• July preview: some live highlights for the month in Cardiff and Bristol

TUNE-YARDS, Trinity, 2nd

Merrill Garbus seems born to play the kind of relaxed, comfy-liberal back garden festivals like Green Man and End of the Road that she’s appeared at in recent years – she can appear like someone born at a month-long free festival, so they should be a breeze.  Yet it’s startling, and amazingly life-affirming, to see just how completely she charms the big-stage crowds like she’s coaxing birds down from the trees.  Her music is a dayglo whirl of robust personal and social politics, skyscraping vocal swoops and giddy, grin-inducing cheerleader whoops and chants, with breathless run-on sentences punctuated by Björkish coos and growls and fierce, impressive R ‘n’ B contortions.  Musically she’s perfected a patchwork of afro-pop, folk, global bass and R ‘n’ B esoterica that has echoes of Dirty Projectors, Tom Tom Club, M.I.A. and Return of the Giant Slits among about a billion others but which, three albums in, is immediately and unmistakably the sound of tUnE-yArDs.  Nikki-Nack is a more considered listen, confident and assured without ever being polished; with the same anything-goes abandon that characterised BiRd-BrAiNs and whokill now comes the utter assurance that interrupting the ecstatic polyrhythmic jumble with a song (‘Wait For A Minute’) that sounds like Janelle Monae channelling a wistful Carole King is not only something she can capably pull off but feels utterly natural.  If you can still get a ticket for this, you really should.



No-brainer alert: this brilliant line-up can be yours to view for FREE as part of a festival and workshop weekend celebrating DIY culture in South Wales and the South West.  The featured bands have plenty in the way of credentials; Gwenno’s self-released EPs in Cornish and Welsh and currently records for multi-disciplinary DIY champs Peski as well as co-helming the essential nocturnal emissions from Cam O’r Tywyllwch on Radio Cardiff and performing with in-house improv collective Canolfan Hamdden. (She also has a second free gig two days later in the Sherman foyer with Carcharorion, who debuted on Peski’s excellent CAM 1 compilation recently).  Totem Terrors, of course, crowdfunded their excellently pointy debut album and released it on their own Diet Pops imprint; Rosie’s own bedroom pop album as Oh Peas! is coming out this month via Bristol DIY mainstays Stitch-Stitch, and is ruddy great.  More on this later.  Ellis from Trust Fund has got this thing off the ground, and sets an excellent example what with home-recording and self-releasing his own great stuff along with putting on gigs around Bristol and releasing records on his Time Of Asking label.  Records such as Beetroot Yourself, the most recent bundle of joy nursed into existence by the Jelas, who have collectively been in 86% of all good Bristol bands and who are really good at singing the chorus of ‘We’ll Both Apologise’ by Trust Fund down the front of gigs like at proper rock concerts.  Long may this incipient tradition continue.  To doing it yourself!


July is album launch gig month.  First up is album number two from Kutosis, who’ve moved from Barely Regal to the newly-minted label arm of Jealous Lovers Club to release Dream It Away.  ‘Fear of Flying’ trailed the new album a few months back with the subtlest of evolutionary steps on, a trippy early 90s take on glassy-eyed psych-pop that pointed towards a more colourful palette.  As a lead-off single, ‘Crystal Beach’ is a perfectly-chosen first shot across the bows, bearing recognisable Kutosis hallmarks (immediate hooks, Ian’s melodic phrasing) but with the clean, chiming guitars and sea-breeze air of Real Estate, the Feelies or Pixies’ Bossanova front and centre where once sat brittle, acerbic garage-punk.  It feels like a natural progression from the ambitious stylistic detours on Fanatical Love, in particular revisiting the shoegazey shimmer and swooning Ride progressions of the debut’s second half.  They’ve mastered the trick of evolving without junking what was good about them before, so expect the album to reward emphatically. This was to happen last month with Radstewart and Mowbird in support, but the rescheduling has necessitated a line-up change so support now comes from agreeably perky janglepop kids Wasters and stirring orch-indie troupe Winter Villains.


