Kim Halliday – 7 Deaths

Here’s one for all of those people who, despite thinking it’s probably wrong, can’t help but rubberneck as they drive past the scene of road traffic accidents. This is a video for those of us who congregate at scenes of crime and sudden death, (I don’t count myself within that crowd) hoping to get a fix of gore or a snippet of gossip. If you’re a voyeur of death and can’t wait for the next episode of Casualty then I give you this for Saturday morning breakfast – 7 deaths by Kim Halliday.

Sent through to me earlier this week, the combination of music and image quickly compels. Amidst a dark and driving ambient rock sound, a muffled, synthesized voice issues what might be health and safety instructions. But, we can’t quite pick out what we’re being told. The deliberate lack of clarity alienates and confuses as our brains try to make sense of the soggy mush we’re given.

Initially, the video doesn’t help but simply serves to compound this sense of dark mystery. Fixed images of heroin needles, devastating car crashes and missing aeroplanes hit us flash, bang and wallop; a collage of death. Then, as this stunning video progresses, we’re treated to scenes of more tenderness; snowscapes and family joy juxtaposed into the devastation; hunger and homelessness amplifying the desperation.

We’re encouraged to think, reflect and amend our interpretation as new stills reveal different perspectives; it’s a murky, mystery tour that we’re invited to be part of.

Unsurprisingly for something so cinematic, Kim Halliday is a composer who has worked on film and TV. Since studying at the London Film School he has scored several award winning short films as well as ‘Credo’, a movie which starred Boyzone vocalist Stephen Gately before he died.

7 deaths is taken from Halliday’s album, Halflight. Produced by and featuring Martin Lister of Alphaville, ‘Halflight’ was recorded between Halliday’s studio in London and Lister’s studio in Berlin. Tragically, soon after mastering was finished on the project Martin passed away following a heart attack. The pair, longtime friends, had never worked on a full project until this album, making its release all the more poignant for Halliday.

Some will find this talk of death morbid. I guess I’m nothing more than a virtual rubber-necker but there’s something at the very heart of this song and video that appeals.

 

OBS Unplugged – Steve Parker

I’ve been in Leicester for a dozen or so years now. One of the many things that I love about this city is the continuity within the music scene. Yes, there are bands and acts that come and go, rise and fall, but there are also mainstays of the scene. These are the decent people who will always have their instruments close by should they be called on to entertain. These are the people who live for playing and listening to music.

Last night was another at the Musician for the fourth in this years OBS unplugged. One such mainstay of the local scene, Steve Parker, opened the proceedings. Suffering from that January sniffle and sore throat that seems to be affecting us all, Steve did well to get through his short set. I’d heard these gentle songs from this gentleman before but that only increases my enjoyment. I didn’t want this set to end.

I’m reminded of one of the very first times I ever went to the Musician. It was a much smaller venue then and I’d driven into Leicester from out of town. I knew nothing about Bryter Later, the Nick Drake tribute band, that I was dragging my then partner along to see in a rare night away from baby-sitting duties. I had no idea who this man was who was singing many of the songs but he clearly had even more of an affection for the music of Nick Drake than I did. His voice had the same nervey velvetness that I associated with Drake. That man was Steve Parker. When tales were told about festival excesses, I questioned whether I was actually happy with my life of domesticity in a small market town.

Fast forward a couple of years and I had moved to Leicester. I had a flat in the centre of town and was footloose and fancy free. I could go and see whatever live music I wanted to and often ended my nights stumbling back from clubs at dawn. A regular Saturday would have been live lunchtime music at the old Phoenix followed by afternoon music at the Criterion. I recall one particular Saturday when I was still buzzing from Friday nights club. Steve played a two hour set at the Criterion and I stared at him, jaw agog, for much of this two hours. It could have been pretty disconcerting for Steve but he played on, probably oblivious to the effect that his healing manner was having on my wired mind.

There’s so much else I could mention; sitting around a camp fire in Dorset in the build up to Monkey Fest; Steve’s encouraging and probably misplaced support of an acoustic act, Dreaming Of Insomnia, I once dabbled with (“A bit like Jonathan Richman“, Steve once said) and how I missed Steve’s presence around town when he ran away to Spain. But that would make this piece too long.

