Archive for the ‘Electronic’ Category

Featured Artist – Hannah Atkins

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

I’m intending to write a bit more about unsigned music on this blog over the coming weeks—especially focusing on unsigned acts in Manchester, and trying to tie in a bit with some of the stuff on our All FM Radio Show.

So let’s get things started with the first review:

Hannah Atkins – Falling

Manchester-based Atkins’ music is reminiscent of an early Imogen Heap (or Heap’s earlier band, Frau Frau). It’s got that really great mix of edgy but sweet-sounding synthesisers and live instruments and vocals.

The layers of sound are arranged intricately, but without overloading you with sound. There’s some really interesting stuff going on with samples and effects, but crucially these don’t get in the way of the lyrics or the vocals. In fact, the vocals soar above the arrangements. Underneath, synths meld with live violins and guitars – but the juxtoposition of studio wizardry and real-life instruments really works, and there’s a real feeling of space to the music.

It also reminded me of some tracks by (Manchester based) band Lamb – and they’re famed for their live performances. By the same token, live, in a big venue, Atkins’ music would really go down well. It’s not hard to imagine her playing venues such as Academy 2 or the Jazz World stage at Glastonbury, with a full complement of live musicians. In fact, though, the live shows I’ve seen so far involve just her.

And – for the moment at least – you can still catch her in smaller venues around Manchester. I recently saw her at the Iguana Bar in Chorlton, and was impressed by the live show – which was mainly performed using a stage piano. The live shows are great – I’d definitely recommend getting down to one if you can.

Her latest album, Falling, is available to buy online. It’s a beautifully-packaged in a tiny Fairtrade cloth bag.

Hear more of Hannah Atkins’ music, and buy her albums, here:

http://www.last.fm/music/Hannah+Atkins

The Birmingham Beast

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

When I first heard about Birmingham University’s BEAST project in 2004, the prospect of going to see a “live” performance didn’t seem instantly appealing – high-fidelity sound played from laptops to an auditorium…. I thought it would be a bit like going to a hifi store and listening to some high-end sound systems.

I was pretty wrong about that. The BEAST performance in Birmingham on Saturday 3th May was impressive and, at times, breathtaking. 96 high-quality studio monitors of all shapes and sizes are used to create a massive sound field. Sound, originating from some computers running MaxDSP, is “diffused” around the room using a large number of mixing desks. The music ranged from sublime watery sounds to impressive electronic booms and whines that whizzed over your head and almost under your feet. It was a bit like listening to fireworks, except with sound, rather than vision.

The evening comprised a collection of pieces by various composers. We were there to see a new performance by electroacoustic composer Alexander J Harker, Orbits for piano and Max/MSP featuring Melissa Morris on piano. The piece relied heavily on improvisation, with a microphone which sampled the piano, and generate counter melodies and phrases. It was an unusual and beautiful performance – and as you’d imagine from BEAST’s high-end equipment, the quality of sound was absolutely fantastic. It was the first time I’d seen any of Harker’s pieces performed live – and was certainly a great introduction. I’m looking forward to hearing more!

Other pieces included an interpretation of Claude Lelouch’s C’etait un Rendezvous (click for YouTube video. The composer, Pete Stollery, undertook the same journey – this time on foot – and sampled audio from various locations along the way. scenes/rendez-vous was an incredibly detailed journey, and really enjoyable to listen to… the sounds of Paris flashed by in multiple directions, as if we’d all been picked up in a cage and carried through the city on foot.

Birmingham University’s BEAST project performs one or two large concerts a year, and can be found here.