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Manchester Music

Au-Turn unveiled a hypnotic reflection on the naive faith of youth with ‘Water Boatman’

Water Boatman is the quintessentially quaint saturated in delay sophomore single from Dolan Hewison’s solo project, Au-Turn. After working fretboard magic in the legendary outfit, New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Hewison has turned his attention to writing, playing, and recording his first solo work in 25 years, inspired by the stagnation of lockdowns and the purchase of a loop pedal and piano.

With angularly clever lead guitar work that effervesces in the same vein as Slowdive, a touch of Half-Man Half-Biscuit playful lyrical obscurity, and an experimental production style that almost resonates as a lo-fi extension of the style popularised by The Flaming Lips, and some spoken word verses to boot, Water Boatman is a vessel you will want to pour yourself into time and time again.

We’re officially stoked for the forthcoming Au-Turn debut LP, No.1, which is set to be unveiled on the 2nd of June.

Water Boatman is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Emissaries of Anxious Angst, The Empty Page, Have New Resonance in Their Arsenal with the Release of Big Nasty Palpitations

After hearing a preview of The Empty Page’s latest single, Big Nasty Palpitations, during their support slot for BERRIES at Gullivers in March and witnessing the visceral fire that has been lit under the Manchester-based emissaries of anxious angst, all it took was the impetus of the angular guitars and subversive anthemics to convince me that it would be the quintessential indie pop hit of the summer.

It may not be your archetypal boy meets girl before releasing a ‘better off without you’ single in the Autumn. The 80s industrial augmented hit is a testament to where society will stand this summer, with conflict scattering rubble like confetti and blowing equally sizeable holes in our assurance that the world is a safe place where your liberty can’t be stripped away at the whim of a sadistically malignant narcissist.

For the anxious, feel your palpitating heart catch in your tight throat under the duress of buzzsaw riffs that are now definitively back in trend. For anyone privileged enough to not know what it feels like to go under when it appears fabric of tangible reality has been pulled from beneath you, grab a snapshot of the dissent into consternation.

Kel said: “Everyone I know has paper-thin mental health at the moment. The world is run by terrifying people who have little regard for us powerless humans who are just trying to get on with our lives. I woke up one too many times with the fear and reached for a pen at 3am to get those grim feelings out of my system. We’ve always been a socially aware band, and the new album definitely has a glittery, dystopian thread running through it that I think is very apparent on this track.”

Big Nasty Palpitations, produced by Morton Kong at Eve Studios, Stockport, hit the airwaves on May 26 ahead of their sophomore LP, which is set to drop later this year.

Socials: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Spotify

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Live Review: The Dirt Turned Poetry into Psychedelic Theatre in Their Launch of Agitator

Agitator by The Dirt

It takes some talent and ingenuity to bring poetry out of the insular arena and translate it into psychedelic theatre; that was exactly what the Dirt achieved during the live launch of their debut LP, Agitator. If the pen is mightier than the sword, the duo dropped an atom bomb onto the crowd who made the Dirt t-shirts in-vogue.

Following the moody post-punk sets from Bloodworm and Dim Imagery, Pray for Mojo devilled the capacity crowd with their ear-blistering staunchly 70s rock rancour; their White Walker cold guitar tones cut through the atmosphere of their massive sound that I didn’t think the Peer Hat PA was capable of.

The Dirt started their set with the palpitatingly exhilarant standout single, Ignorance is Bliss; beneath the psychonautic vortex of guitars lay a brashy caustic backbeat, visceral enough to reminiscence Nine Inch Nails, but even Trent Reznor himself couldn’t match the sharp convictive stage energy that Jack Horner arrested the room with.

Veering straight into the second single from the album, Power Junkie, the Dirt maddened the Madchester sound to the nth degree; Sachiko, armed with her Rickenbacker and a pedalboard that lights up like Blackpool illuminations, drove through her guitar lines through the narrated credence of how insurmountably trodden on the masses are. More than keeping their finger on the pulse of current political scandal and sleaze, The Dirt grips the liberties taken by our disaster capitalist leaders by the throat to squeeze out the odious juice.

Towards the end of the set, the experimentalism amplified around the demands to match the dissenting nature of the Dirt and get off the fences we have got cosy on in recent years. From Cyberman-ESQUE deliverances of vocal lines to wailing psychedelic static capable of tripping switches in your mind that have gathered dust through inexposure to aural innovation, it was an unforgettable performance that exceeded all expectation.

Listen to Agitator on Bandcamp, or grab a vinyl copy from the Golden Believers Records page.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Dirt originated allegorical psychedelia in their debut LP, Agitator.