First outing for a new radical, inclusive, multi-faceted night care of Uptight, comprised of two poets (Sarah Maguire and Marcus Slease) who declare firm kinship with like-minded experimenters in music, art and film-making and a very definite antipathy towards the perceived mainstream poetry prevalent in the UK.  Aiming to capture something of the symbiotic relationship enjoyed between the Beats and jazz musicians, or the New York school poets and the artistic community, they’re reaching out to Bristol’s seemingly boundless DIY creative community.  They’ve set the bar high with their first offering.  Any appearance from Bellies! is a total joy, all tiny explosions of hollering and fidgety guitar and giddy glee ricocheting around like popping candy fizzing on your tongue.  Hysterical Injury’s playful, pummelling two-piece racket ricochets around like a sassy Lightning Bolt, teasing and dangerous like a baby jaguar.  Maguire and Slease are joined by the Mark E Smith-like Tim Atkins and there’s also super-8 films from Slease and Graeme Maguire.  Admirers of the bands, the DIY spirit or the Joy-affiliated Balloon gigs from a couple of years back would do well to attend.


Steven from Gathered In Song bows out with this cosy Newport show after nine years of tireless work in bringing the very best in Americana, alt-country, folk and whiskey-soaked country rock to South Wales. Cheers, dude. Over the years, GiS has hosted such luminaries as William Tyler, Richmond Fontaine, David Bazan, Mark Eitzel, Alasdair Roberts, Magnolia Electric Co., Phosphorescent, Plush and scores more. The final Cardiff show was with Dan Stuart of Green On Red last month, and the farewell is with a UK band who process any number of classic country rock/Americana influences through a typically Scottish filter for pretty much the perfect good-time finale. The Wynntown Marshals’ Keith Benzie writes and sings like Jeff Tweedy and Norman Blake’s lost duets LP. He’s also got Craig Finn’s conspiratorial, storytelling sing-speak and rolling, run-on cadences down to an absolute tee, and when he deploys them the band respond with exactly the kind of crumpled, celebratory Replacements riffs to make them fly. Elsewhere they recall Summerteeth-era Wilco, Whiskeytown or a lonesome Teenage Fanclub, replete with gorgeous pedal steel and some nicely wild Crazy Horse soloing when they cut loose a bit. It’s perfect fare for this sort of occasion, and with a bunch of friends providing support (poised country balladeers Redlands Palomino Co. are preceded by members of Bedford Falls, The Ash & The Oak and more for a few goodbye songs) it’ll be a memorably boozy salute.


Five years, D. Bowie sang, and my brain hurts a lot. The popular chameleon was especially prescient in this observation, as this month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of brilliant dude Justin Evans’ highly worthy and very entertaining fundraising gigs for Headway, the South Wales-based charity who work tirelessly in support of people like Justin who’ve suffered life-changing brain injuries. As always in cheerleading for these events it feels important to point out two things in particular; Headway get no statutory funding, so things like this mean a tremendous amount to them, and Justin’s hard work and relentlessly cheery promotion for the PMYH gigs makes them a great day/night in their own right. Yes, this means he is likely to do rapping again. He also does stand-up now, so those intros are only going to get funnier. The big musical draw this year is Islet, who conveniently recently celebrated five years since their first gig, and who will play their only Cardiff show of the year in the same venue. Neat, huh? Elsewhere it’s a typically busy and varied line-up, with returning favourites like the mighty Gindrinker alongside first-timers Martin Callingham (from Bristolian folksters Joyce the Librarian, reminiscent of the literate pop of the Clientele), the ebbing, psych-flavoured DIY country of Rhodri Brooks and Oh Peas!, whose album you should purchase immediately.  More on this later.  We will spoil things by playing records.  Go!


