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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Owl Parliament feat. Emmy the Great, Mount Eerie, Aidan Moffat, Blue Roses – Live Review

Union Chapel hosts some of today's best singer-songwriters, their fragile folk perfectly suited to the beautiful surroundings

Written by Emma Tucker

Yes yes, store patient we get it. We all know that Gorillaz is an ‘imaginary’ band made up of four Jamie Hewlitt-created cartoon characters who ‘play’ the instruments and ‘give’ interviews (read: the label offers out pre written interview answers for journalists to do with them what they will, or occasionally, in some hideous PR-created postmodern nightmare scenario, well-known character actors pretend to be the band members and give phone interviews. Seriously). Oh, and they all live together on a big floating island made up of the planet’s rubbish. Very clever, boys, but can we drop it now please?  Three albums in, this schtick is getting rather tiresome – the joke has been dragged out waaay too long. What are you hiding from, Damon Albarn?  Come forward, don’t be shy and stop playing silly buggers with your hairy mate with the felt tips, because Plastic Beach is yet another work of brilliance from the prolifically creative brain of Colchester’s prodigal son.

What is instantly clear, in comparison to previous Gorillaz output, is the lack of any chart smashing singles a la Clint Eastwood or DARE on third album ‘Plastic Beach’.  Contrary to Albarn’s recent claims, this is probably the least commercial output the ‘band’ has produced, yet in my opinion this works in the album’s favour. Instead of pop hooks and catchy beats, we get Indian bhangra, classical strings, grimey electro hip-hop, marching bands and Bobby Womack. BOBBY WOMACK, people! Awesome. It is a far from faultless, but this lack of commerciality makes it a more interesting, challenging and an ultimately more intelligent album.

Albarn seems to have been very busy making friends and influencing people of late. With a role call of collaborators so impressively credible you can only imagine the howls of jealousy emanating from Mark ‘bloody’ Ronson’s house, we have the improbable joy of hearing the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def and half of The Clash on the same album.

“White Flag”, featuring the unlikely coupling of Bashy & Kano with the National Orchestra for Oriental and Arabic Music, opens with sub-continental bhangra beats and classical strings which then transform into a backing track from Super Mario Land with Kano and Bashy MC’ing away over the top.  Next comes a flute solo (of course!), some more Indian strings and then it’s over.  It’s weird but it works.

After the two distinctly average singles, “Stylo” (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack), and “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, comes the good stuff.  ‘Empire Ants’ opens as a spacious and trippy ballad with Albarn’s familiarly languid vocals floating sleepily over a charmingly basic Casio beat track, but which then transforms into a huge dazzling disco epic with the help of Swedish electro darlings Little Dragon.

Next up is the snarling glamrock electronic stomp of “Glitter Freeze” and it is effing brilliant.  Predominantly instrumental with the odd spoken word and demonic laugh emanating from the eternally downturned mouth of Mark E Smith, this is where you realise just how damn good Albarn is. He is adept at creating these huge musical soundscapes which build and build to almost orgasmic levels with seemingly effortless abandon. Kasabian, take note.

Delightful ditty “Plastic Beach” is proof again that Albarn produces some of his best work when paired up with ex-Clash bassist and habitual Albarn collaborator, Paul Simonon – on this occasion being joined by old chum, fellow Clash guitarist Mick Jones. This track is an irresistibly bouncy pop record with enough quirk and edge to keep you tapping your feet and bobbing your head without getting irritated by its obviousness or its saccharine aftertaste.

Womack’s second appearance comes on “Cloud of Unknowing”, a simply extraordinary and stunning piece of vocal-led classical music.  With the help of Sinfonia ViVA, Womack’s vocal is epic, touching and goose-bumps good. We mustn’t forget that Albarn is a bone fide opera composer and is as adept at classical composition as he is at pop, hip hop, disco, rock and pretty much any other genre you can think of.

Not all tracks hit the mark, however. Snoop’s track, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”, is disappointingly average, and second single “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, is thin, soulless and intrinsically irritating.  However, on listening to “Plastic Beach”, you are left with a resounding sense of satisfaction and joy that you have just witnessed Bobby Womack singing with a full orchestra; The Clash featuring on a track about Casio keyboards and stylophones; Mos Def singing over a marching band; Lou Reed’s vocals spread comfortably over an unapologetically jaunty pop record.