Few Manchester music fans are strangers to the disquiet deliverances of The Dirt’s wordsmith, Jack Horner, who has been storming stages with his abrasively arresting recitations of the tolls of PTSD and orations of the graffiti on the toilet walls of iconic Manchester venues.

Standing alone, Horner’s words in his solo spoken word project, Leon the Pig Farmer, carry enough metaphoric weight to leave a bruising mark on the psyche. The curveballs in his conceits open a collective of wormholes for the mind to venture down before perceptions shift around his vindicating socialist manifestic narrations. As a part of the dualistic powerhouse, the juxtaposition between his no-prisoners poetry and effect-layered guitars is enough to tear the rug from beneath you and plateau you on a new kaleidoscopic tapestry.

The Dirt’s debut LP, Agitator, starts with a true-to-form snarled spoken word piece, which prises your eyes open in Clockwork Orange style to the systematic failures of our belligerently nefarious government. Right off the bat, the strength of the dystopic imagery sends you into a spin as the psychedelic guitars, courtesy of Sachiko Wakizaka, whirl around the repression rebellion.

From definitively Madchester instrumentals to desert rock droning originations, the soundscapes psychedelically curtail the spoken word conviction just enough to make each of the eleven tracks a palatable mind-altering cocktail. It’s hard to name a favourite, each single has its allegorical merit, but being driven to tears by the existentially delicate single, What’s the Story, had to be a personal highlight before the euphoria surges through Ignorance is Bliss, which transgresses entropy into rapture.

Grab a copy of Agitator via the Golden Believer Records Bandcamp page and watch the live launch on April 14 at the Peer Hat.

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Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Empty Page delivered us dejection-guilt with the art rock indolence in ‘Level Sedentary’

Sloth may be the seventh deadly sin in the eyes fixated on the demonisation of the human condition, but here to absolve us of our indolent transgressions is the ever-relatable Manchester outfit, The Empty Page, with their latest single, Level Sedentary. The second single from the forthcoming sophomore LP, released on March 3rd, is an art rock masterpiece for its mid-way descent into maniacal obscurity.

Breaking from the melodic destigmatisation of idle introversion, the ties that bind dejection to depression conceptually sprawl through the middle eight, pulling you into the murky depths of discord before your cognitions collide with the reminder that some of the greatest creative minds maintained a proclivity towards inertia.

The producer, Morton Kong, evidently knew just how to pull The Empty Page into their elevated experimental own with Level Sedentary. In a time when it is impossible to fully disconnect from the chaos of the external world, the ability to revel in it under the duress of a compassionately candid duo is worth more than words could ever convey.

Check out Level Sedentary on Spotify, Bandcamp & YouTube.

Follow The Empty Page on Facebook & Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

B!TEZ advocates uninhibited authenticity in her alt-pop hit, Be Like You

It’s time to let the dust settle on the archaic records from New Order and The Stone Roses and lock into the viscerally fresh talent from Manchester-based artist and poet B!TEZ, who has been taking the rainy city by storm.

For her latest single, Be Like You, B!TEZ (Princess Arinola Adegbite) reinvented the 80s pop wheel with her afro-futuristic edge that is sharper than any papercut. The infectiously melodic earworm is a stellar hit based on the instrumentals alone. When the socially conscious lyrics are thrown onto the stabbing synth lines, it is impossible not to get wrapped up in the vindicating euphoria.

“The first single on Vintage Destiny is ‘Be Like You’. A self-love disco pop anthem integrating rock, and funk elements encouraging listeners to be their authentic “exceptional” selves despite living in a comparison-driven world.”

After finding influence from a broad range of artists, including Nina Simone, Mazzy Star, FKA Twigs and Bjork, the songstress carved out her niche and thrived in every arena she threw her multi-faceted talent into.

The multi-award-winning poet, filmmaker and BBC Words First artist has won Manchester Young Creative of the Year and been commissioned by Selfridges, the BBC and the University of Cambridge. In addition to performing in  Manchester’s most iconic venues, including Blues Kitchen, Soup and Band on the Wall. She’s definitely one to watch.

Honestly, I’m inspired by her after just one hit on Be Like You. Eat your heart out John Cooper Clarke.

Be Like You will officially release on February 17th. Hear it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Empty Page affront the new normal with their 90s nostalgia-implanting electro-punk anthem, Dry Ice

Rather than releasing a sonic sign of the stagnant times, The Empty Page protested our drab and dog-eared-with-anxiety modernity by letting pulsating synths guide the way towards 90s nostalgia in their electro-punk hit, Dry Ice.

Lyrically, you’re reminded of how it felt to be stripped of inhibition, sharing the euphoria with strangers long before they could request you on Facebook and never speak to you again and even longer before the pandemic left its mark on our social appetites while the dizzying guitars drop off-kilter momentum around the gravelly pulls of the post-punk bass strings.

