Toni Chills In The Sweltering Heat Of 17 June At Muthers Studio

Writer Mirab Kay / Photographer Alice Needham

It seems Toni and the band have picked the hottest day of the year so far to showcase their setlist brimming with attitude.

Though the set starts rather abruptly, we are immediately immersed in the heavy progression of the first song which encourages us to begin dancing along.

Regrettably, the sound levels are such that Toni’s delicate voice is a little hard to hear, but this is a problem that soon sorts itself out as everyone eases into the groove. We are even given the privilege of becoming musicians ourselves, our claps providing the sole backing to a section of the song.

After a timid introduction to the audience, and a tuning of lead guitar, we venture into ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette. The shimmering guitar lays down a stable, rhythmic melody over which Toni has free reign to show off her light, pretty vibrato during the verse and pre chorus.

Then, with no warning, the band hurls itself into the chorus and graceful vocals erupt into powerful belts that boom through the speakers. This increasing energy is reflected in the audience who continue to show their support.

Next the band delights me with one of my favourite ever songs – ‘You Know I’m No Good’ by Amy Winehouse. Toni absolutely does Amy Winehouse justice, even adopting vocal cries to mimic her vocal style, though with a lighter approach and more focus on well-controlled fast vibrato.

I remain charmed throughout the entire song and commend the band for its faithfulness to the original track. This is somewhat shattered towards the end when the guitar and bass fail to communicate on where the song should end, resulting in a disjointed and partially formed conclusion.

Song four – ‘The Joke’ by Brandi Carlile – was undoubtedly chosen to showcase Toni’s incredible range and discipline over keeping her vocals slow. Yet again, she wows with her belts in the chorus so much so that the audience scream and cheer their amazement.

The end of the song allows Toni to perform some beautifully supported head voice riffs, boasting her versatility yet again.

The band closes the show with another of my all-time favourites ‘Feeling Good’, opting for the heavier cover by Muse. In all honesty I am thrilled and relieved that someone in the Birmingham music scene has finally decided to perform this song – it seems to have dropped off the setlists of many jazz and blues bands and I believe the world is definitely worse for it.

Even though I would love to hear Toni reimagine Nina Simone’s incredible scatting, this version allows Toni to exercise the lower end of her range and the transitions between chest and head voice.

The set ends almost as suddenly as it started with some awkwardness that could be avoided by an outro at least. Some more conversation throughout could ease everyone’s nerves particularly between band members who rarely seem to communicate, though miraculously this does little to damage their timings and transitions.

Do I wish the set was longer? Always. But I am happy with what I have seen regardless and with a little more experience, these young musicians will hold their fans in the palms of their hands.

For more from Toni visit their Instagram: www.instagram.com/toniannbarness

For more at Muthers Studio visit www.muthersstudio.co.uk

For more from The Future Sound Project visit: www.linktr.ee/thefuturesoundproject

Brum Review Goes Baroque: A Night With The Artisans Of Fantasy

Writer Reece Greenfield / Photographer Connor Pope

On Wednesday 15 June, I had the pleasure of attending ‘Stylus Phantasticus’ a night of 17th century music presented by Musica d’Outrora, a three piece chamber ensemble made up of Christi Park (baroque violin), Timothy Lin (viol) and Pablo Devigo (harpsichord and organ).

I enter the high-ceilinged Organ Studio and am immediately struck by the immaculateness of the environment. Two beautiful harpsichords stand before me along with Lin’s viol (named Felicity) who waits patiently. The organ to my right spanning the height of the room, a replica of 17th century German design, displays decorative cherubs carved into its wood accompanied by impressive gleaming pipes.

The musicians enter the room dressed to match the surroundings and kick things off with a sonata for organ and violin, a hopeful and optimistic array of sound reaches our ears as the sun through the windows illuminates the wooden instruments. The violin trills and sings playfully atop the robust foundation of the organ accompaniment, slowly ramping up then releasing into relaxing serenity, up and then down in waves of colour.

Next a solo harpsichord piece begins after a brief but not entirely unmusical interjection by a creaky door hinge. Devigo adeptly displays his abilities in capturing the musical caprice of the piece; his fingers effortlessly transforming the notes from pensiveness to frivolity but never straying too far from the warm embrace of the major resolution.

Thereafter all three musicians take up the stage weaving a rich tapestry in perfect coordination with the violin following just behind each turnaround. It was at this moment that I was struck by how truly well-rehearsed the ensemble sounded. It was as if the music facilitated a kind of telepathy enabling effortless rubato and impeccable musical chemistry.

The next piece hearkens back somewhat further into Baroque music’s roots featuring a danceable galloping rhythm which slows down in the second phase, enabling a rich background to the conversation between viol and violin. A conversation that, if held between two people, you’d assume they were lovers.