It’s part of the ramshackle charm of Steve that he doesn’t really do self-promotion. You’ll struggle to find marketing campaigns and press releases attached to this man. There are no highly produced Youtube videos of Steve covering the latest Sam Smith hit. You might just about find a ‘MySpace’ site as a concession to social media. Twitter is just what people do between songs right?

But, none of this matters. Let’s celebrate a mainstay of the Leicester scene who lives for the music.

 

 

 

 

Atonomic – Are you up for it?

Some people might have taken extra holiday to extend this lovely Christmas and New Year period but, for many of us, the day job began again today. It won’t be long before the tinsel, turkey and mistletoe is nothing more than a fading memory as we grapple with those tasks that we didn’t want to do in 2014. At least the days are getting longer though!

I thought it a good idea to post a happy, positive tune today; a song so excessively upbeat that it might make those with a cynical, grumpy malaise explode with rage. Let me introduce you to two teachers and a painter from New York – Atonomic.

“Are you up for being everything that you want to be?” ask Andy, George and Chris, in the chorus to this three minute slice of slickly produced electro-pop. The listener is left in no doubt that this is about ditching the things that have been holding you back and striving towards better days.

The word ‘Atonomic’ is one that is made up by the band; a amalgam of ‘atomic’ and ‘anatomy’. Chris, Andy and George suggest that this new word that they’ve created could mean “the essence of creativity – something that exists in everyone.” A nice thought but it could equally be a word with no meaning, four syllables that fit and flow together neatly and don’t need to be explained.

The video for ‘Are You Up For It?’ makes me smile. The song glistens with such a shine that your cynicism gets erased. It’s the aural equivalent of a motivational speaker. And it might get us through this week at work.

 

James Robinson – Start A Fire

Singer-songwriters are two-a-penny. They’ve got to have something distinctive about them now to really allow them to rise above the crowd. I’m not sure that, on the basis of his first EP at least, James Robinson has quite done enough to absolutely capture my imagination. But, ‘Start A Fire’, released in the frenzy before Christmas, is a pleasantly crafted EP put together by somebody with undeniable talent. I’ve played the EP to friends who like it more than me so I thought I’d bow to their opinions and write a feature on ‘Sonic Breakfast’.

James Robinson is from Devon. If you listen carefully to the way he pronounces words when he sings, you can pick out a West Country accent. In an age when it’s easier to mimic Mariah or sing as if you’re American (even though you’re from Henley-On-Thames), this is to be broadly commended. The press release that accompanies ‘Start A Fire’ tells me that James was the front man in an alt-pop band called Two Spot Gobi. Despite touring with the likes of Jason Mraz and Bruno Mars (or perhaps because of), I have never heard of Two Spot Gobi.

Regular readers of ‘Sonic Breakfast’ will realise that I’m a sucker for a song with an immediate lyric. I’m generally keen on those tunes that avoid the vague and oblique. I don’t mind having to interpret a bit and I quite enjoy some tunes that can be understood from a range of perspectives but I don’t particularly want to complete a cryptic crossword puzzle when listening. And, I suspect, that this is why, despite liking the delivery and the arrangements across the ‘Start A Fire’ EP, I’m struggling to enjoy it as much as my friends. I don’t doubt that the lyrics are personal and deeply meaningful for James but, for me, I can’t find the entrance.

It’s a four track EP. The title track bounces along to open proceedings. It’s radio-friendly with a singalong ‘ooh-ooh-ooh’ based chorus. It might be about a long-distance relationship or catching up with a friend over a recently-lit camp fire. But, despite repeated listens, I can’t be sure on that front. ‘Demons’ has a shuffling chill-out feel about it. Here, you can see why some Jeff Buckley comparisons have surfaced. Carried by a jazz-laden bass, this is surely about standing up against the challenges life can throw at you. ‘Holes In The Sky’ is a little less perky than the title track and has a lyric that might be saying something about global warming (but probably isn’t).

Here’s what James said about this EP: “At times it’s energetic and hopeful, other times it’s a little more pragmatic and cynical but creatively speaking it’s where I find myself currently – somewhere in between. It’s real, and I hope people will grasp that.”