Albarn constantly nudges the boundaries of genre and somehow persuades legendary artists to step out of their comfort zones for just a moment in order to create something unexpected and wonderful. Due to this, I am prepared to forgive the tedious cartoon smoke screen for now, but I think next time do away with the false modesty and claim the glory for your creation, Mr Albarn, since you truly deserve it.

Yes yes, erectile we get it. We all know that Gorillaz is an ‘imaginary’ band made up of four Jamie Hewlitt-created cartoon characters who ‘play’ the instruments and ‘give’ interviews (read: the label offers out pre written interview answers for journalists to do with them what they will, view or occasionally, in some hideous PR-created postmodern nightmare scenario, well-known character actors pretend to be the band members and give phone interviews. Seriously). Oh, and they all live together on a big floating island made up of the planet’s rubbish. Very clever, boys, but can we drop it now please?  Three albums in, this schtick is getting rather tiresome – the joke has been dragged out waaay too long. What are you hiding from, Damon Albarn?  Come forward, don’t be shy and stop playing silly buggers with your hairy mate with the felt tips, because Plastic Beach is yet another work of brilliance from the prolifically creative brain of Colchester’s prodigal son.

What is instantly clear, in comparison to previous Gorillaz output, is the lack of any chart smashing singles a la Clint Eastwood or DARE on third album ‘Plastic Beach’.  Contrary to Albarn’s recent claims, this is probably the least commercial output the ‘band’ has produced, yet in my opinion this works in the album’s favour. Instead of pop hooks and catchy beats, we get Indian bhangra, classical strings, grimey electro hip-hop, marching bands and Bobby Womack. BOBBY WOMACK, people! Awesome. It is a far from faultless, but this lack of commerciality makes it a more interesting, challenging and an ultimately more intelligent album.

Albarn seems to have been very busy making friends and influencing people of late. With a role call of collaborators so impressively credible you can only imagine the howls of jealousy emanating from Mark ‘bloody’ Ronson’s house, we have the improbable joy of hearing the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def and half of The Clash on the same album.

“White Flag”, featuring the unlikely coupling of Bashy & Kano with the National Orchestra for Oriental and Arabic Music, opens with sub-continental bhangra beats and classical strings which then transform into a backing track from Super Mario Land with Kano and Bashy MC’ing away over the top.  Next comes a flute solo (of course!), some more Indian strings and then it’s over.  It’s weird but it works.

After the two distinctly average singles, “Stylo” (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack), and “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, comes the good stuff.  ‘Empire Ants’ opens as a spacious and trippy ballad with Albarn’s familiarly languid vocals floating sleepily over a charmingly basic Casio beat track, but which then transforms into a huge dazzling disco epic with the help of Swedish electro darlings Little Dragon.

Next up is the snarling glamrock electronic stomp of “Glitter Freeze” and it is effing brilliant.  Predominantly instrumental with the odd spoken word and demonic laugh emanating from the eternally downturned mouth of Mark E Smith, this is where you realise just how damn good Albarn is. He is adept at creating these huge musical soundscapes which build and build to almost orgasmic levels with seemingly effortless abandon. Kasabian, take note.

Delightful ditty “Plastic Beach” is proof again that Albarn produces some of his best work when paired up with ex-Clash bassist and habitual Albarn collaborator, Paul Simonon – on this occasion being joined by old chum, fellow Clash guitarist Mick Jones. This track is an irresistibly bouncy pop record with enough quirk and edge to keep you tapping your feet and bobbing your head without getting irritated by its obviousness or its saccharine aftertaste.

Womack’s second appearance comes on “Cloud of Unknowing”, a simply extraordinary and stunning piece of vocal-led classical music.  With the help of Sinfonia ViVA, Womack’s vocal is epic, touching and goose-bumps good. We mustn’t forget that Albarn is a bone fide opera composer and is as adept at classical composition as he is at pop, hip hop, disco, rock and pretty much any other genre you can think of.

Not all tracks hit the mark, however. Snoop’s track, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”, is disappointingly average, and second single “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, is thin, soulless and intrinsically irritating.  However, on listening to “Plastic Beach”, you are left with a resounding sense of satisfaction and joy that you have just witnessed Bobby Womack singing with a full orchestra; The Clash featuring on a track about Casio keyboards and stylophones; Mos Def singing over a marching band; Lou Reed’s vocals spread comfortably over an unapologetically jaunty pop record.

