TRCH

9 Nottingham Music Albums That'll Knock You Out - November 2016

1 November 16 words: Music Reviews

The latest offerings from the city's finest tooters

Gallery 47
Clean
Album (AWAL)

In a world where James Bay has a Brit award, it remains a complete mystery why Jack Peachey – aka Gallery 47 – isn’t a huge star. That could be set to change, though, as following the 27-year-old's recent support slot on Paul Weller's European tour, he is releasing his third album, Clean. After the reflective tone of 2014’s All Will Be Well, the newlywed singer has decided to broaden the scope of his songs. While there is plenty of the gorgeous Jeff Buckley-esque guitar here, the addition of a string section and some piano means these songs manage to be bigger without losing the charm and introspection of his earlier work. Clean bursts into life with a re-recorded – and improved – version of Rising Star from his recent Nice EP, featuring a lovely string accompaniment from Rob Rosa of Manieres Des Bohemiens and Diane Jackson of The Invisible Orchestra. A great new version of Free Range also features here. Unlike many albums that front-load the good stuff, Clean is a record that gets better and better as it progresses. The accompanying piano jumps disarmingly to the fore on the excellent It’s Been A Long Day before Some Of You Don’t Get It segues into the country-tinged ballad, Take It From Me. For my money, Jack is one of the best singer-songwriters working, not just in Nottingham, but in the UK. Clean is everything that is great about Gallery 47 – brilliant writing, superb musicianship and beautifully arranged songs. Highly recommended. Nick Parkhouse

 

The Age Of Stella
The Drunk, The Mad and The Dead
EP (Self-released)

It is hard to produce alternative rock nowadays – something from which every last drop seems to have been squeezed out – and still manage to sound fresh and authentic without falling into pompous edginess. But The Age of Stella have nothing to worry about on this awesome EP. The Drunk, The Mad and The Dead is no-nonsense rock music played with heavy guitar riffs and grunge-influenced vocals that stand out, all supported by powerful bass and drums. The band play with an appealing and genuine simplicity; it is a declaration of love for rock music and it really sounds like these guys are enjoying themselves playing music and writing a bunch of good songs while doing so. Mostly fast-paced, with the slightly more melancholic There He Is as a perfect finale, this EP is a promise of a lot of good stuff to come. Federico Cornetto

Babe Punch
Control
EP (Self-released)

The first time I saw Babe Punch they played with a frantic and frenzied energy, barely stopping for breath as one song crashed headfirst into the next. A noisy riot of teenage energy, it was rare to see a band play with so much passion without strutting a pose – it was both exhilarating and refreshing. Starting out as a bunch of schoolmates making a clamorous racket, there may have been a slight line-up change since those early shows, but that all-gang mentality still remains. The opening song, Leave Me Alone, speaks volumes – Control is Babe Punch kicking out on their own against the world. A little more refined around the edges, but the band still retain that punky squall, with singer Molly channeling her inner PJ Harvey over five songs of blustery, guitar-led alt-rock that showcases the band's love affair with the nineties version of the genre. Thankfully, Babe Punch are still heading down that riot trail. Paul Klotschkow

Church of the Cosmic Skull
Is Satan Real?
Album (Bilocation Records)

A psychedelic rock opera, all the great seventies rock bands are referenced here: the big riff swagger of Led Zeppelin at their peacocking peak, the bluesy flair and organ swirl of Deep Purple, the theatrical pomp of a sweat-soaked and gasping Meat Loaf, and in Evil In Your Eye there's even a touch of Vegas-residency Elvis, numbed by painkillers and poor management but buoyed and enraptured by the soul food of gospel and r'n'b. The vocalists nudge and wink their way through it like they're out for a night at the opera with Freddie Mercury. This is no mere classic rock throwback, though, and it sits easily along more modern fare, like the grizzled jams of Black Mountain or even Hazards of Love-era Decemberists. A seven-piece super group that's both big in size and ideas, Church of the Cosmic Skull aren't afraid to show off their towering ambition. Paul Klotschkow

The Damn Heavy
What the Hell We Done
Album (Self-released)