I might fall into that group that doesn’t entirely grasp. But, I refuse to write James off quite yet. If truth be told, these are clever tunes that do grow on you with repeated listens. My friends like it more than I do as well so give it a spin and tell me that I’m wrong…..

 

 

 

OBS Unplugged – Lucy Davies-Kumadiro

January isn’t an easy month for live music venues. Many of us have overspent and over-indulged in the build up to Christmas and so as a result we become austerity hermits on health kicks. We’d rather relax with cups of tea and home comforts than brave the frequently freezing world outside.

The excellent ‘Musician’ venue in Leicester has, however, found a neatly compelling way to drag me from my sofa. Now in its fifth year, OBS unplugged is the acoustic little brother of the band showcase that I featured last year here. Running over ten or so nights in January, promoter Val McCoy puts a heap of effort into ensuring that the line-ups are varied and interesting. More established acoustic based acts mix with those newer to the scene. Gems are often unearthed.

Last night, I went along to the first of the 2015 series. It was a night in which quality shone through. I bought my first EP of the year from Birmingham-based songwriter, Guy Jones which I plan to review on Sonic Breakfast in the coming weeks. I can’t actually remember the last time I bought a CD at a gig.

And then there was Lucy.

Lucy Davies-Kumadiro is a 17 year old singer-songwriter from Loughborough. Last year, she played her first ever gig as part of OBS unplugged. Everyone who saw that set knew that they had witnessed something pretty special. With a calm charm and serene style, Lucy’s delivery melted the most cynical of hearts. When I overheard a punter at Leicester’s Simon Says festival enthusiastically ranting about ‘the most wonderfully stunning artist who was a hybrid between Lianne De Havas and Kate Nash (before she got punky)’, I gave myself a secret pat on the back for already realising how captivating a live performer Lucy is.

A year on and Lucy plays OBS unplugged again. Her guitar playing has developed over the year as has her on-stage banter. Her pristine and pure voice has always had the ability to melt hearts but there’s now an added layer of soulful husk that sometimes comes to the fore. She plays a new song, only finished the night before, about how when you run it’s not always an act of running away. Lucy is following a dream and heading off to University in America in the next year. 

If you’re at a loose end an in Leicester over the next couple of weeks I wholeheartedly recommend having a peek at the listings and taking a trip to the Musician. OBS unplugged can get you through January.

 

Workers In Songs – Sorry Marie – World Premiere

What better way to begin 2015 than with something brand new? Sonic Breakfast is delighted to be able to officially premiere the new video from those favourites of Danish Americana, Workers In Songs.

It’s possible that those who over-indulged last night might want to tactically delay before pressing play; if the sight of more alcohol could send you over the edge of queasiness then I post this with a word of warning. The video for ‘Sorry Marie’ charts a day in a life of excess for Workers In Songs as they stumble around Roskilde on a pub crawl; vomit, urination, fruit machines and party-poppers, this has it all. Few would doubt that here are a band well versed in those drinking days.

They might well be experts in excess but that contrasts with the core message of the song. This is a break-up tune; an apology from man to woman that he’s not able to do relationships in the way she wants. “I’m sorry Marie, I just can’t be the man you want me to be“, sings Morten Krogh in his anguished holler that I’ve previously observed “comes from an exasperated and elevated place of despair. He might have found no solace in the bottle of bourbon but that doesn’t matter because he’s now gurgling with bleach.

Crouched over the basin of a toilet, his blond beard tainted with specks of sick, Morten has now graduated to new levels of despair. Bleach gurgling was so yesterday.

Morten, himself, explains it slightly less graphically. “As a band we really like to play with contradicting elements, whether it’s in our songwriting, album covers, music videos, or the expression in our live shows. That’s why we decided to go on a raucous pub marathon through Roskilde city. That has been combined with a mainly melancholic song about an ended relationship and newfound freedom. It is the clash between the two expressions we find interesting. A bunch of fools with a beer in their hand spend 12-14 hours in pubs around Roskilde city – combined with a frustrated song about a relationship that broke”.

There’s little more to say but to urge you to press play if you think your constitution can handle it. Press ‘play’ to begin 2015, to relive last nights excesses and to resolve to deal with your flaws differently this year.

Sonic Breakfast wishes you the very best of NYD’s.