Art Club of Paintings is the debut album of The Electric Flea Show. Rather than a band, The Electric Flee Show is actually the pseudonym of an otherwise un-named singer-songwriter. “Unidentified, in the spirit of Banksy perhaps – or maybe just some anonymous bloke,” he writes in the accompanying press blurb.
As an album it’s got a slightly indie/experimental, lo-fi acoustic vibe to it but the songs are accessible, the melodies hummable and the lyrics thought-provoking. It’s another of those albums that was seemingly conceived during the lockdown. However, the lyrical themes were “informed but not constrained by lockdown” according to their author: thoughts of love, heartbreak, life, death and dreams for the future fill the album’s ten tracks.
The vocals have that melancholy edge in the best of that ‘sensitive singer-song-writer’ tradition but he’s got a likeable and highly engaging voice that gently draws you in. The vocals and acoustic guitar are occasionally punctuated by some slightly other-worldly special effects, vintage keyboard sounds and drum samples.
A really interesting album. I enjoyed this one. Thanks Electric Flea Show, whoever you are.
Maniac Squat were the art punk band from Colchester who had a cult hit with ‘F**k Off’ in the mid-90s – a record which secured them the coveted single of the week slot in Kerrang! no less. Performing over two hundred gigs, including support slots for Babes in Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp as well as tours of mainland Europe, Maniac Squat made their last record in 1996 and promptly split. Now they are back, with three members of the original line-up reconvening to record a stunning concept album of experimental art-rock. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, which also leans heavily towards jazz, has been inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Christian mystic, author and philosopher, Karl von Eckhartshausen.
For The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary the band have teamed up with an all-star ensemble of guest musicians headed up by legendary Bowie/Iggy Pop sideman, Kevin Armstrong, who also produced the album. Joining Kevin – and the original Maniac Squat alumni of Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto – are Iggy Pop’s drummer, Mat Hector; PJ Harvey’s sax player, Terry Edwards; and rising star Manchester-based rapper, El Zeeko. The release is accompanied by an equally stunning video seventeen-minute video by art director/film producer, Robert Russell, whose vibrant, other-worldly imagery deftly captures the intensity of emotions that the band delve into via their experimental soundscapes.
Original Maniac Squat frontman, Tom Wilcox, says: “Plato observed that ‘we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’
“Our wilderness years were spent stumbling horny from one fix to the next. In the course of trying to repair our complex and multi-faceted personal relationships, Scott, Michael and I were profoundly affected by both the teachings of Karl von Eckartshausen and the key change rubrics of Gustav Mahler. These inspirations provoked us into composing separate elements of a larger piece of music. We gradually brought the disparate movements together to make one work. There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
Producer and guest musician, Kevin Armstrong, adds:“I have had many twists and turns in my nearly 50-year career in music but the things I will carry with me to my deathbed are those moments of fearless invention that do not yield to any commercial constraint nor any fear of ridicule. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is one such moment. When I was presented with the opportunity to help realize the revival of Maniac Squat little did I imagine that our efforts would produce such a savage and desolate beauty.”
About Maniac Squat:
Forming in Colchester, Essex, Maniac Squat pursued their own brand of art punk for five years between 1991 and 1996. They first played at Colchester Arts Centre in 1992 and were immediately banned for using an industrial grinder in their performance and for making a hole in the stage while smashing up a guitar. Maniac Squat persevered and went on to notch up the much coveted ‘Single of the Week’ accolade from Kerrang! magazine for their single ‘F**k Off’. They played over 200 gigs in their career – including tours of Germany and the Czech Republic – also releasing two singles and an album and being the go-to local support act for bands such as Babes In Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp when their tour itinerary took them to Colchester. After splitting in 1996, Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto would later re-appear in the mid-2000s as part of The Chavs, with several of their tracks used as MTV theme tunes, including ‘Nuclear War’.
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is released on 23rd September on all the main digital platforms and in a limited-edition vinyl format, too. It will be available via: http://maniacsquat.com/
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary – release information:
Written by Michael Giaquinto/Scott Pearce/Tom Wilcox/El Zeeko
Lyrics adapted from A Cloud Upon the Sanctuary by Karl Von Eckartshausen
A side: The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
B side: Overbevisende Mareritt (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
Tom Wilcox – vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion
Scott Pearce – guitars, keyboards, percussion
Michael Giaquinto – bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Featuring special guests:
El Zeeko – rap vocals
Kevin Armstrong – guitars, bass
Terry Edwards – baritone Sax
Alan Newcombe – tenor Sax
Mat Hector – drums
Produced by Kevin Armstrong
Engineered by Kevin Armstrong and Mat Hector. Mastered by Ed Woods
Video by Robert Russell
Maniac Squat are:
Tom Wilcox was the front man of Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ ‘F**k Off’. Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread recognition. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover, Jesse Smith and Florence Sabeva. More recently, Tom has been the producer and singer with London based art rock band Last Day Sect.
