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Ibibio Sound Machine Interview

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Ibibio Sound Machine


My interview with Ibibio Sound Machine did not start well. Within less than a minute of sitting down with Eno Williams, I’d fumbled the word “Ibibio” and was questioning my worth as a journalist who can’t even say the name of the band he’s interviewing. Having corrected my mistake and Eno having graciously accepted my apology we began the interview proper.

Ibibio Sound Machine are a unique band. They play a blend of West African and electronic music that has found a mainstream audience. This year they are playing Live at Leeds, All Points East and Handmade Festivals (amongst others) where the typical punter is less likely to have had a wide exposure to the modern forms of Highlife they play then if they were playing at a jazz or “world music” focused festival. I started by asking Eno what artists people who discover Ibibio’s music at a festival should investigate to get to know their sound a little better…

“Well there are people like Oumou Sangare, Fatoumata Diawara, Angelique Kidjo, there are so many of these African artists who are in the style of music that we do. What we’re trying to do is bring that with a mixture of funk and electronic stuff as well.”

Today, Ibibio Sound Machine are part of a larger movement of West African music present within the UK but this wasn’t the case when they started out. Around the release of their second album, Eno spoke of how Ibibio’s appearance on Jools Holland had felt like a moment of acceptance from the UK music establishment. As the band looks to find their way out of the 6 Music bubble, one wonders what factors contributed to this mainstream acceptance.

“I think to be honest that it’s to do with the sound, the vibe, the electronic, the high-life. The fact that the music itself is quite positive, quite high energy, high octane and there’s a vibrancy to it. It feels like in the times that we live in that sometimes there’s a bleakness or a shadow over people and people just want something to lift them up to take them to a different space and just escape from the norm and the everyday bleakness. I think that’s why I guess that it’s being accepted, it’s kind of a different sound and people like something different… and people like to dance! That’s what we’ve realized, the set is like a work out session so I’m really sorry if I get people dancing too much and sweating.”

We turn our attention to the new album at which point Eno jumps in enthusiastically.

“22nd of March, one week today, the album comes out. There’s a lot of influences in that we kind of joined influences from our highlife and electronic genres. We’ve been trying to make it very much a live album as well. We’ve been playing quite a lot of gigs in the last few years and found that it felt very organic to get all of us in the room and create something that was reminiscent of that.


The title is called ‘Doko Mien’ which means “Tell Me”, which has two sides to it: one side asking the universe “tell me/direct me what to do” and then there’s the flipside – the commentary on women often being told what to do. So, it’s about speaking up and having a voice and being able to express your opinions. For example, in the creative process of writing that particular song we got into a bit of an argument. I was trying to do one thing and Max the producer going “oh well I think we should do it this way!” and I’m like “yeah yeah yeah, I know your way is the right way so just tell me what to do and I’ll do it… but you need to hear my voice!’”

Ibibio Sound Machine albums are themed, the first (self-titled) was an opportunity for Eno to share old Ibibio stories in a musical setting. The second Uyai or “Beauty” has a much stronger focus on female empowerment which the new album continues.

“Doko Mien continues that empowering ideal with more of a live connection, and more focus on the ebb and flow of life more generally, whilst still touching on culture, storytelling and the things that make our sound “good”. We’ve tried to include English lyrics this time to include the listener, to get them into the backdrop of what I’m singing about.

Most of the lyrics and the melodies come with the Ibibio language, as it is quite lyrical and quite rhythmic, so that comes first and then we do the translation. The English and Ibibio languages as sort of two poles apart; a word in English translated to Ibibio could be three or four phrases. Trying to make that move and that shift in English can be really tricky but we just try to keep the rhythms and the melodies flowing in tandem”


In May 2017 Ibibio Sound Machine played in Morocco, their first gig on the African continent. For a band whose identity is so steeped in Nigerian culture and West African music more broadly, it seems strange that they haven’t had the opportunity to play there more often.

“We’ve had a couple of invitations, but they clashed with other tours so sadly we haven’t made it yet. [We would want to] be in Nigeria of course, because that’s the Heritage of the band-name. Then maybe Ghana, maybe South Africa. We’re looking at exploring Africa in the future…

As there’s 8 of us in the band, it’s the logistics – touring around England and Europe is already a challenge! These are places where everything is already in place, but somewhere like Nigeria… it’s just the logistics of making it happen. In the near future, we really want to make it happen. I just keep thinking ‘it will happen but it has to be the right time.’”