Now it was Lin’s time to shine. After a brief introduction he sits down with his viol, along with Pablo’s harpsichord accompaniment, and begins to dazzle the audience with acrobatic sheets of sound. His fingers are a blur as he works his way with undeniable grace through this difficult piece. Each turnaround is punctuated by a conductive, collective inhale momentarily pulling the listener out of the fantasy into familiar human territories.

The penultimate piece, ‘Sonata XII’ by Ignazio Albertini, holds a special place in Park’s heart and the wonder she felt in first discovering this rarity is transferred to the audience through her loquacious and emotive playing. This, for me, was the zenith of the performance as not only did the ensemble play their hearts out, but the piece itself was rich with narrative enabling a variety of moods and textures swooping in between realms of joyous pride and contemplative introspection.

The final piece of the evening is by far the most progressive and forward thinking. I can’t help but think that Musica d’Outrora are showing us glimpses of the future, hinting at what would later appear in classical and romantic music. We’re all well and truly stolen away on an epic journey in only eight minutes.

After rapturous applause that belies the small size of the crowd, they return to the stage with Park boldly saying: “We lied! We have one more for you”. They then go on to play a piece that aptly tied the whole evening together in a neat bow, displaying pulsating tempo and dynamics, and energetic violin interjected by plush harmony from the other instruments.

After the piece finishes, beaming smiles arise on the faces of the ensemble and then the audience, matching the streams of light still beaming through the window.  I realise what Park meant when earlier in the performance she had explained the meaning of ‘Stylus Phantasticus’.

“It’s a translation of ‘The Art of Fantasy’.” Quite so, and Musica d’Outrora are its artisans.

Birmingham’s Royal Conservatoire frequently hosts events in their auditoria. Show your support for Brum’s blooming jazz and classical music scene and check out their events here: www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire/events-calendar

For more on Christi Park visit:  www.facebook.com/viovitali.christi12
For more on Timothy Lin visit: www.facebook.com/timothy.lin.142
For more on Pablo Devigo visit: www.pablodevigo.com

TV Girl With Support From Sidney Gish At The Mill 13 June

Writer Mark Roberts / Photographer Connor Pope

As I walk into The Mill on Lower Trinity Street I am taken aback. Most of the people in this venue could be half my age. I double check the event page and lo and behold, it’s 14+. I AM double their age.

The last time I was here I’d seen Alpha Mist and back then there was one option on the bar, San Miguel in cans. This time they’ve really upgraded, with the Estrella tap back on as well as San Miguel on tap. I look at the fridges and there are San Miguels in tinnies. I choose water.

As I get settled the hubbub of the teens is stereotypically loud, I’ve missed the support acts opening songs, but this was in the end a good choice as between the sound man’s incredibly quiet sound for Sidney Gish and the audience’s extreme ability to talk over the music I couldn’t catch much. I believe I hear a song which might be called ‘Persephone’, I’m sure it’d be good if I could hear any of it.

On we move to TV Girl and the sound is far better. Unfortunately, I’m met with what I can only describe as beta Bombay Bicycle Club. TV Girl has all the nonchalance and lack of swagger, with none of the good music. Each tune melts into the next as if they’re one homogenous blob of cardboard flavoured amoebas.

I’m wondering to myself why indie hasn’t developed at all and why no one on stage seems to care that they’re playing to a packed-out room of seemingly adoring fans. I don’t get it, but the audience seems to, so I guess I’m just old.

I’m still curious as to how a band whose debut album was in 2014 has managed to garner such an array of teen girls to come to their show. Then, on the fourth song I see why.

Suddenly all the phones are out after Brad Petering mentions Tik Tok. I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to delve into the realm of a social media company I assume is about comparing your clocks. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Turns out the song is really making the rounds on there, as you can tell when all the phones in the room are raised into the air.

Petering however, needs to learn to shut up. His anecdotes are seemingly trying to be funny but instead come across braggadocious and out of touch. At one point Petering talks of a time, he was drunk driving with Justin Bieber, apparently completely unaware that his audience are mostly under the age of 18.

They boo him, understandably.

He continues on to talk about his friend Harry Styles who apparently told him that TV Girl’s song was “the best song ever written”. The anecdotes don’t end, why are you still talking Brad, no one has laughed.

Overall, I would not recommend anyone going to see TV Girl, but I’m clearly not their target audience.

I haven’t even gone into how utterly unimaginative the lyrics were…

Find out more about TV Girl here: www.tvgirl.bandcamp.com

Find out more about Sidney Gish here: www.sidneygish.com/socialmedia.html

For more form The Mill, including full event listings, visit: www.themilldigbeth.com

Dälek’s Barbed Poetics & Holy Scum’s Wall Of Sound Live At Supersonic 11 June

Writer Harry Croxford / Photographer Connor Pope

Cutting through electrical fog with acerbic and pointed poetry, Dälek triumphs with a wrathful and critical tour-de-force on the Birmingham stopover on their UK tour. Supported by friends and fellow boundary-pushers Holy Scum, the show exhibits why Supersonic are recognised as cultivators of ground breaking experimental music.

