The (unofficial) Mutations 2019 festival awards

On 23rd February in a conference centre on an industrial estate just off a very sunny Portslade High Street, we witnessed the coming together of some of the most promising alternative music acts around.

The Mutations 2019 festival provided a feast for the ears and sometimes the eyes. Despite some issues with being able to provide enough beer to the thirsty masses, it largely went off without a hitch and provided a huge amount of pleasure to those in attendance.

With that in mind, I present my completely unofficial Mutations 2019 festival awards.

The consummate professional award

Winner: White Denim

White Denim doing what they do best

Headliners White Denim showed why they deserved to be topping the bill, with a incredibly tight performance and a huge sound that could fill any size of venue. They had to deal with a backdrop that had been glitchy all day but finally gave up the ghost completely at the start of their performance. However, such was the immensity of their stage presence that you hardly noticed.

The audience immersion award

Winner: Snapped Ankles

Snapped Ankles, or possibly a shamanic yeti

As soon as Snapped Ankles emerged onto the stage in their modified ghillie suits, looking somewhat like shamanisitc yetis, you knew you were in for an unusual performance.

From the opening bars of ‘I Want My Minutes Back’ you were glued to what was happening on stage. So much so that you hardly noticed the gradual invasion of other ghillie suited performers into the audience. One set up shop right next to me banging on a snare drum in perfect synchronicity to the goings-on up front, while others bounded through the audience flailing their arms as if held in a maddening trance by the sounds emanating from the stage.

The Snapped Ankles set was actually quite short, which may have left the audience wanting more but was probably a huge relief for those in the stifling costumes, given the amount of energy they were expending throughout.

Longest sound check award

Winner: Goat Girl

Goat Girl, once they finally got going

It’s not often you see a band standing around on stage sound checking for longer than the actual performance, but that’s exactly what it felt like when Goat Girl took to the stage as second top billing act.

They were clearly having some issues with feedback but spent far too long trying it sort it out and eventually the audience got a little impatient.

As a result – whether it was nerves from having stood on stage so long waiting to start, the sound adjustments made, that this new act are still a finding their feet, or a combination of all these things – but the performance was flat. As was the reaction from the audience. A massive shame, as I had really enjoyed their eponymous debut album and had been looking forward to their set for some time.

The ‘Audience in the palm of our hands’ award

Winner: Flamingods

Flamingods, possibly on fire

Flamingods have been playing their unique brand of exotic psych rock since 2010, and that experience showed as the audience lapped up their performance.

Their full-on set, coupled with some perfectly complementary visuals, made for an, at times transcendental experience that the crowd couldn’t get enough of.

My first experience of this band, hopefully not the last.

The international discovery award

Winner: Ohmme (USA)

Ohmme post gig

This Chicago group managed to meld complex harmonic vocal arrangements with some seriously noisy guitars to create a unique sound that was entrancing and explosive. They could perhaps do with a bass player to pack even more punch, but it’s well worth catching up with their (currently) small back catalogue. They told us after the gig they were straight off to Wales to record their next album. I’ll be reviewing their older tracks in anticipation of that release.

Notable mention: Joesfin Öhrn & The Liberation (Sweden)

And now for the big one…

Best set

Winner: TVAM

TVAM – they are there somewhere

Truth be told, this was the band I was most looking forward to seeing after the triumphant release of debut album Psychic Data last year (which made the top 20 of my Top 50 albums of 2018 list).

Fortunately they did not disappoint. It was a sparse setup for a group billing second on the second stage. Just a guitar and small keyboard between the two performers and an old CRT television displaying images and lyrics to the group’s songs. But the overall impression conveyed was incredible. The sounds they achieved with such minimal machinery completely drew you in and left your head swirling.

Hopefully they will be returning soon so that we can experience a full-on full set.

Hopefully Mutations will also be returning soon, though next time they might need to stock up on more beer.

Album review: Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed and Ready

Cherry Glazer - Stuffed & Ready album cover

Stuffed & Ready is the third album from LA’s post-punk trio Cherry Glazerr and a follow-up to 2017’s rather enjoyable Apocalypstick. This is a much more mature effort though. It has elements of Riot Grrl punk interspersed through it, but most songs take a much softer tone that highlights Clementine Creevy’s angelic voice.

The are touches of 60s-influenced Franco pop on Self Explained and indie-pop on Distressor, though heavy guitars are never too far away.

We have some slow swing on Isolation, before crunching guitars sweep in for the chorus. Some changes of direction on Daddi, along with a smattering of drum machine, make it stand out as more interesting than your standard alt-rock numbers.

There are a lot of competent rock numbers which, when matched with Creey’s softer vocal style, make for an enjoyable listen. This perhaps isn’t going to set the world on fire, but this release will certainly find the band some new friends.

Release date: 01 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Wasted Nun

For fans of:

  • Goat Girl
  • Marmozets
  • Our Girl

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2018 Music Review – April

My pick of top albums from April was very much dominated by girl-powered guitars and retro dance music.

Take, for instance, the highly rated post-punk outfit Goat Girl. This London all-girl band have seen their star rise sharply in 2018, and it’s no surprise with some finely crafted tunes on their eponymous debut album.

Also catching my ear this month were Blackwater Holylight. This female foursome from Oregon’s blend of drone rock and psychadelia ticked a lot of boxes.

Welsh singer-songwriter Bryde also managed to light up the month with her slightly heavier take on the traditional relationship-based crooning of her contemporaries.

On the electronic side of things, we had some head nodding, hands in the air moments from the like of Makeness, SCB (a.k.a. Scuba) and Daniel Avery – the latter pulling off the trick of bringing back the vibes of Aphex Twin and Plastikman while remaining rooted in the 21st century.

Elsewhere there were a couple of guilty pleasures to be had. Cosmo Sheldrake‘s use of woodwind throughout his album gives it a very whimsical feel – almost like visiting the circus.

Confidence Man‘s effort is something to behold and utterly irresistable. It revels in its high camp pop while laying on some serious 90’s style acid house grooves. Glorious – a top guilty pleasure.

Top of the tree this month was German outfit Die Nerven, whose mix of shoegaze and indie/post-punk kept me enthralled, even though I didn’t have a clue what they were going on about. Not sure they were a very happy bunch though.

Top 10 April 2018

1: Die Nerven – Fake

Standout track: Neue Wellen

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2: Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People

Standout track: Don’t You Know I’m In a Band

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3: Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha

Standout track: Clear

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4: Cosmo Sheldrake – The Much Much How How and I

Standout track: Come Along

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5: Rival Consoles – Persona

Standout track: Hidden

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6: Goat Girl – Goat Girl

Standout track: The Man

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7: Makeness – Loud Patterns

Standout track: Gold Star

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8: Blackwater Holylight – Blackwater Holylight

Standout track: Willow

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9: Bryde – Like and Island

Standout track: To Be Brave

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10: SCB – Caibu

Standout track: Five Degrees – Caibu Adjustment

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