Oh my God, we’re back again.  Not my words; the words of the Backstreet Boys, though how apposite given that we have TWO JOY COLLECTIVE GIGS for your robust enjoyment this month.  Compose yourselves!  Los Cripis are the cartoon undead at the party, returning to charm you for a third time with their adorable tangle of rumbustious primitivist jangle-pop and hazy melodic sunshine.  Buenos Aires’ tipsiest have a slim measure of the shonky grooviness of their kinfolk Las Kellies but carry a more low-key melancholy; their spindly, skeletal ditties draw on many of the same references as a lot of this month’s high points (Velvets, surf pop, the Raincoats) with an openness and simple joy that makes us grin like simpletons, which is why we keep booking ‘em. One more in the eye for joyless muso dullards everywhere comes care of Dog Legs, a superbly shambolic duo out of Brighton with half a dozen two-minute bursts of sweary ramalama garage pop tempered with equally sweary but surprisingly tender reflection, like Kenickie’s first album condensed into 15 minutes and played by stroppy pre-teens. Finally, say yes to Whitebelt, overdue a first Cardiff gig and coming on like either a thunderously danceable Deerhoof or an overcaffeinated and jittery Stereolab, depending on how glib I’m being. There are no losers here, except you if you don’t come to this. FACT.


We put Guardian Alien on in Undertone last June, based on their one-track, 40-minute debut See The World Given To A One Love Entity; a shuddering, ecstatic puree of trippy psychedelia, beatific bliss-out drones and full-on, whirling crescendos of giddy noise just about kept in line by ex-Liturgy dude Greg Fox’s pummelling, kinetic krautrock/free jazz drumming.  It was pretty good, really, and so were they.  We warned you.  Since that gig, GA have released another fantastic record, Spiritual Emergency, which offers an only slightly more conventional structure – four bite-sized globs of warped psych/noise elation paired jazz LP-style with a side-long 20-minute freakout – while Fox has worked with Man Forever and appeared with Zach Hill as a punishing double-drummer team on Ben Frost’s remarkable AURORA.  Happily, you now have a second chance to miss catch them, this time in the Moon Club’s elevated sweatbox and again alongside heroic noise pixie MxLx, no stranger to this “column” and a redoubtably brilliant provider of harsh-but-sweet drone rushes, pounding electronic detritus and gloomy rave-standard beats.  Another large spoonful of wrong is likely care of Pheenus, too; last time out in this venue they were a trio, dabbling in longform guitar noodling, manipulated drones and improv percussion.  They probably won’t be like that this time, but they will still be great.  Ask them about their name.


Second Joy show of the week, and an absolute treat for anyone who’s ever clutched a tattered K Records compilation to their heart. Frozy are a multinational DIY pop trio currently based in the Brighton area and epitomising a particular hands-across-the-ocean strain of indie pop that builds musical bridges from Washington to Madrid to Bristol. Take 2011’s Pulling Daisies; trebly, tender-hearted janglepop that burns bright and short, a mussed-up clamour of buzzing guitars and biscuit-tin drums, twinkling rushes of naivete that value charm over proficiency. A bunch of self-released EPs and LPs on their own Trilingual label flit from dreamy home-recorded sketches to adorable lovelorn manifestos and recall Beat Happening, the Pastels, Jad Fair, Kimya Dawson and all that good awkward indiepop gold. They’re here for your hearts, Cardiff. As if to demonstrate their alliances, Nicol from Frozy doubles up on drumming duties for the Nervy Betters, who also feature Trust Fund and Two White Cranes alumni and whose thoughtful, spare and beautifully crafted lo-fi/folk miniatures shiver and glow like early morning sunlight. There’s shades of Herman Dune and Comet Gain in the luminous, delicate balladry of their LP. Lovely stuff. I will reiterate again that you NEED TO BUY Oh Peas!’ album Shades of Intolerance, ticklish robo-pop and dreamy acoustic sketches that are utterly charming, sparklingly witty and catchy like a summer cold.