Michael Giaquinto wasbass player with Maniac Squat in the 90s and also played bass with punk legends Vice Squad, touring extensively throughout the US and Europe. He then spent several years in Brazil, where he played in Marca Diabo, the resident house band at the infamous cultural centre Casa Amarela, backing performing artists of all types, from contortionists to beat poets. Returning to the UK with an increased appetite for experimentalism, he became involved with London’s improvised music scene and has played with some its well-known figures, including Eddie Prévost, John Russell, and Steve Beresford. He has worked as a bassist for hire in a number of bands, has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and works in music education.
Scott Pearce – (aka Arsepiece) was the guitarist in 90’s DIY punk band Maniac Squat and later in The Chavs who created the soundtrack of MTV/Viacom’s TV series ‘Blaggers’. Scott moved into music supervision and publishing for TV and Films. He now runs his own independent soundtrack label, The Nerve, and has produced over 250 albums sound tracking networks such as BBC, ITV, HBO, C4, Discovery, Viacom/CBS and ABC. He gave up drugs in 2014 which he now deeply regrets, only binge drinks at weekends but still very much enjoys amorality – if only as a keen spectator which, regrettably, makes him a somewhat duller version of his earlier self.
El Zeeko was raised in a crosshair between Old Trafford and Stretford and enters the music scene with a south Manchester confidence and 90’s hip-hop energy. With exceptional wordplay reflective of his love for English language, El Zeeko graces us with a humble yet raw and honest account of his love life, brotherhood, survival and the road code in his first biblical self-titled EP project as an artist titled 25:17. Starting out as a producer at 13 inspired by his brother’s rap group Manchester’s notorious blueprint to Grime RAW-T, he learned the art and craft of production leading him to be signed to a deal with Universal as a teenager. Working both as an artist and a producer, El Zeeko continues to work with homegrown soul duo Children of Zeus, Tyler Daley, Sleazy F Baby and more due to his musical ear in the Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop space in Manchester.
Kevin Armstrong began his musical life with his own band Local Heroes SW9. After two albums, his career began thriving as a writer, producer, bandleader and guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984, and worked with him on various projects including putting together his band and performing at the legendary Live Aid in 1985. Bowie introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop as guitarist on the 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and Kevin became Iggy’s bandleader in 86/87. He put together Iggy’s touring band again from 2014 until 2019. He has worked with Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones and many more.
Mat Hector has become widely known for his hard-hitting groove and stylistic adaptability as drummer in Iggy Pop’s band. In addition to working with Iggy, Mat has worked with Razorlight, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond and legendary Bowie pianist Mike Garson.
Terry Edwards is an acclaimed and much in-demand session musician, playing the saxophone, trumpet, guitar, keyboard and the flute. He’s worked with artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Ronnie Spector, PJ Harvey, Eric Mingus, Madness, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks, Jimi Tenor, Mike Garson, Glen Matlock, The Blockheads, Siouxsie Sioux, Hot Chip, Robyn Hitchcock and Rhoda Dakar.
Alan Newcombe is interested in producing combinations of sound on a saxophone mainly using alternative fingerings, flutter tongue and so on. He also plays desiccated bebop and 32 bar standards. He appears with numerous ad hoc improv groups and workshops in London and does a daily show for his neighbours.
Robert Russell created the ground-breaking video for The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary and is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and art director whose design, branding and communications work includes projects for the likes of Virgin and Liverpool Everyman. He is passionate about music, performing, writing and producing for both personal and commercial projects.
Electronica duo Whyte have been compared to a Gaelic version of Sigur Rós, their brooding, shimmering arrangements forming a dramatic yet pleasing fusion of tradition and modernity.
Formed back in 2016, the duo are Alasdair C. Whyte (vocals) and Ross Whyte (electronics). Whyte were awarded the Scottish Gaelic Arts and Culture Award in 2019 and in 2017 won the Hands Up For Trad/Creative Scotland Nòs Ùr Songwriting Award for their original Gaelic song ‘Cionran’.