Ever since the now notorious night when Robert Johnson left the Dockery Plantation in Mississippi to make his famous midnight crossroads rendezvous with the devil, the blues has formed the heart and soul of popular music – somewhat ironic, really, given that Johnson supposedly sold his soul in exchange for his unearthly talent. I couldn't tell you if The Damn Heavy have entered into a similar arrangement with Beelzebub or not, but what I do know is that the devil-blues groove is strong with these guys. Every single song on here has a filthy great big blues flow and the amplifiers turned up to eleven,  channelling the strut of Hard Again-era Muddy Waters with the contemporary howling of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. From the opening stomp of Big Bad City to the last, echoing note of Strange Town, this is… well, pretty damn heavy. Pretty damn good, too. Tim Sorrell

Deadbeat At Dawn
Deadbeat At Dawn
Album (Self-released)

There is a lot of sci-fi and thriller cinema in the imagery brought to mind by Deadbeat At Dawn's sounds, with plenty to make this electronic/synthwave record an absorbing experience, a pleasingly alienating journey worth immersing oneself in. At times eerie and others energetic, smooth melodic synth entrances break it up and make its scope more wide-ranging and ambitious. The self-titled album opens with The Offering, Shadow Depository and Mesh Network/The Box, a triad of tracks that blend together into a single entity and make for a solid introduction. The soft and creepy Hex Box follows – perhaps the most cinematic on the album – which later merges into Bonecrusher, a catchy and fast composition that consolidates the record's strong character. The second half of the album goes downhill slightly, with isolated sparks in Chrome Arm and The Comforting Tick of Reconstruction. Overall a positive debut with potential. Federico Cornetto

J.Littles and Nick Stez
The Rushton Gardens Project
Album (Iliad Music)

Rushton Gardens might sound like a countryside idyll; in fact, it's just off St Ann's Well Road. So if you were coming to this new release from Nottingham artist J.Littles and producer Nick Stez expecting pastoral pleasantness, think again. But if you like your Notts rap hard with an inspirational kick, The Rushton Gardens Project – featuring a host of Nottingham talent including Scorzayzee, Jourdan Pierre Blair, Nartz, Danny Dorito, 2Tone and Razor – will be right up your street. Tunes like Black Sheep bump with darker themes of dads on heroin and (maybe outdated) Shottingham gun talk. But unlike Skinnyman, I'm a sucker for a good hook, so the more uplifting, piano-led Dreaming, and Inspiration, which unsurprisingly pack a more inspiring message, won me over. The album artwork by Nick Stez's son Jamal Sterrett – of tram stop dance fame – is on point too, showing Rushton Gardens as a bucolic nighttime scene, like an urban Constable. Shariff Ibrahim

Nekeyo
Timeless
Album (Self-released)

Chillstep as a sub-genre is an intriguing relationship between two sounds that seem too polar opposite to be deemed credible when juxtaposed. However, this experimental album from Nekeyo is proof that you can't necessarily pass judgment before sampling the delights of this eclectic and innovative young producer. It's almost Eno-like exuberance in building a synergy between melody, mind and spirit is testament to its assorted use of sounds – running the gamut of styles, from classical to modern. It can be easily viewed as a bath album, to help unwind and de-stress; yet it's more a case of motivational music, the type to free your mind of external, meaningless worries and overcome possibilities of any demand. You can't help but draw comparisons between Timeless' piano syncopations and Play-era Moby, those emotionally cleansing vibrations of heavenly bliss. For those who just need to get away from it all, this is the album. Jack Garofalo

Sleaford Mods
TCR EP
EP (Rough Trade)

Having stretched out their sound on last year's Key Markets, Sleaford Mods return to more archetypal musical territory on this five-track EP, their first release on Rough Trade. Lyrically, though, they're moving on; only on the closing track, You're A Nottshead, does Jason Williamson fully embrace his bile-spewing ranter persona of old. As with the other parochial pot-shots in his repertoire – Cunt Make It Up, Showboat – you'll have fun trying to decode the jibes: “Motown wanker”; “you ain't fucking T Rex”; “I can't BELIEVE I got signed!” Elsewhere, references to adulthood and the ageing process abound: the weight of parenting, the prospect of wearing paper slippers, asking for Rioja instead of beer. On TCR, Jason boards the bus from Sherwood into town, for a night out that he's not really up for. On I Can Tell, the same bus becomes “the 42 to hell”. It's bleak stuff, for bleak times. Mike Atkinson

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