Albarn constantly nudges the boundaries of genre and somehow persuades legendary artists to step out of their comfort zones for just a moment in order to create something unexpected and wonderful. Due to this, I am prepared to forgive the tedious cartoon smoke screen for now, but I think next time do away with the false modesty and claim the glory for your creation, Mr Albarn, since you truly deserve it.

Yes yes, here we get it. We all know that Gorillaz is an ‘imaginary’ band made up of four Jamie Hewlitt-created cartoon characters who ‘play’ the instruments and ‘give’ interviews (read: the label offers out pre written interview answers for journalists to do with them what they will, or occasionally, in some hideous PR-created postmodern nightmare scenario, well-known character actors pretend to be the band members and give phone interviews. Seriously). Oh, and they all live together on a big floating island made up of the planet’s rubbish. Very clever, boys, but can we drop it now please?  Three albums in, this schtick is getting rather tiresome – the joke has been dragged out waaay too long. What are you hiding from, Damon Albarn?  Come forward, don’t be shy and stop playing silly buggers with your hairy mate with the felt tips, because Plastic Beach is yet another work of brilliance from the prolifically creative brain of Colchester’s prodigal son.

What is instantly clear, in comparison to previous Gorillaz output, is the lack of any chart smashing singles a la Clint Eastwood or DARE on third album ‘Plastic Beach’.  Contrary to Albarn’s recent claims, this is probably the least commercial output the ‘band’ has produced, yet in my opinion this works in the album’s favour. Instead of pop hooks and catchy beats, we get Indian bhangra, classical strings, grimey electro hip-hop, marching bands and Bobby Womack. BOBBY WOMACK, people! Awesome. It is a far from faultless, but this lack of commerciality makes it a more interesting, challenging and an ultimately more intelligent album.

Albarn seems to have been very busy making friends and influencing people of late. With a role call of collaborators so impressively credible you can only imagine the howls of jealousy emanating from Mark ‘bloody’ Ronson’s house, we have the improbable joy of hearing the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def and half of The Clash on the same album.

“White Flag”, featuring the unlikely coupling of Bashy & Kano with the National Orchestra for Oriental and Arabic Music, opens with sub-continental bhangra beats and classical strings which then transform into a backing track from Super Mario Land with Kano and Bashy MC’ing away over the top.  Next comes a flute solo (of course!), some more Indian strings and then it’s over.  It’s weird but it works.

After the two distinctly average singles, “Stylo” (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack), and “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, comes the good stuff.  ‘Empire Ants’ opens as a spacious and trippy ballad with Albarn’s familiarly languid vocals floating sleepily over a charmingly basic Casio beat track, but which then transforms into a huge dazzling disco epic with the help of Swedish electro darlings Little Dragon.

Next up is the snarling glamrock electronic stomp of “Glitter Freeze” and it is effing brilliant.  Predominantly instrumental with the odd spoken word and demonic laugh emanating from the eternally downturned mouth of Mark E Smith, this is where you realise just how damn good Albarn is. He is adept at creating these huge musical soundscapes which build and build to almost orgasmic levels with seemingly effortless abandon. Kasabian, take note.

Delightful ditty “Plastic Beach” is proof again that Albarn produces some of his best work when paired up with ex-Clash bassist and habitual Albarn collaborator, Paul Simonon – on this occasion being joined by old chum, fellow Clash guitarist Mick Jones. This track is an irresistibly bouncy pop record with enough quirk and edge to keep you tapping your feet and bobbing your head without getting irritated by its obviousness or its saccharine aftertaste.

Womack’s second appearance comes on “Cloud of Unknowing”, a simply extraordinary and stunning piece of vocal-led classical music.  With the help of Sinfonia ViVA, Womack’s vocal is epic, touching and goose-bumps good. We mustn’t forget that Albarn is a bone fide opera composer and is as adept at classical composition as he is at pop, hip hop, disco, rock and pretty much any other genre you can think of.

Not all tracks hit the mark, however. Snoop’s track, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”, is disappointingly average, and second single “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, is thin, soulless and intrinsically irritating.  However, on listening to “Plastic Beach”, you are left with a resounding sense of satisfaction and joy that you have just witnessed Bobby Womack singing with a full orchestra; The Clash featuring on a track about Casio keyboards and stylophones; Mos Def singing over a marching band; Lou Reed’s vocals spread comfortably over an unapologetically jaunty pop record.

