Pigeons/Stealing Sheep/Mikhael Paskalev/Emily and the Faves
The Shipping Forecast, Slater Street
2nd December 2010
Photographs by Keith Ainsworth
This was a showcase for Manchester’s Red Deer Club, “specialists
in curveball pop, landfill indie, and hugstep” as their motto goes.
Whilst the second term is now considered a term of abuse for the likes
of Snow Patrol, Athlete and samey purveyors of overly-emotive indie rock,
curveball pop goes a long way to describing the acts on tonight’s
Emily and the Faves' (pictured right) solid indie-pop is pleasantly reminiscent
of the brief early 1990s period when Belly, The Breeders and Lush dominated
indie music. Led by Emily’s heavily reverbed guitar, the trio’s
strongest track The Formula hinges
on a dexterous unison guitar-bass riff and strong harmonies. Sometimes’
insistent riff is complemented by the gentle psych pop of ‘So Long
Sucker’, coming across a highly successful cross between Lush and
long-lost US singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield. Orange
Mind beginning with a classic Phil Spector drumbeat shares the
same rarified air as the late 1960s Laurel Canyon songwriters. With the
addition of a few fuzzy guitars to give them more of an edge ver Faves
could be genuine contenders.
LIPA student Mikhael Paskalev up next demonstrates what appears to be
a signature element of Red Deer Club’s roster, hushed, uncoiling
guitars and close harmony singing. Backed by a four-piece band, the majority
of his songs are amazingly spare sounding, with the electric guitar mournfully
picking its way through the tracks. Indeed, most of the set is so sparse,
the drummer seems almost surplus to requirements. I
Spy proves to be an exception, lurching into a hoe-down midway
through complete with Duane Eddy-esque guitar.
track, a gently murmured lullaby could easily have been heard crackling
out of a wireless in an early episode of Mad
Men. Touching almost on gospel music at points, Woman
evokes glacial US trio Low, its epically slow pace conveying the full
weight of the lyrics’ turmoil. The restraint of the musicians is
to be praised as any diversions into Guitar Hero style antics would shatter
the carefully spun web of Mikhael’s delicate tracks.
Drawing the largest crowd of the evening, Stealing Sheep (pictured right)
take to the stage in Velvet Underground formation, with the trio stood
in a line onstage, with Lucy’s drumkit front and centre. Supplying
measured, Mo Tucker-style drumbeats behind the two mounted tom toms, the
black and white striped drumsticks look vaguely like elongated candy canes.
Opening with 21st Century Andrews Sisters redux Mountain
Dogs, the trio’s watertight harmonies are much in evidence,
making the spare instrumentation that powers the tracks spark into life.
Saddest Song seeps from the speakers,
sharing the same hazy stumble as Kim Deal’s quieter moments, whilst
possibly their most recognizable track Shoot
the Ducks to Win, slowly lopes along like a cross between a blissed
version of Fleetwood Mac’s proto-chillout classic Albatross
and Mogwai after strict instructions to keep the volume down. The spectacularly
flexible guitar tones of Emily (also of The Faves) makes extensive use
of the My Bloody Valentine trick of strumming whilst bending the vibrato
arm lends the songs an off-kilter swirl. The tweeness that occasionally
manifests itself in the group's songs is an integral part of their sound,
as the child-eye view of the world seems to inform many of their lyrics.
As the lighting rig goes awry the group play on in the dark, allowing
them an added air of mystery, illuminated only by the power indicators
on the amps and the occasional camera flash.
Sophie’s Pigeons (pictured right) claim their musical genre on MySpace
to be happy hardcore, yet the quartet quickly proves this to be about
as accurate as saying Stealing Sheep sound like Extreme Noise Terror.
Similar in approach if not sound to Marina and the Diamonds and Florence
and the Machine, Sophie (and the) Pigeons have the same mildly eccentric
air about them. Led by the eponymous Ms. Wilson, the group make an instant
visual impact with their unusual instrumentation. Vocalist Sophie - seated
at the piano accompanied by a saxophonist, drummer and multi-instrumentalist
- gives the group the air of a jazz quartet, especially in view of the
‘Forecast’s subterranean setting.
Opening with Elevating, the chassis
of cascading piano riff and alto sax accompaniment set out their stall.
Kissing on the Corner’s alto
sax breaks suggests one of The Zutons’ quirkier moments, whilst
new single Monkey’s Trunkle
(us neither) is built around a descending piano riff and keening vox succeeds
in updated the sound Tori Amos minted on Under
the Pink. On piano, Sophie maintains eye contact with the audience
for the entirety of the set, barely glancing down at the keyboard. The
now-defunct Dresden Dolls’ influence looms large here, although
the present group dispense with the US act’s burlesque tendencies.
Proceeding at the same mid-paced canter many of the tracks avoid the standard
bridge-chorus malarkey, opting for an outpouring of verses over a continuous
rolling riff. A cheery pop confection, recent 45 It’s
Gonna Bite suggests the Pigeons could well join the Diamonds and
the Machine in the hit parade.