The Future Everything Festival is rapidly becoming an eagerly anticipated date on the music calendar. It has successfully acquired the knack bringing together a diverse assortment of innovators who generally live in the stranger corners of the worlds of art and music. One of the problems with the festival is that there are often too many interesting things happening at the same time. For instance over at the Royal Northern College of Music, DJ Rob Da Bank is furnishing a screening of the black and white classic ‘King Kong’ with a brand new soundtrack while on the other side of the city, Scout Niblett is making a rare appearance at Islington Mill. It’s a difficult choice, but eventually I decided that Scout’s gig is a more interesting proposition than an evening with Fay Wray.
Tonight’s show at the Mill is a showcase for three bands; two hotly tipped for greatness by the NME, and one that’s already great, it’s just that most people don’t know it. First up is Suuns, a four piece from Montreal who are all about the music. They are meticulous young men who keep their heads down and concentrate on reproducing the sounds from their latest platter ‘Zeroes QC’ On the whole they succeed admirably in bringing to life the spacious and muscular post rock and it’s a perfect start to tonight’s show.
Former Gowns member Erika M Anderson is twenty-two years old and says she doesn’t mind dying, which, if it happened would be a shame, because in ‘Martyred Saints Past Lives’, she and her band EMA have released an early frontrunner for one of the records of the year. Standing six feet tall and totally charismatic she initially engages the crowd with some nervous banter before she slinks into current single ‘The Grey Ship’. Sounding bolder and more immediate that the recorded tracks, EMA inch their way through the bittersweet songs that make up the new record though it’s the intense circumspection of ‘California’ that reveals itself as a real highpoint. A sweet take on Glen Danzig’s ‘Soul on Fire’ shows off her expressive voice. As with everything that’s played in this brief set, it has a freshness about it that only comes from a band that’s beginning to believe in it’s abilities, and while it’s true that EMA are still in the process of finding its feet there’s more than enough here to warrant keeping a close eye on the progress this tremendous talent.
The last time I saw Scout Niblett was when she lent a helping hand to the wonderfully eccentric Daniel Johnson when he passed through Manchester over two years ago. That night she kept the crowed spellbound with a selection of off-kilter folksongs, especially the almost perfect ‘Kiss’ which still remains a crowd favourite today. However it only takes moment to dash any illusions that tonight with be a repeat performance because from the first few distorted chords it appears Scout Niblett has been feasting on a steady diet of Black Sabbath. Strikingly attired in a reflective orange Hi-Vis jacket, Scout hurls herself into tonight’s performance with a ferocious barrage of heavily amplified guitar static. Her drummer, Dan Wilson, responds in kind by hammering seven bells of his drum kit, and together they create a compelling racket that drags the crowd into the centre of their world. Obviously two words spring to mind when you see Scout and Dan and those words are ‘White’ and ‘Stripes’. Yet while it’s true that Jack and Meg have patented the spartan guitar/drum line-up, I’m sure they’ve never used it to generate the savage power that’s on display tonight.
Taking her current CD ‘The Calcination of Scout Niblett’ as the template for tonight set, this odd couple bludgeon a bloody path through the music. However not all she plays tonight is buffed to a cold metallic sheen because there are times when she decides to tread a gentler path. There’s a delicate version of the Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, and, by virtue of it being less obvious, a more surprising rendition of Althea and Donna’s pop reggae perennial ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ that ends up sounding oddly endearing. Sadly crowd requests for her to play ‘Kiss’ are met with a curt refusal.
Though there’s a danger that this continuous stream of knuckle dusting riffs could make the music weighty and cumbersome, strangely the reverse it true and the repetition has an hypnotic effect that quickly becomes intoxicating. Yes the music is difficult and challenging, but then most of the best music generally is. But perseverance is rewarding, especially when it allows you to enter into the strange and wonderful world of Scout Niblett.Scout Niblett: http://www.scoutniblett.com
Review/photos by Phil King