Albarn constantly nudges the boundaries of genre and somehow persuades legendary artists to step out of their comfort zones for just a moment in order to create something unexpected and wonderful. Due to this, I am prepared to forgive the tedious cartoon smoke screen for now, but I think next time do away with the false modesty and claim the glory for your creation, Mr Albarn, since you truly deserve it.

Yes yes, pill we get it. We all know that Gorillaz is an ‘imaginary’ band made up of four Jamie Hewlett-created cartoon characters who ‘play’ the instruments and ‘give’ interviews (read: the label offers out pre written interview answers for journalists to do with them what they will, order or occasionally, in some hideous PR-created postmodern nightmare scenario, well-known character actors pretend to be the band members and give phone interviews. Seriously). Oh, and they all live together on a big floating island made up of the planet’s rubbish. Very clever, boys, but can we drop it now please?  Three albums in, this schtick is getting rather tiresome – the joke has been dragged out waaay too long. What are you hiding from, Damon Albarn?  Come forward, don’t be shy and stop playing silly buggers with your hairy mate with the felt tips, because ‘Plastic Beach’ is yet another work of brilliance from the prolifically creative brain of Colchester’s prodigal son.

What is instantly clear, in comparison to previous Gorillaz output, is the lack of any chart-smashing singles a la “Clint Eastwood” or “DARE” on this, their third album.  Contrary to Albarn’s recent claims, this is probably the least commercial output the ‘band’ has produced, yet in my opinion this works in the album’s favour. Instead of pop hooks and catchy beats, we get Indian bhangra, classical strings, grimey electro hip-hop, marching bands and Bobby Womack. BOBBY WOMACK, people! Awesome. It is a far from faultless, but this lack of commerciality makes it a more interesting, challenging and an ultimately more intelligent album.

Albarn seems to have been very busy making friends and influencing people of late. With a role call of collaborators so impressively credible you can only imagine the howls of jealousy emanating from Mark ‘bloody’ Ronson’s house, we have the improbable joy of hearing the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def and half of The Clash on the same album.

“White Flag”, featuring the unlikely collaboration of BashyKano, and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental and Arabic Music, opens with sub-continental bhangra beats and classical strings which then transform into a backing track from Super Mario Land with Kano and Bashy MC’ing away over the top.  Next comes a flute solo (of course!), some more Indian strings and then it’s over.  It’s weird but it works.

After the two distinctly average singles, “Stylo” (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack), and “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, comes the good stuff.  ‘Empire Ants’ opens as a spacious and trippy ballad with Albarn’s familiarly languid vocals floating sleepily over a charmingly basic Casio beat track, but which then transforms into a huge dazzling disco epic with the help of Swedish electro darlings Little Dragon.

Next up is the snarling glamrock electronic stomp of “Glitter Freeze” and it is effing brilliant.  Predominantly instrumental with the odd spoken word and demonic laugh emanating from the eternally downturned mouth of Mark E Smith, this is where you realise just how damn good Albarn is. He is adept at creating these huge musical soundscapes which build and build to almost orgasmic levels with seemingly effortless abandon. Kasabian, take note.

Delightful ditty and title track “Plastic Beach” is proof again that Albarn produces some of his best work when paired up with ex-Clash bassist and habitual Albarn collaborator, Paul Simonon – on this occasion being joined by old chum, fellow Clash guitarist Mick Jones. This track is an irresistibly bouncy pop record with enough quirk and edge to keep you tapping your feet and bobbing your head without getting irritated by its obviousness or its saccharine aftertaste.

Womack’s second appearance comes on “Cloud of Unknowing”, a simply extraordinary and stunning piece of vocal-led classical music.  With the help of Sinfonia ViVA, Womack’s vocal is epic, touching and goose-bumps good. We mustn’t forget that Albarn is a bone fide opera composer and is as adept at classical composition as he is at pop, hip hop, disco, rock and pretty much any other genre you can think of.

Not all tracks hit the mark, however. Snoop’s track, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”, is disappointingly average, and second single “Super Fast Jelly Fish”, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, is thin, soulless and intrinsically irritating.  However, on listening to ‘Plastic Beach’, you are left with a resounding sense of satisfaction and joy that you have just witnessed Bobby Womack singing with a full orchestra; The Clash featuring on a track about Casio keyboards and stylophones; Mos Def singing over a marching band; Lou Reed’s vocals spread comfortably over an unapologetically jaunty pop record.