Doko Mien is out on the 22nd of March and you can catch Ibibio Sound Machine at festivals across the UK this summer. If you want to explore their sound a little more, see the playlist below to introduce you to more West African music.


LIVE: Self Esteem @ YES


Due to growing frustrations and worries of a career seemingly stalling, Rebecca Taylor, formerly one half of Slow Club, left behind folk to create a pop/R&B music project. Thus, Self Esteem was born, with Rebecca releasing her debut album Compliments Please on March 1st, to critical acclaim.

They band come out and go straight in to Rollout, the stage is lit in a radiant red and so are the band in all red top/trouser combinations. Every member apart from Rebecca is wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “believe in women” and female empowerment is a key theme throughout the set. Rollout sees Rebecca assert a dominant stage presence, she is front and centre, as they begin going through choreographed dance sections, that aren’t exactly strenuous but none the less are perfect visual aids to the grooves of the songs. It was interesting to note that when the backing singers weren’t needed, they stood perfectly still and expressionless, as if they were androids in low power mode. This suited the mix of electronic R&B on wrestling perfectly.

The longer the set went on, the more endearing Taylor became, her sense of sarcastic humour winning over the crowd by being naturally disarming. At one point saying, “this is the Self Esteem live experience, lets keep doing it I suppose”. At one point she notes that she’s been going through the set too quickly, so resorts to asking the crowd what they for tea. Out of the various answers, Risotto is the answer that strikes her as the oddest, the whole moment feeling like a off-kilter fourth wall break.

Taylor still hasn’t quite left behind all of her folk roots, the track Girl Crush sees the singers lay down finger clicks as a kind of makeshift bass line, mixed with some soaring fiddle parts in the backing track. A lot of the tracks off of Compliments Please dealt with Taylor‘s sense of identity, in both a sense of doubt and contrastingly in a sense of self-positivity. Self Esteem‘s live show focuses more on the positive aspects, in fact it is an experience of unbridled joy.

The performance of In Time is a monumental moment of bliss. Rebecca‘s vocals are completely transparent, she sings with a booming, crystal clear clarity. A singalong starts and Taylor breaks her composure occasionally to laugh in disbelief at the overwhelmingly positive reception from the crowd. “I feel like Robbie Williams“, she exclaims before starting The Best. There are further moments of disbelief and outbursts of laughter before they go off for the encore. The reciprocal joy felt between both audience and artist was quite remarkable to behold.

Taylor comes back, almost in tears and says, “is this what getting married feels like?”, the first track in the encore is Favourite Problem, which has a gloriously anthemic chorus, especially with the triple threat of the vocalists in full swing. The highlight of the night was the final song, I’m Shy, which was performed in the middle of the crowd acoustically. It was a truly special moment to end a special night, a real focus on mesmeric vocal highs that brought the room to a standstill. The band members form a makeshift conga line and leave the room. It was a stunning set that gathered more and more joyous momentum the longer it went on, it was a shame that they had to end their set.

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LIVE: Eliza @ YES


You may know ELIZA from her old pseudonym, Eliza Doolittle, which she dropped after her 2013 album, In Your Hands. Her flirtatious brand of pop has been swapped out for sultry R&B, allowing her to become even more of a temptress. She released an album back in December and has taken to the path of self-releasing, something which is becoming an evidently more popular trend, the most notable self-releasing artist being Chance The Rapper. Going out on a UK tour gave ELIZA a chance to show people the vision behind her new project in the flesh.

ELIZA comes on stage, adorned in a skin-tight dress and a red glove over her right hand, she’s ready to go and attempts to perform Game, but the microphone isn’t working. In fact none of the vocalists microphones are working and there’s a lot of confusion, before ELIZA has to go off stage. She tells the crowd to go for a drink as they sort out the technical issues. It was a factor that was out of ELIZA‘s hands and was an embarrassing blip for one of Manchester’s stand out venues. After about 15 minutes, the problem is solved, there’s still a hint of anxiety in ELIZA‘s performance, but by the end of the track she’s back to full confidence, providing the crowd with a shoulder shimmy or two.


