After three years of big-status bands in an enclosed arena on Liverpool’s outskirts, Sound City’s 2018 edition will see the festival return to its roots as one of Britain’s biggest and most important inner-city festivals. In its early incarnations the event focussed on new music and intimate shows, and provided now-legendary sets in brilliant now-demolished venues like The Kazimier, in landmarks like the imposing Anglican Cathedral, and in appropriated spaces like the Duke Street Car Park.
The festival’s fortunes since traditionalising itself and setting up an enclosed arena in the waste-ground of the North Liverpool Docks have been mixed, but did host unforgettable shows of their own in the likes of The Flaming Lips. However, their return to the inner-city is an extremely welcome one. Occupying a new district of the city, the Baltic Triangle, this year’s event welcomes dozens upon dozens of up-and-comers, cult heroes and left-field unknowns. It’s an intimidating line-up, so here are Gigwise’s picks of the ten best to seek out.
The Liverpool scene’s most left-field pop newcomer in a generation, across two short singles Beija Flo has not proved herself only an artist imbued with immense promise, but one of already-realised brilliance. Equal parts unflinchingly confessional and headspinningly left-field, within painstakingly well-crafted tracks she sweetens and shocks in equal measure. Her live shows have caused an enormous stir among the North West’s pre-eminent musos, gripping, boundary-pushing and unmissable.
Last year, Baxter Dury released his masterpiece, Prince Of Tears, an album that inhabits and explores the obnoxious arrogance and contrasting moments of deep pathos and fragility that characterise toxic masculinity. With extraordinarily rich songwriting lain over unique, understated instrumentation, his work is equal parts wit and sadness, and at its core simply entirely human.
Asked to pick a new band to play at Sound City, Gigwise opted for Husky Loops. The band are indefinable, twisting, turning and polymathic in style, at some points their music is sweeping, blissful art-pop or a sweet and lavish groove, and at others it’s intimidating, looming and unhinged, wonkily structured and brilliantly unhinged. Live, too, they thrive on this sense of instability and unease, refusing to let their audience settle and thriving on the unknown possibilities of what’s next.
Gdansk’s Trupa Trupa are a very unusual band. Ostensibly, their last album Jolly New Songs primarily offered heady attacks of ultra-heavy distortion and dark, mazing tunnels of opaque abstraction, but beneath the assault lies all manner of depth. Taking a Pixies-ish bent for song writing that’s paradoxically lop-sided yet perfectly formed, their songs are vivid, explorative and unforgettable.
Lewsberg are from Rotterdam and take their name and philosophy from one of their city’s greatest minds – the counter-cultural writer Robert Loesberg. Musically, however, they take their cues from the great American slack-rockers, with a dry, drawling sense of humour meeting a joyous disregard for complexity and over-thought in their squalling duels of guitar.
Desert Mountain Tribe
In a world full of bass-led crushingly heavy psych bands, Desert Mountain Tribe are one of the very best. That they feel so singular despite the fact that they operate in a saturated genre is testament to the immense, surging power of their songwriting. They’re not just another sub-Black Angels effort, but a genuinely transcendent force of overwhelming power.
Sound City’s return to placing emphasis on new and emerging bands means that artists of Richard Youngs’ particular status are a rare find this year. One of Britain’s most forward-thinking and fearless artists, Youngs has assured an enormous cult following through expressive works in the fields of folk, experimental, ambient, prog and more. Whatever he offers at Sound City will be unmissable.
Stealing Sheep have been pivotal figures in Liverpool music for years. They are an excellent band, offering shimmering and weaving psychedelic pop at its most perfectly crafted, but above this carry embody a sense of mutual adoration between them and their home city. Hosts of the regular Mythopoeia parties at the now-departed Kazimier that have since gone down in modern legend, their impact on the Liverpudlian creative quarter is impossible to overstate.
It has been eight years since we heard from The Longcut, but the cult Manchester outfit have returned with ferocious intent on their long-awaited third record Arrows. Lead single Deathmask is one of the year’s best, a whirling cataclysmic clash of stampeding, uncontrollable electronica and pummelling post-rock. When they’re in this kind of blistering form, their live show is unmissable.
Sound City has put a lot of its emphasis on emerging international artists this year, and Estonia’s Mart Avi is among the most unforgettable. His music is bizarre, melodramatic and theatrical to the extreme, his vocals a gloriously ostentatious unstable wail and his instrumentals a bizarre electronic labyrinth that’s sweet, saccharine and somehow completely seductive. His live shows are legendary in Eastern Europe, Sound City should be equally essential.
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