Albarn constantly nudges the boundaries of genre and somehow persuades legendary artists to step out of their comfort zones for just a moment in order to create something unexpected and wonderful. Due to this, I am prepared to forgive the tedious cartoon smoke screen for now, but I think next time do away with the false modesty and claim the glory for your creation, Mr Albarn, since you truly deserve it.
Illustrations by Zoë Barker

So, story I’m pretty much sick to death of whatever latest bar or club Shoreditch has vomited up for the legions of hipsters. In this my time of need I have turned to church. However not your standard church, I turned to Platforms:live‘s Owl Parliament, which took place in Union Chapel. I’d never been to Union Chapel before, or really taken much notice of the fact that there’s an enormous church nearly opposite Highbury Corner, however, inside Union Chapel is like Hogwarts – all high ceilings, and candles and mood lighting. It was the perfect setting for some musical downtime. Everyone was drinking tea, purchasing hand-printed owl jumpers, and snuggling into fuzzy cardigans in the pews. Lovely.

I turned up just in time to catch the end of Blue Roses, and the last fifteen minutes made it clear that I’d missed out on something good. Blue Roses is a lovely Yorkshire lady, who is tipped for greatness it seems. She’s a little bit reminiscent of Felix, who recently performed at the Shh Festival. Reminiscent in the way that both sing oh so woeful, wistful girly folk. Despite being a relatively small girl, she had some decent lungs, and her voice really carried across the church pews. Obviously the additional bonus of being in a church is that the acoustics are perfectly suited to singers. She was also refreshingly humble in person as well, which made her all the more endearing to watch. However, I wouldn’t advise a session with Blue Roses on a down night. Having stood by myself to watch her for the last 15 minutes of her performance I felt pretty sorry for myself after.

To banish the angst Aidan Moffat was lined up next, and was the perfect antidote to my post-Blue Roses blues. Aidan Moffat may be more familiar to you as the once upon a time singer of Arab Strap. Although he still retains the same brand of tragi-comedic lyrics, this becomes all the more poignant with him solo. A mixture of poetic spoken word, Scottish drinking songs, and traditional one man folk, Moffat even managed to hold the audience’s attention through a recitation of a children’s poem. He hardly had any instruments aside from an accordion, and a couple of other bits, but he delivered the most enjoyable mixture of sadness and humour I’ve seen in awhile. He sang amusing songs about threesomes, sad songs about brain tumours, and songs that managed to turn on a coin midway to go from one to the other. It was clear the audience was absolutely captivated by his sweary Scottish charm.

Mount Eerie followed, sans band, wearing flip flops and apparently pretty confused by the fact that he’d just landed in London, and was on his way to Korea tomorrow. I was actually expecting him to turn up with full band ensemble, however his solo performance fitted far better into the general feeling of the evening. He played mainly songs from Mount Eerie’s latest album Wind’s Poem. It was interesting seeing how he interpreted songs that are so distorted and multi-layered into something that would work with just him and an acoustic guitar. They seemed much more heartfelt without the fuzzy backing sounds however, and in some ways like entirely different songs. His voice isn’t the strongest, but it has its own sincere charm, and it was clear this rare solo performance was very much appreciated.

To round off the night we had Emmy the Great, who to be honest I’ve never managed to muster much enthusiasm for. However seeing her live has altered my opinion entirely. Only live do you fully realise how cleverly written her lyrics are, and how much like poetry. Whereas Mount Eerie sings about myths and mountains, Emmy the Great sings about first love, and break ups, and people dying. Best moment of the night was her cover with Darren Hayman. As a result of a vote put to the Myspace audience, they covered Cheryl Cole’s ‘Fight For This Love’. Emmy The Great had kindly removed all the grammatical hiccups, and cheesy lyrics, and had manage to re-shape the song into something that was almost respectable.

To conclude, Union Chapel is my new favourite venue, and I’ve come away with a new appreciation of pretty much everyone I saw at Owl Parliament. My only advice to you is to take a cushion. The music may be good, but the pews certainly aren’t kind to your behind.

If you’d like to hear a sample of some of these artists, then click on this here link to open up Spotify with an Owl Parliament sampler.

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