True to their experimental roots, the duo’s latest and third album MAIM is a collaboration with contemporary Gaelic theatre company Theatre Gu Leòr.
MAIM developed out of a partnership with Theatre Gu Leòr and a successful theatre production of the same name.The original theatre production, directed by Muireann Kelly, premiered in March 2020 and saw a run of sold-out shows at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow prior to advent of lockdown last Spring. MAIM, meaning panic in Gàidhlig, is a call to action, giving voice to the frustrations of the next generation who care deeply about the crisis facing their land and language, is how the show defined itself – and attracted a slew of favourable reviews.
“Both the production and the new album explore responses to the panic and horror we feel when time is running out,“ say the duo. “When faced with all we stand to lose – if we don’t make a stand against language and climate extinction.”
The album’s extensive sleeve-notes, curated by Ross Whyte, give the background to the duo’s collaboration and the creative process that inspired each of the ten tracks. A limited-edition book is also set for publication later this summer.
MAIM was recorded at GloWorm Recording with Gordon Maclean and Keir Long. Additional musical contributions come from Seonaid Aitken, Megan Henderson, Patsy Reid, Alice Allen and Màrtainn Skene (strings) and Elspeth Turner, Evie Wadddell, Cian McCarthy and Ruairidh Murray (additional vocals and guitar).
Experimental yet accessible and contemporary yet timeless this album will appeal to many fans of both traditional Celtic folk and modern electronica.
Released: 9th April 2021
Available from: Bandcamp | Amazon (CD, Download, Stream) | Spotify | iTunes | Apple Music | Youtube Music | birnamcdshop.com
Steve Tyler is a renowned hurdy gurdy player and from early music to traditional folk to industrial electronica he is at home playing within a variety of genres. He currently performs as a duo with Katy Marchant, as well as in the medieval-inspired trad folk band Woodwose (again with Marchant) and as part of the cross-cultural outfit Meridianum Ensemble.
The Enduring and the Ephemeral, however, is Tyler’s first album comprised fully of his own original material. The unique, utterly mesmerising sound of the hurdy gurdy takes centre-stage in this album of rich, layered, experimental prog-folk subtitled ‘Hurdy gurdy based multitrack music for the end of time’.
“The intention was merely to render in sonic form some patterns from the imagination, rather than following any particular theme or genre. However, as many of the pieces arose from contemplation of the passage of time and the juxtaposition of different chronological perspectives, a theme of sorts has arisen.”
Tyler’s main creative drive is his interest in patterns and rhythms and the resulting interweaving of different components into a sonic structure. Tyler’s infectiously hypnotic hurdy gurdy playing is thus textured by his use of numerous other instruments, namely cittern, reed organ, psaltery, guitar, bass guitar, hammered dulcimer, gothic harp and percussion. However, the album also features guest musicians: Katy Marchant who plays, variously, bagpipes, recorder, shawm and vocal on several tracks) and Jane Harbour, from the Bristol-based band Spiro, whose vocal and violin-playing can be heard on the final track ‘Lullaby’.
A lovely touch, particularly for ELO fans, is the inclusion of the late Mike Edwards – the cellist from the original line-up of Electric Light Orchestra who was tragically killed in 2010. Tyler had previously worked with Edwards and an unaccompanied improvisational sample of his was located and, by chance, fitted perfectly into the dark, haunting piece on the album entitled ‘Tethys’.
A rich, fascinating and uniquely other-worldly album, Tyler creates some utterly compelling sonic textures and fans of experimental music, prog and folk will all find much to draw them in here.
Guitarist and singer-songwriter Jake Aaron released his debut EP in 2016 to plaudits from folk and indie reviewers. His debut album Fag Ash and Beer was released in September 2019, again to favourable reviews. I caught up up with him recently to discuss the album, some of the musicians he’s worked with, his choice of cover artwork and his teenage love for Iron Maiden.
You have managed to pull together a great line-up of musicians for your debut album? How did they get involved?
I was very lucky! My first songs in 2015 were just on acoustic guitar, but I had an idea last year for a jazzy piece “Give Me Your Horse” which needed a great Hammond player and trumpeter. I made some inquires in the jazz world and the names that came back were Steve Lodder for Hammond and Steve Waterman for trumpet. I contacted them and they both seemed to like the piece – maybe it was the time signature – and luckily they both agreed. I found the bassist Davide Mantovani and drummer Marc Parnell through Steve L. When I was recording the album this year, I felt some tracks needed building up so I asked the musicians if they’d come back in. They’re brilliant players. A couple of the tracks on the album are live takes, “Elvis Has Left The Building” and “New Mexico”, and you can hear how good they are.
