in a single day from just a set of lyrics. Tracking was done live for each instrument and vocal so recording days were pressurised and frenetic but also fun, and the result is something really quite beautiful.

So cast aside thoughts of genre, and just enjoy 47 minutes of peace. Give yourselves time to Breathe.

FESTIVAL NEWS: This year’s Musicport Festival in Whitby may be the last

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After long consideration Jim & Sue McLaughlin, who have been at the helm of the Whitby festival since its inception in 2000, have decided it is time to step down. This year’s festival (22-24 October) will therefore, in all probability, be the last.

Jim said, “The last 21 years have been a life-changing experience for us, and we have met and worked with so many wonderful people and experienced hundreds of amazing artists. We always hoped to hand over the reins but realise in these difficult times and because Musicport has never been a money-making venture that this is unlikely. One significant factor contributing to our decision is the increased cost of accommodation in Whitby which has dramatically affected costs for us accommodating artists and for our audience who generally stay in guest accommodation. When we started out one of the reasons for doing the festival at the time of year, we did was to help extend the tourist season. It is obvious that is no longer a primary aim as the tourist trade is now year-round!

Hundreds of artists have appeared at the festival over the years including The Buena Vista Social Club , Hugh Masekela, Richard Hawley, Toumani Diabate, The Levellers, Misty In Roots, Courtney Pine, Vieux Farka Touré, The Mahotella Queens & Lemn Sissay,

“We are proud of the achievements we have made introducing young people locally to music from diverse cultures, bringing top class international artists to the Yorkshire coast and creating an event that so many said was the highlight of their year, but we feel that the time is right for us to concentrate our time on running smaller local events and our music shop”.

Sue added, “Wanting to go out on a high, and having recently secured Arts Council funding for this year, we think the line-up is as strong as ever and fairly reflects the range of artists we have worked with over the years. Weekend and day and tickets are still available so if people are wondering whether to come, we’d obviously advise them not to miss this last chance! There will also be session tickets available on the door. We have strong Covid 19 measures in place to try to ensure people’s safety at the event, so we hope we can all have a good time and remember it as an event that successfully put Whitby on the international music map.

“We will miss working with the Pavilion and its manager, and our wonderful team of staff and volunteers, many of whom have been there since the start. We have events at The Coliseum in Whitby in November, December and next Spring and hope to do more outdoor events like In The Grove (which happened in Mulgrave Woods earlier this year) so we are not giving up on bringing high quality events to the area.”

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