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Manchester invaded London last week when the Stone Roses headlined Finsbury Park, with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr in support. However, any headlines about the Mancunians conquering the capital had to be scrapped when the much-hyped gigs failed to sell out. Indeed, Monitors scribe Nicholas Burman managed to stroll up on the day (well, with a gammy knee and a bottle of rum stuffed down his jeans it was probably more of a hobble) and grab a ticket from a tout for fifteen quid less than the selling price. And while the headliners’ set managed to make up for a dire Marr performance, it was local boy John Lydon and his well-drilled PiL who were widely deemed to have given the day’s best performance.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re beginning to see the shadow of the Roses, Smiths, Joy Division/New Order, Happy Mondays and Oasis slowly start to slip away over the Manchester skyline. Granted, Shane Meadows’ ‘Made of Stone’ documentary means that Ian Brown and the boys are still hard to avoid, but maybe this time it’ll represent a curtain finally being drawn rather than yet another round of Mancunian mythologising over a flat bottle of tepid nostalgia. Surely this particular vintage has got to run dry soon?

And maybe that’d be a good thing for the city itself. That shadow has proved impossible to escape for many bands, with comparisons to the city’s favourite forebears the unwanted symptom many have suffered – with only Elbow really managing to avoid that fate. Yet right now there are a bunch of bands bubbling up who are more than capable of blazing their own path, such as G R E A T W A V E S, Money and this week’s selection, PINS.

Formed when frontwoman Faith Holgate grew tired of being the token female in a succession of lads’ bands (“they wanted to have a girl in their band but didn’t want them to have any opinions or write any music,” is what she told The Quietus) and struck out to find like-minded women to play with, the band have built up a real head of steam over the last year. Having released their first single themselves (on cassette, less an attempt to earn hipster DIY cred than simply not being able to afford to cut a vinyl), Bella Union quickly offered to put out their next record. With a title Prince would be proud of, the ‘LuvU4Lyf’ EP only increased the hype, and you imagine the label will have a fight on their hands if they want to put out the album too.

While lazy gender-centric comparisons to Savages have been inevitable (and only got louder after PINS supported the band in the bizarre confines of Sways Records’ Fuhrer Bunker last year), PINS are a sleeker and more restrained proposition, while revelling in similarly dark tones. “I think we all have an understanding of what we want to do with a song, without necessarily having to communicate it,” is how ex-drummer Lara Williams put it, “we naturally go to the same place.”

The ‘LuvU4Lyf’ EP was an inviting brochure. Led by a love song that felt more like a confrontation, it made for a convincing statement too. ‘Say To Me’ exhibited their love for a descending chord progression and casually tossed in a bit of surf too – although more like the scum washed up on Morecombe Beach than some idyllic bay in Hawaii – while the lyrics were full of self-assured dominance: “I wait for you to surround me – now astound me,” was Holgate’s demand. Crikey.

The there was ‘Little Sting’, a clashing, clanking number that revolved around an anguished, wailing guitar, with so much reverb on the vocals that Holgate’s voice sounded like it was drifting up from a Salford sewer. The formula developed on the EP was clearly a winner: a vocal line sticking between dangerously narrow parameters and propulsive floor tom drumming driving them on, creating a simmering, steaming sound that seemed forever primed to explode.

New single ‘Stay True’ stays, well, true to that recipe. Despite an unconventional song structure, billowing atmosphere and oddly lagging drums, everything is condensed into a mouth-watering whole, a bit like mixing the dregs of every booze bottle in your kitchen into a delicious jug of miscreant activity. While we’d prefer not to fall into the trap of comparing PINS to another all-female band, there’s a definite whiff of Sleater-Kinney here, and if they can match that band’s prolific early intensity then their debut album will be a treat. We recommend you attempt to pin them down at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival next month…

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Lucrecia Dalt

Lucrecia Dalt
In the middle of the last decade, Gudrun Gut's Monika Enterprise label put out a series of compilations called '4 Women No Cry'. The concept behind them was to introduce four female musicians from four different countries to a wider audience, and all 3 comps that were released provided a rich variety of electronic, experimental and esoteric pop music. Columbia born, Barcelona 'n' Berlin based Lucrecia Dalt appeared on the final edition of '4 Women No Cry', which also boasted some of the first tracks released by darling of the underground Julia Holter. A couple of years later a self-released album, 'Congost', appeared. Full of enchantingly faded minimal pop, it brought her to the attention of German label Human Ear Music (now HEM Berlin), who've released tracks by everyone from John Maus and Maria Minerva to William Basinski and John Cage. It's a fitting home. Her first album for HEM came out towards the end of last year. The cover of 'Commotus', a latin word meaning 'woken, provoked, agitated or disturbed', featured a picture of a gigantic cloud of debris approaching a huddling clutch of vulnerable dwellings in the Texan dust bowl, circa 1935. It's an incredible image of suspended, impending menace, and the music, though far less volatile, reflects that - switching from the calm before the storm to its eerie eye, and, perhaps most frequently, the stark, haunting aftermath. v600_commotus_cover_600 The flesh of her music tends to be stripped to the bone, a darkly minimal, bass-heavy brew that makes The xx sound like The Saturdays. The wobbly vocal manipulations and plinky, creepy accompaniments of 'Saltación' evoke fellow Berliner Planningtorock, while the languidly gothic 'Conversa' is like a slightly enervated ERAAS (perhaps the odd goth touch stems from some nominative determinism related to the famous Sisters of Mercy hit...). Dalt's vocals frequently sound like she's singing in her sleep while having a disturbing dream, which works well on tracks like 'Silencio' which drags its feet like a concussed child following the twisted ribbons of a melodica melody (you could imagine much of her music working alongside the strange animations of Ivan Maximov). It's not unremittingly dark though; the shuffling beats and gently spiraling keyboards of closing track 'Batholith' are totally blissful, with a gorgeous guitar coda that sounds like Jackie O Motherfucker at their most transcendental. Hopes are high, then, for her follow-up album; especially after hearing this mix she did for Tiny Mix Tapes recently. Her explanation of the creative process, which accompanied the mix, is worthy of extended quotation: "Film became increasingly relevant when I was making the Commotus album, but I was thinking more about imaginary landscapes then, whereas on the new album, film played a key role. I picked around 10 movies I’ve been heavily resonating with during the past year. While recording I used to play these movies on mute and sometimes just randomly, I was turning up the volume for a second while playing back the stems I was working on. Since I am not having any collaboration from other musicians on this album, these movies became the external shifter elements, the vectors of disorientation, guides to other moods. This way my temperament wasn’t the only thing determining the album’s direction." It's a fascinating solution to what can often be a problem for solo artists, who, bereft of the direct influence of other musicians and the sparks of unspoken, even spiritual, connections that collaboration can produce, run the risk of producing music that is staid, single-minded or self-indulgent. This is clearly not a problem for Lucrecia Dalt. She describes how, when composing a record, "dreams and thoughts become louder and more intense, conversations more enjoyable and graspable, ordinary walks become remarkable". The highest compliment you can pay her music is that listening to it can provoke the same response.
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