Macmillan Fest 2015 – picks of the fest

Tomorrow sees Nottingham one-dayer charity festival Macmillan Fest make it’s way down to to Bristol for the first time. Earlier this month the event made its usual stop at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms – you can check out what we made of the festival in full here. For now, here’s our favourite bits and piece of the festival…

I’ve never been one for cover-dominated sets, especially among a line up of original acts, but acoustic duo Amy & Lily have made it on to my list of rare exceptions. Upstairs on the slightly out-of-the-way stage, the pair weren’t greeted with a crowd as full as they deserved, with covers ranging from First Aid Kit to Paramore and shaking things up with more instruments than your usual straightforward girls-and-guitar act. In short, if you like acoustic covers sets done well, but you fancy things a little different, Amy & Lily are your go-to on the Nottingham scene.

Let’s carry on with the theme of acoustic-ness; since the popularity of Jake Bugg, all the acoustic acts of Nottingham seem to have risen to the surface, though I’m sure they’d all be insulted with any sort of association or comparison in such a sense. Whether the rise of Bugg was relevant or not, there’s not denying that the smoothly-run acoustic bar stage of Rescue Rooms showcased some of the best local talent of the day. The likes of Josh Kemp with his irresistible enthusiasm and loop-pedal expertise, blending covers (Oh, What A Night) with originals (Stupid Cupid), and throwing in a dash of comedic brilliance to The Train Song (“I find myself falling in love seven times every train journey”), and Sam Jones, the sort of artist that leaves you thinking, “this is what acoustic music should sound like”, topped my favourites for the stage’s line up.

Taking to the off-the-beaten-track Spanky Van Dykes stage, Chasing Cadence put on a solid show that proved they knew how to work with a crowd. And of course, the headliners of the day proved second to none with industrial strength enthusiasm that the crowd were nothing but eager to reflect. Fearless Vampire Killers’ performance on the newly added Rock City Basement stage and Evil Scarecrow making their mark in the packed out Rescue Rooms main room ended the festival with a fantastic buzz that something wonderful had just occurred.

Valley Maker – Pretty Little Life Form review

Tomorrow marks the release of the debut album, When I Was A Child, from Seattle based Valley Maker, the singer/songwriter project of 27 year old Austin Crane, accompanied by long time collaborator Amy Godwin. Last month we covered Only Friend, the raw and absorbing first offering off the album, and follow up single Pretty Little Life Form provides another enticing taste of what’s to come. Both personal and powerful numbers, they set up When I Was A Child, released via Brick Lane Records, to be a compelling work.

Sparse but deliberate instrumental draws on the Ben Howard influences we previously praised the project for, with an alluring combination of vocals leaving the lyrics feeling very filtered through nostalgia. With a style of music that seems to lope along, stuck in a place of sentimentality, there’s a strong likelihood the music falls stale and becomes stagnant. Somehow this hazard is curbed, with a ringing determination leaving the music dancing around your mind long after the song has ended.

You can listen to Pretty Little Life Form below.

B.D. Gottfried – Sociopathic Traffic

To write and record even one album is no mean feat, but to say that Canadian artist B.D. Gottfried has just released his seventh solo studio album is a nothing short of incredible. Having received radio airplay in eleven countries and played to crowds of over 50,000 before are also notable notches in the belt, and last month saw his latest single dropped off his newest addition to a staggering back catalogue of music.

If the fully animated video wasn’t enough of a clue, it’s safe to say that Gottfried’s music can be classified as “quirky”. With the hooks and a instant singalong charm of the modern radio-ready rock, Sociopathic Traffic‘s classic rock riffs remain in the mind as much as the addictive chorus. Despite this bizarre albeit attractive combination, there remains a somewhat stagnant feel to the music; enthusiastic, but monotonous with it, not ebbing and rising for the hooks to have a real impact.

You can listen to Sociopathic Traffic below.

Benjamin Verdoes – Highly Emotional review

Pause what you’re doing for four and a half minutes, and allow yourself to soak up more delicacy, intricacy, and atmosphere than you believed four and a half minutes could possess. September 18th marks the release of the new EP from Seattle beat-maker Benjamin Verdoes, a man of multi-instrumental talent and haunting vocals, with latest single Highly Emotional being the first track released off The One & The Other, having been premiered on Consequence of Sound.

Don’t be fooled by the soft, deliberate vocals that open the track into thinking Highly Emotional is merely a minimalistic acoustic song; layers, sampling and beats bring up the force, and the atmosphere lands full force. Though seeming to shy away from a dramatic crescendo the music alludes to, the dips and breaks in volume make it a song that compels you to continue listening, never falling stagnant or anywhere short of impressive. Continuously unfolding and with too much attention needed to the undertones to satisfy one’s thirst in a first listen, Highly Emotional is a fine sample of what’s to come.

You can stream Highly Emotional below.

Willis Earl Beal – Noctunes review

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Willis Earl Beal was born on the South Side of Chicago, and has had quite a life since then, frequently reinventing himself and flipping between the polar opposites of homelessness or being a self-described “mess” and releasing two critically acclaimed albums on a record label and living in New York City. Tomorrow sees the release of his latest venture on Tender Loving Empire, already with a back catalogue of two EPs and an album – ambient Noctunes and the life leading up to it could be accurately described with Beal’s statement; “people had all these ideas about what I was supposed to be. I had only ever wanted to make lullabies”.

Before I process any further, it’s vital to note that the majority of this album is very similar; don’t expect upbeat ambience drifting into electronica, be more prepared for a sound that seems to creep inside your bones and take over control from you. Though this release maybe a very long one – twelve tracks, almost all of which stretch over the five minute mark – I strongly advise you take the time to consume it in one sitting; evening music, or an antidote to the hustle and bustle of every day life.

Allow the work to play in full, and you’ll find that the faintest hints of piano that appear in the opening seconds will swell and develop throughout Under You, appearing again as the album progresses, and as they do so, they’ll pull you in before you even realise. Building up with the slowest of momentums, the captivating sound somehow manages to dissipate any hint of stress you may have, forcing you to relax and compelling you to continue listening.

Only the faintest of changes marks the tracks apart, although second Flying So Low wraps a sense of desperation into the closing linesan atmospheric touch entertained again later in the album. More abrupt, Like A Box‘s staccato feel and the whistling opening of Lust offer something in the way of variation, but for the rest of the album a much-0f-a-muchness sound is established.

Whilst Beal’s work is undeniably excellent and the intricacies of the craft are perfected, with such intentionally simplistic lyrics and minimalistic sound, there is a tendency for the album to grow stagnant among the six minute tracks. Drone-fueled Love Is All Around boasts a brilliant, bittersweet delivery of the line, “go the fuck away”, whilst hints of electro pops in Survive spice things up again.

It may not possess drastic changes from track to track, and the melancholy may weigh proceedings down at points, but Noctunes is a cinematic, moving piece of excellence.

You can listen to Stay. below.