Temples, On tour
If bands were built on a “hair first, music second” basis, Temples would be a great example to follow; perhaps it was this which endeared them to the likes of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr. Their album, Sun Structures, has found its way into the upper reaches of several early Best Of 2014 polls, and they do look and intermittently sound the 60s psychedelic pop part, with James Bagshaw’s fey singing and quasi-classical lyrical themes. Yet, nice as it is in principle, it can end up all feeling a bit Austin Powers.
Ben Howard, On tour
A singer-songwriter from the West Country, Ben Howard has been given the benefit of the critical doubt in the way other writers of enormously successful but ultimately quite boring acoustic music, such as Damien Rice, really haven’t. A husky-voiced singer of melancholic songs, his stuff is undeniably mainstream (material from his debut Every Kingdom quickly established his reputation as television shorthand for “something sad is happening”), but not to the extent of scaring off more traditional music fans. Signing to Island Records was also a smart move: once the home of Nick Drake and John Martyn, it is in their company Howard’s work is now often seen. In truth, that’s a bit of a reach but on this tour, where he’s supported by folk duo Hiss Golden Messenger, he can still be partially known by the company he keeps.
Curtis Harding, On tou
“Slop’n’soul” is how Curtis Harding describes what he does. There’s an element of truth to that but “garage soul” maybe gets you a bit closer to his territory. A drummer and singer since 2011 with Night Sun, in which he plays alongside various members of fellow Atlantans the Black Lips, Harding’s musical biography is otherwise a bit obscure. He mentions singing in church with his mum, but apart from these shadowy recollections the man seems to have emerged pretty much from nowhere into playing spots for hip and high-end brands like Yves Saint Laurent. Really, that’s neither a surprise nor a problem: Harding’s songs and voice are both great, and he looks very cool indeed, all poise and moustache. Rather than straight retro soul, however, it’s the other territories Harding treads that best illustrate his voice and songcraft.
Drill Festival, Brighton
Influential British post-punk group Wire previously held Drill events in London and Seattle in 2013, but this year’s will be the biggest yet. Running from Thursday and sprawling across 14 venues in Brighton, there’ll be more than 100 events on the bill, and not a corporate sponsor in sight. Potent headline slots come from post-punk four piece Savages and Michael Gira’s Swans, but the crux of the festival is to push new collaborations for Wire, which this year centres on a group jam session for guitarists as the Pink Flag Guitar Orchestra, and a grand finale of Wire and Swans onstage together playing an extended version of Wire’s Drill for a heavy Sunday night blowout.
Various venues, Thu to 7 Dec
Jaga Jazzist, London & Bristol
Cult Norwegian multi-instrumentalists Jaga Jazzist join electronica, drum’n’bass, prog rock, classical music, free jazz, Afrobeat and more with a powerful theatrical sense: shadowy musicians move like wraiths around stages rammed with keyboards, vibes, guitars, saxes, traditional brass and pulsating, orange-lit drums. They like deceptively minimalist drums-and-keys droning, but rip into them with elemental electronic roars cushioned by deep contrapuntal lines from low brass, scalding guitar lines and riffy grooves.
Birtwistle: A Celebration, London
Events marking the 80th birthday of Harrison Birtwistle have been nicely spaced throughout the year, though up until now performances of new pieces have been conspicuous by their absence. But the last of the jamborees, the Southbank Centre’s tribute, includes two premieres in a weekend of concerts that features eight of his works alongside music by Stravinsky, Messiaen and Ligeti. The main works in the programme are his two most recent large-scale pieces for the Sinfonietta, Theseus Game and In Broken Images (Queen Elizabeth Hall, SE1, Fri). But the big novelty of the weekend comes next Saturday night in the London Philharmonic’s concert, when Pierre-Laurent Aimard is the soloist in the UK premiere of Birtwistle’s latest work for piano and orchestra, named, intriguingly, Responses: Sweet Disorder And The Carefully Careless (Royal Festival Hall, SE1, 6 Dec).