Essential Friday night party fun here, the first half of a dream weekend two-hander which will leave you exhilarated, hung over and deaf.  Brilliant on record, JG torch it live, and a year on from Weird Sister this will be a neat opportunity to see them at peak power.  Weird Sister casually starts fires, rendering legions of one-trick indiepop throwbacks pleasantly irrelevant with an insouciant flick of the wrist and a gritted-teeth put-down. They’ve clearly devoured all the right records (Isn’t Anything, EVOL, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah/Our Troubled Youth etc), but their mercurial songwriting welds the indie rock grit, c86 frosting and Galaxie 500 wistfulness together into a dense, satisfyingly layered whole that still destroys and gets the fuck out again inside two and a half minutes. Where they go from here will be fascinating, because it could pretty much be anywhere they fancy.  The same could be said for Trust Fund, as Ellis’ heart-tugging DIY pop takes ever more confident forms.  ‘Yr Old Songs’, from the new Listen To Yr Body EP, sounds like Scritti Politti, sweet falsetto meandering across the clatter of airlocked early 80s digital electro-pop. It’s a startling and excellent diversion.  Martha come bearing nimble, danceable indie-pop/punk stuffed with soaring pop hooks and Northern Soul sass, huggably tender and excited and defiant.  Yearning North East vowels recall the region’s very best pop, from Kenickie to Milky Wimpshake, while the universalism of their teen anthems is wrapped in the kind of site-specific hometown geography that makes local heroes of far lesser bands.  You might call them a bit emo, and you might be right, but only in the same sugar-rush, secret-Blink-182-fan way that made early Los Campesinos so irresistible.  It’s the latter’s overwhelming confidence that also strikes you most about Martha, and Courting Strong suggests a similar longevity could be theirs.


Another album launch, albeit transformed into a stupidly good alldayer whose overstuffed line-up takes in the entire bill of the JG gig from the Cube the night before amongst many other noisy urchins. All this, plus you get Saturday’s Kids’ forever-awaited debut album The Lunatic into the bargain, literally if you take up the crazy generous offer of a £10 ticket-and-LP deal. The downside to all this splendour is that, well, SK are sadly calling it a day once the gig’s done, making this gig more of a wake than a christening. Sorry about that. It’s a kicker seeing as how great the album is; a fat-free half-hour of their most focused, dynamic and vital songs to date, it rages with more desperate punk fury than they’ve ever cooked up and still finds room to detour into blown-out atmospherics and a storming bit of classic MBV noise-pop.  Other guests include utterly awesome hyperactive DIY electronoise beauties Cowtown, who you will remember fondly from Wales Goes Pop; Chain Of Flowers’ flailing, glowering post-punk; slacker garage newbies Grubs, and so many more. Reeks of Effort and Junkie Press are making this alldayer an annual concern, which should assuage some of those gravedigger blues, and will divide the fun between an early evening session in the upstairs gallery and a late-night party in the basement. Should be an absolute blast.


Whether a happy coincidence or a canny bit of forward planning, the good people of Shape Records are throwing this half-dayer in a spacious backstreet pub on the day of the World Cup final.  The sessions LP is a chronological jaunt through myriad Baboo line-ups which takes in all four full-length albums, the Girl Under A Tree and Motorhome EPs and a remarkable take on ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’.  It doesn’t tell the whole story, of course – the early EPs, the drunken/sweary/semi-clad gigs – but as an alternative ‘best-of’ from the last six years it serves as a miniature study in what makes Steve such a cherishable and vital songwriter.  From the inscrutable, stream-of-consciousness humour and breezy folk strums of The Mighty Baboo to the direct and personal lyricism of I’m A Dancer, and ultimately the pop warmth and domestic bliss hinted at on ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’ or ‘Motorhome’, listening to the sessions LP confirms that while there’s still scope in his work for the odd idiosyncratic lyrical preoccupation the most noticeable thing is the consistent quality control from one of the best pop craftsmen we’ve got around here.  Much more stuff to announce for this one – bands, stalls, food maybe – and it will be a suitably relaxed and hugely fun night.


Matinee show with a 2pm kick-off which acts an an excellent warm-up for the World Cup final (or the Sweet Baboo gig, natch). I could list two dozen great bands past and present that Thee AHs remind me of, and yet none of those comparisons quite do justice to the delights of their Corey’s Coathangers LP; disarmingly great multi-part harmonies, tricksy melodic shifts and songs that spin like a top between minor-key balladry and crashing noise-pop like Slumber Party and Tsunami and Marine Girls and the Shangri-Las all at once. Supremely brilliant kiss-offs (“Whatever / fuck her”, they trill in unison on ‘I’m Not Angry Anymore’) are littered like shrapnel in bubblegum throughout songs that are variously brittle, defiant, bruised and excellently lippy. It’s a really, really great record. You will fall in love. As befits every great gig this month apart from the metal ones, Trust Fund have their sticky fingers in this one; Hallie and the Annies are their John Waters soundtrack outing, ramshackle doo-wop with a sugary indiepop heart and an unhealthy interest in Lindsay Lohan. They remind me of early Wave Pictures, too (a compliment). Grubs, and their excellent spiked garagepop tunes, round off a swell afternoon. Two gigs, one World Cup final. What a day. France v Netherlands, by the way. See if I’m wrong.