It’s a major shift from the Manchester-based outfit’s previous sound that has been lauded by just about everyone that matters. The duo has ventured into their The Julie Ruin era, and we couldn’t be here for it more. After all, synths were the true gateway to punk and DIY (FIGHT ME), and this new anxiously frenetic earworm that will pull Polaroids of strobe-lit hedonism towards your temporal lobe is the ultimate affront to the new normal.

Dry Ice will officially release on November 18th. Watch the official video on YouTube, add it to your Spotify playlists, or support the band by purchasing the single on Bandcamp. 

Follow the Empty Page on Facebook, Instagram & TikTok. 

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Live Review: The Virginmarys mainlined blues through punk veins with rock & roll reverence on their tour of their EP, Devil Keeps Coming.

The UK live music scene may be on its knees. But on October 15th, a near-capacity crowd flocked to Gorilla in Manchester to kneel at the unholy alter of The Virginmarys as the Macclesfield-hailing band played the home leg on their tour of their critically acclaimed EP, Devil Keeps Coming.

With it being my first Virginmarys show amongst their devout fans, I was unsure of their ability to cut through the usual awkwardness of live music in the new normal. From the very first note of The Meds, any sense of cynicism slipped away. The crowd was instantaneously thrown into animation. Yet evidently, this was no average punk rock pit. Euphoria fuelled the momentum in place of the usual boozy weight-throwing aggravation. Something I’ve scarcely seen unless Riot Grrrl icons and their descendants are gracing the stage. As a testament to how much adoration The Virginmarys garner from their fans, one couple made the 3,000+ mile journey from Ohio to witness the deafening duo tearing up the turf in their hometown.

One thing I will never forget is how it wasn’t just the blues mainlined through punk veins with holy rock n roll reverence that gripped the crowd through the symbiotic dynamism between Ally’s guitars and Danny’s Bonham-Esque drum fills. In every direction, I saw how viscerally the lyricism resonated and psyched the crowd into a frenzy through the wit-deep lines that strip the alienation from political disillusion and mental precariousness.

The acoustic rendition of Sleep was also a tear-jerking memorable feat of the hit-after-hit setlist, which forwent the egocentric inclusion of an encore. I’m fairly convinced that in Ally’s past life, he was a tortured soul from Tennessee. His uninhibited songwriting skills are only matched by his ability to get to the crux of emotions that mostly go unspoken.

If you get a chance to catch them on the remaining legs of their UK tour, take it. You won’t regret it.

Artist Links: Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Twitter.

Live Review by Amelia Vandergast

Laeeqa verses a lesson in mindful moderation in her stylistic neo-soul single, BALANCE

Leeds-born, Manchester-based musician and model, Laeeqa, taught a lesson in mindful moderation in her latest blend of neo-soul, RnB, jazz and reggae, BALANCE. Always an advocate for mental health, the artist that effortlessly embodies femininity in her soulful vocal flows makes it easy to see why so many have connected with her sound, which is just as vibrantly arresting as the image she puts before the world.

With her vocals intricately in sync with the mellifluous instrumentals which mesmerizingly spill trippy yet tranquil RnB emboldening ambience, BALANCE is one hell of a luxe aural aesthetic.

Along with playing in some of Manchester’s most iconic venues, Laeeqa’s music has also been in heavy rotation with BBC Introducing and 1Xtra; if you’re sleeping on her at this point, you may as well be in a coma.

Check out the video for BALANCE by heading over to YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Manchester’s Dakota Avenue cry out for sanctity in their indie anthem, Slap Me Silly

No feeling can compare to hearing a sentiment that you’ve only ever heard reverberating around the most private corners of your mind versed through compassionately honeyed vocals. And that is exactly what the Manchester-based outfit, Dakota Avenue, delivers through their latest single, Slap Me Silly. Far from a masochistic howl into the void, Slap Me Silly claws into the soul-biting issue of needing someone that knows you enough to offer a firm guiding hand to pull you back into a state of sanctity.

It is about time Manchester’s music scene stopped being defined by nostalgia and started to revolve around the contemporary crafted resonance delivered by acts as energizingly profound as Dakota Avenue. Their indie jangle-pop melodies, cataclysmic crescendos and 80s-inspired synths are a hotbed of evocatively charged stylised alchemy.

But Dakota Avenue certainly hasn’t failed to gain traction; they’ve garnered radio play from Amazing Radio and XS Manchester, performed live sessions for BBC Introducing and played to thousands at festivals, and garnered critical acclaim from across the board. As a fellow Mancunian, I wouldn’t hesitate to sell Dakota Avenue as one of the hottest acts this side of the Mersey.

Slap Me Silly is due for official release on June 3rd; check it out for yourselves here.

Review by Amelia Vandergast