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All credit to ELIZA, she didn’t let the technical glitch hamper the rest of her performance, “let the show go on”, she says triumphantly. They play All Night, which changes the dynamic of the gig completely, the change from slight anxiety to full on vibing in the room happens faster than a click of the fingers. When performing Loveable, ELIZA sings some really soft, yet still incredibly effecting high notes, helped by her backing vocalists who harmonise in tandem in the background. The instrumentals are extremely minimal, a bass guitar and drum kit set the tone of the evening, creating a slow, smoke-screened backing track. The whole crowd is moving along to the groove, ELIZA tells the crowd that this is exactly what she envisaged her shows would be like, she wanted people to, “move all slinky” and slinky is definitely an accurate description.

There’s are a few choreographed dance sequences throughout the set, nothing too strenuous but each one is met with shouts and screams of affection. The track Livid is an ode to the intimacy and vulnerability involved with sex, it sees ELIZA describe making love with her partner as a form of escapism from the outside world. It comes across as a beautiful interpretation of what sex should be. The more the set goes on, the more she gets in to her stride. At times seemingly prowling and patrolling the stage, marking it as her own territory. There are shows of discontent from both ELIZA and the crowd, as it seems as though they’re going to cut the set short.

She refuses to cut it and goes back to performing with a beaming smile. Alone & Unafraid  receives a fantastic reception, there’s a symbiotic rapport between artist and audience, the bass line managing to create a fantastically nocturnal atmosphere. “You never met a girl like me”, ELIZA sings during the final song of the night, Wasn’t Looking. She plays the part of a seductress, there isn’t a man she can’t have and she wanders the stage with a confident air of swagger. It was such a shame that she had to endure technical problems at the beginning of the night, but all credit to ELIZA she did not let it knock her performance. It was a treat of an R&B show, wrapped in mystique and seduction and on International Women’s Day, ELIZA showed herself as a strong, inspiring female character.

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LIVE: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets @ YES


Psychedelic Porn Crumpets aren’t the usual sunny side of Warburtons or in-fact, the first thing you’d want to hear in the morning. The Perth quartet brought their melodic, intricate music to YES’ sold out Pink Room for an evening of hairy fun with their very hairy following. Lit by the neon hue’s of the peony walls, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets tore through the venue, transporting us to the cosmic realms of outer space psychedelia.

The Mysterines were first up, bringing their messy L7 inspired punk rock to an audience already fully immersed in the energetic elegance of frontwoman Lia Medcalf. The Wirral trio’s pissed off psych-rock rattles the chests of onlookers and Lia’s growling vocals are somewhere between Courtney Love and Bonnie Tyler, contrasting the dainty tiara she has placed upon her head. They manage to effortlessly disperse the crowd into a flurry of 1970’s punk pogoing through their song Hormone that emits a natural anarchy and is the perfect pre psychedelia stretch. 

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have managed to stuff the sold-out crowd in like a removal van transporting the old to the brand spanking new. Their trippy, Dragonforce-esque riffs paint the room in kaleidoscopic colours that disperse the crowd into full head-bang mode sending arms flying and bodies hurling into each other. The sound tonight isn’t the most dazzling but distorted guitars can get lost in a such a small space. Their intricate melodies may be missing in the waves but the audience are now starting to surf each other so I guess no one else has noticed.


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The band glide through trippy tacks such as Cornflake, a song that almost diverts into the speed metal genre lead by the likes of Judas Priest and would be a certain expert challenge for any guitar hero fanatic. They’re a band of very few words but Psychedelic Porn Crumpets manage to keep the room in the palm of their hand for the entire evening like a weird exorcism overseen by the true priests of Aussie psych-rock. The band’s newest single Keen for Kick Ons is met with the response it deserves and rounds of the evening, as calm is restored across the venue everyone is left feeling like they’ve possibly had the best acid trip of their life.

Their mind-altering music has been the perfect match for Manchester tonight. Even though their sound seemed to be a little drowned at times, the energy of Psychedelic Porn Crumpets is no force to be reckoned with. Just sit back and absorb the out of this world sensation that requires nothing more than a sterling head of hair and a back catalogue of trip inducing tunes. 