This live performance marks the release of a heartbreakingly pretty box set comprised of seven-inch records, a DVD, book, map and other trinkets from revisionist archival label Folklore Tapes. It revisits the work of Theodora Brown, a maligned and near-forgotten Devon-based folklorist who the project’s curators Ian Humberstone and David Chatton Barker liken to Delia Derbyshire as a questing pioneer using her own methods to work within a closed-shop man’s world. Brown’s chronicling of phenomena both natural and unnatural across a dozen Devon villages and towns are interpreted by the duo with foggy drones, field recordings and ominous, arcane thickets of looped and treated folk and electronic music; library music from the other side. Suitably eerie, arcane and conceptually sharp support comes care of self-mythologised mysterious electronic artist N. Racker, whose recordings for Andy Votel and Demdike Stare’s niche VHS/tape music concern Pre-Cert Home Entertainment offer whacked-out drones, smeared synth textures and a hazy menace redolent of Mordant Music’s eerie pastoralism and the grubbiest Italo horror soundtracks.


Grim Finnish power trio (bass/bass/drums) whose name infers calm, desert-like subtropical ocean conditions and the myths behind their name (sailors unloading horses into the sea), a far more enjoyable fact than its actual provenance (named after a Doors song). Happily they sound nothing like dear dead Jim and pals, being instead a sturdy doom/sludge outfit whose absence of guitar gives them a spacier, echoey feel which perhaps naturally reminds you of Earth or even Arabrot as much as it does Sabbath. Epic, trancey and powerful, with ye olde gruffly miserable vocals heightening the sense of Scandinavian folklore, it’s pretty excellent stuff and nicely different from much of the doom stuff that passes this way. Coltsblood, meanwhile, come on like a glacially slow, epically mardy version of fellow Liverpudlians Conan; a bleak trudge through tar-thick basslines, guitars that drip howling, crackling feedback and guttural war-cry vocals. Intense, then. Plenty of variety in this one if you look for it, as befits the Cacophonous Sarcophagus shows; Bast are a more imposing, in-your-face beast somewhere between proggy doom and roaring Neurosis-like sludge, while Ommadon (slow-burning, filthily lo-res doom) and Electric Wizard spin-off Dead Woman’s Ditch round out the month’s most unremittingly heavy proposition. Top value.


Giving laudably scant regard to throwing bands together on the grounds of musical similarity, this storming Qu Junktions promotion rightly assumes that if you’re of sufficient good taste to enjoy Nisennenmondai you ought to love the rest of the bill too.  Good attitude.  If there’s a common thread discernible here it’s an insistent, driving minimalism that engages the brain while demanding the feet respond.  Noisy, metronomic post-punk with a propulsive danceability beneath its locked-groove shudder and chicken-scratch guitar rubble, Nisennenmondai’s approach is blissfully simple and direct at heart. Last year’s breathtakingly good N album is a case in point, three near-15-minute slabs of urgent, relentless joy like an unholy hybrid of Liquid Liquid, Josh Wink and the entire DFA back catalogue. They hardly ever make it to these shores, so this is a rare opportunity and a real coup.  Sheffield trio Blood Sport’s album Life In Units builds strongly on the ø EP, dense percussive jams bound up with twitchy, pinched punk-funk basslines, hypnotic, minimal grooves and hollered, echoed-to-fuck vocals that suggest a healthy interest in the work of Islet.  At their most effective when they go furthest out into droney, oppressive This Heat territory, there’s plenty of promise here.  Diagonal label honcho Powell trades in a deliciously grimy, minimalist techno thump haunted by the spectres of Suicide, Pan Sonic and Two Lone Swordsmen but equally taking cues from drum ‘n’ bass, NY No Wave and the stripped-down hermetic dank of remix buddy Regis.  It’s the Weatherall references I hear most, to be honest; moody techno/guitar hybrids with impeccable references and no little style. In a month of wonderful things, this takes the biscuit.