Warm and welcoming are the staff; harsh and angular are the acts they promote. Supersonic Festival astounds once again in Centrala’s intimate Digbeth space, reminding us why they are considered one of the premier experimental music promoters.

The night comprises performances from Holy Scum and Dälek. The close ties between the two groups evidenced not only from their shared members, but a dedication to boundary pushing and dense electronic fuzz.

Holy Scum, an improvisational act formed in 2019, with members of Dälek (Mike Mare), GNOD (Chris Haslam and Jon perry), and Action Beat (Peter J. Taylor), strikes hard and incorporates elements of shoegaze, noise, and an anarchic approach to performance.

Among cables, instruments, and speakers, pedals scatter the floor. Perry and Haslam provide the pulse – high-strung, aggravated. Perry’s characteristic drumming that gives GNOD their characteristic explosivity and pound, and Haslam’s bass erect a steely backbone to the rest of the band’s wild static improvisations.

Mare, drawing on the shoegaze-mist that has slowly developed across Dälek’s recent releases combines live production with highly treated vocals. Taylor’s post-punky, reverb-ladened guitar, winds upwards and repeats in this cacophonic whirl-wind.

And added to this too, is a quasi-pantomimic audience interaction: mid-performance Taylor disappears, only to reappear beside a surprised audience-member, and he continues with this: skating on a transport trolley, passing his guitar to bewildered audience members, and running round with wild abandon.

It is intimidatingly hilarious.

Like warning sirens in a typhoon, this maximalist wall of sound leaves us all wanting as they conclude the set, letting the reverb drenched synths expand and eventually fade.

Luckily for us, however, Mare makes his return to the stage as one half of Dälek. This time accompanied by Will Brooks, or MC Dälek, who enters the stage accompanied with a similar electronic drone that defines their recent LP, Precipice.

This duo are monoliths in the experimental hip-hop world. From Death Grips to Billy Woods, and Lil Ugly Mane to Danny Brown, sonic through-lines to contemporary acts can be traced back across Dälek’s boundary-pushing multi-decade career.

While previous albums explore territories as broad as jazz, sludge metal, and krautrock, the tracks Dälek takes us through result from Precipice: a sharp, acerbic, and enlivened record that stands on its own as a fuzzy, bristling, shoegaze-hip-hop masterpiece.

Live mixing dark ambient drone with pounding drum breaks, Dälek here proves it to be hip-hop at its genre-splicing best, with Brooks’ lyrics deftly sliding serpentine round Mare’s maximal wall of sound.

The backdrop to all of this are fragments from the accompanying art to Precipice. Lit up behind the duo is a flickering and vivid tableau developed by artist Paul Romano and featuring work from Mikel Lavanne Elam, whose Afro-Futurist work refracts much of the themes and history explored by Brooks.

Brook’s poetry is at its best when it marries embittered reflections on social injustices, casting them in an apocalyptic, wrathful, bull-blood-red light. In ‘Good’ his lines ricochet from the Sword of Damocles to police injustice, and references to popular tracks like Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, ironically contrasting with the violence that seeps through the other lines, depicting Cooke’s track as naive, or overly optimistic.

Despite some technical issues, resulting in an impassioned Brooks pausing the show while the sound engineer tries to alter and refine the sound, the show is cohesive and tight. This temporary pause allows Brooks to meditate on the importance of live music despite the past two years of uncertainty, cancellation, and delay.

“This shit means too much,” Brooks states, turning to the crowd. It is clear that he treats his art, and the audience’s experience, with great care and sensitivity.

And by centring on the shared experience of musician/audience, the latter half of the show and its lyrics depicting a world wrought by anxiety, agonising injustices, and the twilight hours of a decaying global order, are supplanted by the vein of rebellion and a social collectivism that constantly emerges in Brooks’ lyrics.

Find out more about Dälek and their most recent release here: www.dalek.bandcamp.com
For more on GNOD visit: www.gnod.bandcamp.com
For more on Action Beat visit: www.action-beat.bandcamp.com  
Mikel Lavanne Elam visit: www.mikel-elam.format.com
For more on Paul Romano visit: www.workhardened.com/links

For details on the upcoming Supersonic Festival (08/07-10/07) visit: www.sup:ersonicfestival.com/supersonic-2022

For more from Centrala go to: www.centrala-space.org.uk

Tom Ford Headlines Lysergic Lounge At Nortons On 9 June

Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Connor Pope

Lysergic Lounge must be one of the most dynamic music events happening in Digbeth at the moment. Nortons, the new-ish, ‘not like another Irish bar’, is not an easy space to fill. It’s surrounded by road works on all sides and far enough away from Trinity Street that no one’s going to stroll by accidentally, so I’m surprised to arrive at a gently buzzing venue mid-week.