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LIVE: Mealtime @ YES


Opening the night were the two-piece Darcie, made up of the multi-talented Zigi and Tom. Throughout their gig, I felt vibes hailing from all corners of the musical world, with jazzy piano too ‘synthy’ atmospheric tones that resembled that of Jack Garratt. Both members had angelic singing voices with even Tom hitting some of the high notes.

As is expected from a two piece there is much involvement from technology and the absence of a drummer made way for a drumming machine. Despite inevitable technical issues throughout the show, the duo brought an air of humanity in the way that they made the issues a running gag. This was much to the audiences liking and was responded to with laughter from around the now filling YES Basement. In the final song, I was surprised by the choice of ending, a slow and emotional ballad. However, despite this choice, it paid off, the song in itself was phenomenal and really captured the essence of the band. Their best song was undoubtedly the brilliantly titled How Was She, according to Zigi this song was written about a guy who broke her heart and it really shows, the hard-hitting vocals and the head bopping beat, accompanied with chilling synthesisers and piano.

Up next are the Irish trio Wyvern Lingo, clad in orange they look ready to take on the world; and their music is a testament to that. From their first song, it was clear to see the duo were here to impress, the crowd was singing and chanting along. Mixing powerful women, jazzy bass, technical drums, and catchy drums, what could be better? About halfway through the set, the trio opted to add a cover to their set- in the way of an emotional hit by no one other than Drake. If they hadn’t already they now had the whole crowd on their front, pushing to stage. They announced their final song which was met with a roar of disappointment followed shortly eager chants for more songs. Again, once their set had concluded the crowd cheered-similarly to watching an arena band.

Manc charm, tangled wires and 6 members on a tiny stage. Makes for a fantastic set. The headlines were the elegantly named Mealtime. A band not short of members or drum machines, however unlike some bands every member is a pivotal part of the set, switching (if not difficulty) around the stage to give every member the limelight. ‘Start a synth band they said’, ‘6 members they said’, ‘drum machines they said’ put by the lead singer of the eclectically mixed 6-piece.

The entanglement of wires did become the butt of jokes throughout the set (to the joy of everyone in the room) however it was the entanglement of traditional Manchester vibes and futuristic ‘disco like’ sounds that was most prominent and gripping. Despite Mealtime being a relatively new band on the scene, the room was packed with fans whom of which sang along and occasionally shouted words of encouragement to the overjoyed group. When the band ended it was just too soon for the audience whom of which shouted and began chanting ‘one more song’ but unfortunately it was over. Mealtime had a profound effect on both me and the whole audience and it will be no surprise if they continually crop up on posters all around Manchester.

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LIVE: Bodega @ YES


Ordinarily, bands don’t sell out two consecutive dates at the same venue without having something really special about them. Such is the outlook I had about to see Bodega live in YES’ rapidly popularising pink room, soon to host northern soul legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. 

Seemingly coming out of nowhere, or to be more accurate, from the shadow of Parquet Courts and gaining exponential interest at SXSW 2018, Brooklyn based punk band Bodega released their debut album Endless Scroll last summer. Totaling just over 30 minutes in length, the album provides condensed, vivacious and irrepressible energy which their live show harnesses and gives space to explode.

Support comes from Beijing based duo 工工工 or, decoded and script-stripped, Gong Gong Gong. Overall a flat performance, only hitting their stride after wading through droning, psychedelic blues numbers which culminate in a deep throbbing motorik rhythm with the bass permeating the chest cavity in a way only Swans can do best. The bassist here is pulling the wagon along, providing some groovy, smoothly-angular riffs a la Tina Weymouth. Talking Heads seem to be an inspiration to this group as a recurring rhythmic motif throughout is one extremely similar to that of Psycho Killer. An interesting melting pot of inspiration nonetheless. The percussive guitar work becomes gradually grating throughout their set, sounding more like Bo Diddley playing a washboard than anything.

