Northwest Gig Highlights – October 2015

With Deerhunter, Holly Herndon and gazillions more, Liverpool Music Week threatens to dominate proceedings but Manchester more than shows its mettle with a trippy hat-trick of Battles, Acid Mothers Temple and The Space Lady

Preview by Laura Swift | 12 Oct 2015

Liverpool wipes the floor this month with the annual Liverpool Music Week, a week-long run of gigs with Holly Herndon, Micachu & The Shapes and Jam City firing the starting gun at The Kazimier on 23 Oct and Gang of Four, LA Priest and Brandon Cox’s eternally supreme Deerhunter besting the finish line on Halloween (at Camp and Furnace). In between those opening and closing parties you’ve got yer Josh T Pearson (roared gospels and smokestack vocals; Scandinavian Church, 28 Oct), yer HEALTH (synapse-scrambling industrial pop; The Kaz, 25 Oct); hell, even yer Godspeed You! Black Emperor (no introduction needed; Camp and Furnace, 27 Oct). Completely ridiculous really.

On the 25th, Liverpool Irish Festival offers a lineup to compete (and indeed is presented in collaboration with LMW) in the form of evergreen experimentalists Immix Ensemble, who accompany Stealing Sheep in providing the score for a performance of contemporary dance from Fearghus Ó Conchúir and Aoife McAtamney. Taking place at the Bluecoat, this is the finale of a Festival that’ll also have welcomed the first ever Liverpool performance from Rusangano Family, a hip-hop/electronic trio based in Ireland with Togolese and Zimbabwean influences (The Kazimier Garden, 17 Oct), and the UK premiere of the ‘Meta-Perceptual Helmets,’ which allow wearers to experience their environment through the eyes of an animal. Get involved.

If the above sounds up your street then you’ll probably also be of a mind to catch the music of Twin Peaks given the cover treatment by dark Californians Xiu Xiu; if frontman Jamie Stewart’s track record of twisted operettas – by turns febrile and abrasive, tender and unforgiving – is anything to go by, no doubt we can expect something singularly raw and haunted from his interpretation of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s cult score (The Kazimier, 6 Oct).

As balm, more soothing fare comes in the form of Vetiver’s silver-leafed freak folk, at Leaf cafe on 17 Oct (also at Manchester's Night & Day Cafe on 15 Oct), and a live outing for collaborators Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate (at Leaf on 4 Oct, and The Deaf Institute, Manchester, on 5 Oct). The songwriter/beatboxer and kora player are touring their unique electrified rap-folk hybrid, developed since meeting for the first time at a festival in 2010 and, despite not speaking each other’s language, immediately finding a connection through music.

Manchester has its festivals too, if of smaller order. The fifth Carefully Planned Festival populates Soup Kitchen, Gullivers, Aatma (previously Kraak) and several other venues across the weekend of 17-18 Oct with fierce indie pop and attitude from the likes of Nottingham’s Kagoule (check our interview, page 16), Manchester’s False Advertising (p44) and Sheffield’s Best Friends, as well as electronic disturbances from worriedaboutsatan. The third COLUMNS all-dayer, so named due to its home inside the imposing architecture of Manchester Cathedral, offers a somewhat less assuming lineup than past instalments (previous headliners having included Future Islands); but that track record should provide a sturdy guarantor for this season’s crop, which includes the chart-built soul-pop of Jack Garratt and the wistful guitar/synth wash of Duck House.

A hat-trick of fine songwriters gives us an excuse for a mini pub crawl in early October – Rozi Plain on the 6th at Eagle Inn, Euros Childs on the 7th at Gullivers and Jane Weaver on the 8th at, er, oh, actually you just stay in Gullivers for this one. Call it a pub… walk? A pub step. Anyway, as the nights draw in and the ochre leaves crinkle delightfully/mulch dangerously underfoot, what could be better than spending them in the company of Plain’s furled poetry, Childs’ Welsh plaintives or Weaver’s soft hypnoses?

And if you’re not quite ready to bring things down to a fireplace pace, then over the course of the month you can rewire your brain slowly beginning with dirge heavyweights Melvins (Gorilla, 9 Oct), moving on to forefathers of new psychedelia Acid Mothers Temple (Band on the Wall, 20 Oct) and outsider music hero The Space Lady (Islington Mill, 20 Oct), and ending with art-rock agitators Battles (Manchester Academy, 23 Oct). All so far out you’ll need to take your MegaRider. Finally, self-described “child of grime” and BBC Sound of 2015 nominee Stormzy hits Gorilla on the 24th, the South London MC currently tearing up the charts with his witty freestyle Shut Up and sure to bring the railway arches to their knees with his smart, emotive flow.

Halloween queen is Joanna Newsom, whose sold-out show plays at the Albert Hall on the 31st; recently seen inchoately narrating Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and, prior to that, bewitching a generation with her masterpieces Ys and Have One on Me, the harpist and vocalist returns to the stage with new album Divers. If a ticket drifts your way on the autumn breeze – which it’s not going to do, you’ll have to ring the venue or something – don’t snooze. It’s also somewhat of a comeback for Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth (would it surprise you to learn that he’s not?), who upgrades from past startlingly intimate shows at St Phil’s and the like to the Albert Hall on the 23rd with his tearjerking Swedish songcraft.

In sum: things are pretty damn great, guys, and they haven’t even started putting coffee in red cups yet.


Actress, Islington Mill, 9 Oct 

Since being christened curators of Islington Mill’s live music and art programme in June, resident promoters Fat Out have been doing their darnedest to unstitch the time-space continuum, bringing mind-widening artists like William Basinski, Sly & The Family Drone and Richard Dawson deep into the bowels of Salford. On 9 Oct they team up with promoters Now Wave to present one of contemporary music’s most uncompromising artists, Actress.

The artist otherwise known as Darren Cunningham came to prominence with 2012’s R.I.P., an album of chameleonic iridescence which flitted from sylphine ambient music (N.E.W., Glint) to cold, reptilian techno (Shadow from Tartarus, The Lord’s Graffiti). The highly anticipated followup, Ghettoville (2014), was a more grisly affair, perhaps disappointing those who’d come to him via R.I.P.’s tensile beauty but, in its great strata of noise and slurried electronic byproduct, returning Cunningham to the girdling sonic waste of earlier records Hazyville and Splazsh.

Live, he is known to thwart expectations, sometimes to the point of obfuscation – but not knowing what to expect only adds to the anticipation of seeing an artist who plays and manipulates at will, with only his own agenda to serve. [Laura Swift]