Gigs I went to and liked*

*Not quite gig reviews, not quite blog posts

Sinkane album launch party, Shacklewell Arms, September 12th

Around a week before I go to see Sinkane at the Shacklewell Arms, I sum up his latest release “Mean Love” as “”groovy pop-rock”, if groovy didn’t conjure up images of Austin Powers and bell bottoms”. Thankfully Sinkane (born Ahmed Gallab), is the antithesis to this poor description: nonchalant, the UK born, US raised one-time Caribou and Of Montreal collaborator leans against the merch table watching support band Swim Mountain (recently praised by 6Music) just moments before he’s due on stage. His Soulja Boy-esque Twitter handle (Sinkane Tell Em!) oozes swagger, but standing on stage he has a calm class to match his sound, which – over the course of his past two releases – has grown in range. Gallab’s role as musical director of “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor’” – a supergroup honouring the music of the Nigerian synth legend – seems telling of his current guise. With “Mean Love”, he too has painted futuristic strokes onto a Pan African canvas. Joined by guitarist Jonny Lam, bassist Ish Montgomery and drummer jaytram for tracks from “Mean Love” as well as 2012’s “Mars”, he takes the crowd of his first sold out London show on a soulful voyage, from the breathy vocals and reggae beat of “Young Trouble” to the East African-inspired pulse of “New Name”, which on record comes complete with the coolest horns since St Vincent’s Digital Witness. There are ethereal moments, like the hypnosis-inducing synth line of “Young Trouble” (Gallab’s also commanding keyboards). The Sinkane live experience is varied and uplifting, a United Nations of groove which – thankfully – comes minus the bell bottoms.

Sinkane tours Europe before returning to the UK for a show at Hackney venue du jour Oslo on December 1st.

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Bristol Exchange, September 4th

“It’s Lennon!” squeals my friend, pointing to a fellow with a headband and circular specs and doing her best impression of a Cavern Club reveller. As it turns out this is not John and Yoko’s son Sean – rather it is one of the troupe who accompany him and partner Charlotte Muhl on tour. He’s a slightly taller, more imposing version of his bandmate, although the glasses. Powering through tracks from Midnight Sun, which was released back in April, they refuse to falter even when Lennon’s wah pedal gives up the erm, goastt. From mafia-themed Seventies throwback “Poor Paul Getty” to the sprawling psychedelia of “Too Deep”, it’s wall to wall rock, full of screeching guitars and choral harmonies. Cutting and pasting the best parts of the 70s but remaining distinctly modern and self-consciously East Coast, there’s no chance you’ll confuse “Animals” with “All You Need Is Love”.



It’s not Madchester but…

Dutch Uncles played Shacklewell Arms on the 8th Jan, marking the release of their third record.

Do they sound like Hot Chip on ‘Out of Touch In The Wild’? Perhaps. But who doesn’t want to be in a band that sounds like a young, sparky Hot Chip/Field Music hybrid? Along with Everything Everything, Delphic + Egyptian Hip Hop, Duncles are putting a certain type of Mancunian music in the spotlight. With the exception of EE, these acts are from MARPLE which is very easily misspelled as MAPLE (syrup, leaf) but is in fact a town in Greater Manchester which has a special section of it’s Wikipedia entry dedicated to it’s Scout hut. A small-town existence is a bonus in many ways – Arcade Fire had to resort to an abandoned church to reach the sublime.

In a live setting they’re not afraid of messing around with their vocals, improvising xylophone bars on “Fester” or, erm, restarting songs altogether. Theirs is a brand of electro that is cleverly formulated but organic and easily tampered with.

Were third albums supposed to be this fun? Does the Shacklewell embue some kind of greatness in acts that perform hear? Probably not, but I like this face of Manchester regardless. It’s sensitive yet cool, unpretentious but definitely complex*, tighter than their previous releases, less guitar-driven but if we wanted that wouldn’t we just listen to a rock band proper?!

In a post-Wu Lyf world we need all the North West talent we can get – yet another reason to jig, jive and jump along to Duncles. They might be out in the wild, but they’re definitely not out of touch with the rest of us.

*I’m defining pretentious here as needlessly arsey/Klaxons part 2. Whilst Duncles do have tracks called “Zug Zwang” and “Phaedra”, they are yet to release an album on VHS or sample Jermaine Jackson.