I won’t throw shade at their drinks prices because I know they pay their staff a living-wage, but I might also start taking a hip flask with me to work.

Whilst the line-up looks great, in earnest I’m here to see Brum’s rising jazz talent Tom Ford. Ford’s Latest 2022 album The Tennis Champions is a melodic, atmospheric dream featuring his impressive guitar skills and vocals from the likes of Poppy Ajudha, Jay Prince, and Simon Jnr. Fingers crossed Ford brings along some of his session musicians to spice up the set, although seeing him for free might be outrageous enough in itself.

The first support band is three-piece Oh Dear and I’m pleasantly surprised when they get started. At weekday gigs the first band can often feel like a placeholder, or some kind of background noise to warm up a distracted audience.

This was not the case for Oh Dear, who brought along their own small enthusiastic fandom. Their disco indie-pop because the synth and keys bring the groove but their frontwomen also captures that indie-soft-girl vibe as her voice soars and falls in a way that reminds me distinctly of Florence + The Machine.

At the end of their set, Oh Dear declares a dance competition the prize of which is a t-shirt. The only disappointing part of their set is Oh Dear decides ‘Zoe’ is their winner. Suspicious, how did Oh Dear know Zoe was called Zoe?

Next up it’s Big Troppy and their big personalities become apparent immediately as they shred their guitars, whip their hair, and squat staring at the audience. The frontman, proudly donning a spiderman snapback, really speaks to my soul. He’s living for himself and frequently gases over the mic explaining this is the bit he’s left to catch his breath between songs.

The four piece rock band has exceptionally pacey garage drums, rough vocals and enough riffs to fill me up. My favourite track is ‘Consider Me Dead’ which is about being “really, really, really, really… hungover”. It begins soft like that moment before you realise you’re actually hungover: “Consider me dead as I lie here in my bed.” Then, the bass and drums come in heavy both, guitars are rinsed, and the sound becomes almost deafening, like when you realise you’re hungover.

The crashing symbols and ironically depressing lyrics are nostalgic, I can’t help but have a little head bang over Big Troppy’s infectious rhythm.

Next up should be Fitzroy Holt, but there’s been timing issues and due to some of Ford’s band needing to return to London that night, Tom Ford is up next supported by Simon Jnr on vocals, Parthenope on Sax, Hugo Piper on bass, and Nathan Shingler on drums.

Ford begins playing his beautiful guitar slowly and emotively whilst also pulling off a mullet. Simon Jnr’s soft falsetto is added, harmonising alongside Ford’s melody, and Shingler’s drums are spontaneous and tight. Piper’s bass twangs, and Parthenope’s sax enters like a welcome breeze on a summer’s night. The artist’s collective sound is impeccable, flowing between different standards with ease.

Ford takes a moment to say “Please vote anything but Tory in the next election” which is well received by the creative crowd.

As the drums peel back and the rest of the musicians on stage minimise their sound, Tom Ford is given a chance to display his extensive blowing talent. His fingers are perpetually blurred as he cascades them up and down the length of his personalised guitar. Despite his tempo, each note is clear and crisp, promoting gasps and rounds of applause from the audience at the end of his solos.

When the full body of the sound returns, carried by the Parthenope immaculate sax, I get stuck looking at the drums for a second, then I’m drawn to Simon Jnr’s sultry vocal and tight rap flow. Ford is working the guitar with even greater determination and a rainforest appears in my mind’s eye.

It feels like Tom Ford’s musical collective is an ecosystem of sound, perfectly in sync, fuelling one another.

It’s a tough act to follow, and whilst matching the technical ability of a Ford’s jazz ensemble is understandably out of reach, Fitzroy Holt’s impassioned alternative rock energy does not disappoint. His powerful emotive vocals cry out into the audience accompanied by complex and creative guitar riffs.

The floor stays full even though the headliners have been and gone and Fitzroy Holt treats us to his latest release ‘Medicine’ which he consistently delivers with precise drama, easing up and then letting us have it at just the right moment. I’m losing my energy to dance and spend the remainder of the set sipping my pint, bobbing my head, and taking in the great sound at the back of the room.

Gosh it must cost so much to heat this place.

For more from the artists please see the links below:
Oh Dear: www.instagram.com/ohdearisaband
Big Troppy: www.Linktr.ee/bigtroppy
Fitzroy Holt: www.linktr.ee/FitzroyHolt
Tom Ford: www.linktr.ee/tommford

For more gigs and events from Lysergic Lounge visit: www.facebook.com/lysergicloungelizards

For more from Nortons, please go to their website: www.nortons.bar