Through a duly-deserved barrage of cheers and amidst the pink smoke Bodega man the stage. Hurtling through a couple of powerfully pithy art-punk hits, homaging The Ramones with a 1,2,3,4 count in, the band are slowly unleashing their potential energy. Adorning a black top with white handprints painted on, singer/drummer Nikki Belfiglio, is both magnetic and alluring whilst being completely in control of her strong feminine sexuality. The masturbatory hymn Gyrate showcases her Joan Jett style vocal delivery as she simultaneously swings a light box above her head and drums with the other hand – not missing a beat. 

Radio favourites How Did This Happen?! and Jack in Titanic (dedicated to all the handsome boys in the room – at which point I blush) are played to a full crowd who would rather stand listening to the music and watching the display as opposed to going crazy. Which is a testament to the band’s captivating quality.

Lead singer Ben Hozier has a sardonic approach to lyricism whilst still keeping the truth at the centre, a perfect mix between Andrew Savage, Mark E Smith and James Murphy. Clearly, an ethically driven songwriter, pointing out members of the crowd whilst he wavers at the precipice of the stage shouting “And you! And you! And you! And you!” as if everyone on this earth is to reconsider their actions at the failure of the world. Most impressive is the fact that when we regard the obvious influences of Bodega, no melodies, rhythms, lyrics or platitudes from their antecedents have been regurgitated, their music is wholly fresh.

An extended rendition of album-ender ‘Truth Is Not Punishment being the pre-encore ender, culminates into an apocalyptically screeching, enveloping the room in a tense frenzy of perfectly accumulated noise. Guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam is a master of their craft, falling with the guitar in a Stop Making Sense-style and providing meticulously crafted tones and melodies.

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gig, Bodega are a quintessentially American band, who have a clearly refined and politically adept outlook to music and performance. With no lyrical clichés in sight, they are harnessing an endless store of post-frontier energy, responding to current social issues without being hackneyed. Their live show seems to say “if we don’t do this now, we never will”. A staggering performance in the true faith of their ethos.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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LIVE: Cub Sport @ YES


Cub Sport has become somewhat of important LGBTQ icons since their career started in early 2010. Hidden beneath the Australian quartet’s beach pop, the innocent love story of frontman Tim Nolan and his now husband and synth player Sam Netterfield is enough to warm your heart, but their sparkling synth-pop sound filled the sold-out basement of YES like a packed out post-wedding party. 

London based twosome Dirty Nice are the supporting pop prop-up of the evening, giving us the ’90s version of Jungle with their experimental electronic music. The band had sounds that mirrored tracks such as Jungle‘s Happy Man but the air, grace, and humour of double-denim laden poster boys NSYNC. For just two musicians they’re energetically fun, jumping down from the stage during their set and dancing with the crowd transforming YES’ small dance floor into a Studio 54 set up.

Cub Sport start their set with the acapella Unwinding Myself, a perfectly tuned performance by Tim Nelson who is adorned in an Elvis style gold jacket with matching twinkling eyes. It’s an emotional performance met by a crowd who are completely engaged and evidently still finding themselves. Cub Sport and their music are identifiable and prominent for a generation who are longing for acceptance. Songs such as Chasin and it’s lyrics “I don’t even know what I want/out of life/what I’m chasing” are reassuring and comforting to an audience that is still exploring life’s endless possibilities. 

Cub Sport’s set tonight is a homage to the utmost pop perfection. The catchy chorus in Hawaiian Party is forcefully sung back to the band almost drowning the musicians under a sea of synchronic, passionate voices and ‘Sometimes’ is played like the ultimate pop classic that it is, with hints of ’80s Madonna synth-pop whirring the atmosphere into full party mode. The band’s music is raw, emotional and straight from Tim Nelson‘s heart. The constant eye contact between the frontman and his husband displays perfectly why the band has formed and grown so organically. It’s an expression of love and affection, embracing and accepting and that’s why most of the audience are here, to dance without a label or care for anything but the safety blanket of the pure pop paragon. 

Pouring their hearts into their set, Cub Sport deserves the sold-out party they have been greeted with and are constantly thanking the crowd for coming down to show their support for their music. “I just can’t believe it,” Tim exclaims with a hand resting on his chest and an expression that’s struggling to hold back the emotion in his quivering smile. The quartet is a special kind of band, with all four interacting with their fans after the gig, signing autographs and showing genuine care for the people here tonight. It’s rare to find, but Cub Sport are always reaching out through their relatable rhetoric and charming interest in their audience who are so beautifully absorbed in their music.