Have you been taken aback by the positive response to the album or did you always know you had something special on your hands as soon as you began putting it together?
I’m not sure the album has mainstream appeal, but it does seem to have found a niche in certain music circles which is nice. It’s had some play on BBC Jazz Nights as well as Genevieve Tudor’s Folk Show. My biggest uncertainty was how the album would all hang together as it’s quite a mix of ideas. I just hoped it would somehow. I’ve had a small audience since my EP who seem to like what I’m doing, and it was good they stuck with me, too.
And given the response how come you waited so long to make your first album?
It’s quite a task writing a whole album, and partly it just took a long time to finish the pieces once I’d started. I wrote some of the pieces quickly, whilst others were like watching paint dry, waiting for missing bits of music or words. A couple of the tracks were quite fiddly.
In terms of the album title it absolutely does what it says on the tin – but do talk us through that album cover!
I was working on a very different cover but didn’t feel it was working and was pretty fed up with the whole thing. An old friend then texted me a picture of us playing guitar in his folks’ kitchen when we were about sixteen, smoking and drinking and I thought that’ll do. It tied in with the track “Fag Ash and Beer” and the acoustic aspect of the music. On reflection it possibly wasn’t my greatest idea of all time, and I don’t think it helped promote the music at all. I’m not sure it’s up there with Physical Graffiti. Then again it had personal resonance for me.
Heavy metal clearly had a big impact on you when you were a teenager. That was what got me hooked on music, too, and I still love it alongside the more acoustic stuff. Are you still a fan?
I don’t put Run to the Hills on any more, but I still remember why I liked it. Maybe it’s a guitar thing and if I didn’t play guitar I possibly wouldn’t have got as much out of it as I did. Some of the guitarists are technical wizards. Eddie Van Halen was just mind boggling. Heavy metal aside I’ve always liked different styles of music, and I like a lot more styles than I dislike. A solitary bagpipe, African drums, a hillbilly picking a banjo … they can all do it for me as long as it’s got a groove.
Name some of the artists that have particularly influenced you as a singer-songwriter.
There are lots of artists I love, but I am not sure which ones influenced me the most. Some of them are pretty inimitable. I also think it’s easier and more enjoyable trying to to play in your own way. I probably got bits and pieces from all over though, from every song and riff I learnt to play. You can’t play the intro to Hey Joe a thousand times and not be influenced a bit.
You have Guy Pratt contributing on one track on the album. How did that come about, and did he share any Pink Floyd tales with you?
No tales of Floyd, though I do know some of Guy’s great tales from my “My Bass and Other Animals”. I’ve known Guy for a long time through one of my best friends. I had an interesting cover for “Give Me Your Horse” of Pancho Villa and his gang holding instruments instead of rifles. The bass player looked particularly cool, like he was some legendary bassist, so Guy came to mind. I emailed him the piece, he liked it and quite remarkably he agreed. A massive honour.
What’s your favourite track on the album and tell us how it came about?
I’ve got a few but I think the instrumental “Elvis Has Left The Building” has a good vibe. It was originally an acoustic song but the band sounded so good I left it as is, like we were Elvis’s warm up band. After we recorded it, I was downstairs in the studio making a coffee and Kenny Jones, the engineer, and the others were playing it back upstairs. We had a busy schedule and when I heard it I thought “Why are they listening to that funk track on the radio? We should be getting on with my stuff!” I liked “New Mexico”, too. I was downstairs again when it was played back and Marc’s beat came pounding through the ceiling – it sounded like approaching Apaches. I was quite pleased lyrically with “Jonah Part 1”, too. It took a while to get it into a shape where it sounded colloquial without being too flip, and I could tell the story in a way I found engaging.
The single cover art for 'Give Me Your Horse'
And, finally, given the positive reaction to this have you got plans for a follow-up?
I think I’d keep plodding on regardless of the reaction, but it’s good that some people like the music too. I’ll possibly release singles or an EP next if another album is too daunting. I’m quite interested in music for film. A couple of reviewers thought the music was quite cinematic and would fit a Tarantino movie. Clearly if Quentin wants to use a piece that would not be a problem!
Fag Ash and Beer was independently released on 6th September 2019