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Having toured with SLAVES and been compared to the likes of Deerhunter, Kurt Vile and Mac DeMarcoWillie J Healey is fast making himself heard. Summarised by a headline tour that started in February this year and is fast selling out, the Oxford native is making his way to YES in Manchester on said tour (20th February to be precise, you keen kids). 

His first album People and Their Dogs took months to pull together with the musician overthinking and stop/starting numerous times trying to get the perfect hit. Of course, it was suitably perfect because it had been meticulously fine-tuned and refined by its composer’s skilled mindset. By the time People and Their Dogs came to fruition, his second album was already on the cards. Subconsciously attracted to the phrase ‘666 Kill’ like a reverse exorcism, he constructed an ominous lyrical sketch of his own death at the hands of the devil. This unlikely muse possessed his creativity to the extent that he rushed downstairs to his garage-based studio and single-handedly recorded the vocals and all of the instrumentation in a single session.

“I’m not some kind of devil worshipper or anything like that,” he laughs. “I was trying to touch on different ideas I had: weird things like planes going missing and an obsession with death, which sounds depressing but at the time I found it really interesting. We all have weird little things that run across our minds and we generally don’t say them out loud. For good reason! But it felt like an exciting process to write in that style and not put a filter on it.”

Having performed with bands in Oxford from a young age, Healey turned to songwriting and developed his skills via open mic nights, acoustic shows and local support gigs. So it all fell into place and, in particular, the tour with SLAVES cemented him on the indie scene and not as ‘just-another-singer-songwriter’ but something with a punk twang that delves into broader topics than romantic emotions. “I try not to be too aware of trends, so I can focus on writing the best song I can regardless of whether I think it will be cool or not.” He notes how the great albums of the ‘70s feel out of time in contrast to the booming drums and slick production that places many ‘80s records firmly within their era. “A timeless classic will never go out of fashion.”

But what tracks are constantly on Healey’s ‘top tracks’ lists, always cemented in his mind and always looked to as a point of inspiration? Look no further than right here. You can see that he doesn’t follow the trends or stick to one genre just by listening in. So, what are you waiting for?

Joe Jackson – Is she really going out with him?

A classic, I can completely relate to young Joe in this track.

Squeeze – Cool For Cats

Another classic. A special british treat that makes my ears smile. Love you squeeze

Happyness – Anna Lisa Calls

I love this song so much. I must have played it 1000s of times, I wish I wrote it. More people need to hear it because it’s sick

The Boom Town Rats – Rat Trap

Bob G at his best. Most savage bass tone dirty dirty boys got the crowds going loopo

The Stranglers – Peaches

Another filthy british classic about oily skin and a love for bums so strong that they wrote a hit about it, good one gizzas.

Neil Young – Walk On

Neil Young’s response to people talking breeze behind his back. Feel ya Neil you beautiful hippy

Childish Gambino – Red Bone

This track is already a classic and it’s only been out for a couple of years.

Grover Washington Jr. – Just The Two of Us

Our old friend Grover WJ making hot sauce with chicken legend Bill Withers. Tears flow down my cheeks Bill, ya got me again. Sing me to sleep GOAT

Supertramp – The Logical Song

A song I’ve always loved. A young man losing his innocence..

Bill Withers – Use Me

Say no more Bill, sometimes it feels good to be used.

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Brighton based quartet THYLA brought their beautifully raw post-punk to YES for an evening of spectacular sub-genre talent school standoffs with a tonne of musicians who are taking the scene by storm. 

If a Saturday evening features a psychedelic, cosmic disco pop mash-up with a hint of harmonious harp playing and some seriously ferocious girl power grunge, you know you’re possibly attending the hottest breakthrough gig in Manchester to energise yet another bleak day in February. YES’ packed out bottom floor basement is the ideal set up for this DIY, delightful display of emerging talent. 

Velvet Shakes are first on, the lead singer dressed in a shirt laden with love hearts because after all “it is the month of love” as mentioned by the band who seem as love-struck with each other as they are with their melodic, 2010 foals-esque music. The band retain their tightness in their live set and bass led dance tracks including ‘The Love I Feel’, that are fully doused in that distinctly nostalgic disco sound, make sure the crowd are pleasantly warmed for the bands about to follow. 

Next, Diving Station join the party, bringing the music equivalent of a classic bottle of Merlot, the kind you get that wears a fishnet and is left with the perfect pink lip stain around the rim.  A suitably suave set up as vocalist Anna McLuckie takes to the stage armed with a Clarsach Harp and an even more stunning set of vocals. Think Wolf Alice circa White Leather, collaborating with The XX in the dreamy days of electro-pop hits such as VCR. Their music makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room, completely transfixed and emotionally engaged with their hypnotic dream pop.

Headliners THYLA brought something a little different to the table, or party if you like. A bottle of vodka and 20 cigarettes kind of band. Ferocious, angsty post-punk that’s delivered so innocently by leading lady Millie Duthie. They’re the kind of band who would’ve slotted perfectly into place in the thriving Brighton scene of 2013. A homage to their hometown but undiscovered gems to those unlucky ones who aren’t in attendance tonight. Tracks like Only Ever rip through the packed out basement, the rawness of the guitar combined with Millie’s euphoric vocals pierce the percussion and scatter the band into a flurry of headbanging bliss.

Grungey undertones that mirror early Hole are prominent in I Was Biting and during this dynamic display, it’s obvious that the band are having as much fun up there as the day that they first jammed together. The glittering, hazy guitar sound proves to be the most fitting match for Millie’s honest vocals and their live performance is met with a packed out crowd that responds to every song with an enthusiastic eagerness for more. 

THYLA are an effortlessly cool band, with each member sporting a straight bob-like hair trim that was cut straight out of the music video for Sonic Youth’s Dirty Boots. The band’s stripped back song Candy brings the quartet into an emotional display of pissed off post-punk poetry and the band still have the crowd in the palm of their hand as they swing straight into Sharon.

Ending the set is Blue, a track that is met with a serious hair swing by each member of the band and audience alike. It’s a track that has a bass line to make you boogie and lyrics that bare all. The quartet are evidently slightly overwhelmed by the response from the crowd but even though modest, clearly believe they deserve every whoop and cheer that rounds off a Saturday evening in February good enough to pull even the best of us out of our S.A.D. 

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Fresh-faced and eager to get on the road with their new EP – ‘Will To Power/Suspicion’ – Vancouver-based NOV3L have been discovered by fans that are already smitten with the likes of Talking Heads, Sweaty Palms, and FEET. Of course, an act with similarities matched to such artists went down well in the depths of the YES basement in the heart of Manchester.

Threads open with a stomping set. Guitars drenched with enough reverb to drown a small country, complemented by a rhythm section ridden with meat to scare any respected vegan. Lead vocal duties slightly suffered at the hands of a lost voice suffered by frontman Kane Martin, which from the upstairs may have sounded like a WU LYF comeback. But – ailments aside – all in all, their set was solid and they showed a lot of promise for a rising act.

Next up is much-hyped Canadian six-piece N0v3l. Little is known about this group, but they’ve already been tipped by the likes of NME for greatness in 2019 – quite a claim with only one EP released. Nov3l are set up surrounding the drummer in the middle of the stage, their set starts with the new single ‘To Whom It May Concern’, which is an absolute banger, flowing seamlessly into another great number: ‘Natural’. The guitars are intricate, twangy and funky, integrated with the basslines on show, that are so groovy that you can’t help but bob your head.


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N0V3L // The Shacklewell Arms // 26.01.2019

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The crowd are now in the mood, hips are shaking and feet are stomping. It’s true who we compared them to earlier – think early Talking Heads – angular guitar rhythms held together with simple but incredibly effective four-to-the-floor drum beats. A synth and interchanging sax player help add body to the songs giving them a truly unique and exciting sound. All this is joined together with shouty vocals that give it a post-punk edge. Mid setter ‘Suspicion’ treats the crowd to a building instrumental end that leads to a tight funky outro jam.

The set continues to churn out great dancey songs, with minimal chat in between them, leaving a lasting impression on the punters of the YES basement. N0v3l are an exciting and original band, and it will be very interesting to see what they have in store for the rest of the year.

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