25 years not out. That’s some achievement for any record label given the seismic changes in the industry over the last 15 years and it’s certainly something to be celebrated (unless its Syco!) Of course Heavenly Recordings isn’t just any record label, it’s a label we’ve admired and trusted for a large part of our music loving life. Luckily, for us Heavenly Recordings brought their 25th birthday celebrations to Liverpool’s beloved Kazimier venue and we reflect on an event that not only will go down in Liverpool folklore as an absolute classic but also demonstrated just how strong and varied the current artists on the label continue to be.
Without further ado here are some of our highlights in words and pictures
Given that Gwenno recently described one of the songs on her debut album Y Dydd Olaf as “a song to dance to at the end of the world” Liverpool’s apocalyptic looking skies were perhaps a suitable backdrop for her outdoor set. And despite the torrent of rain that started to fall during her set, her hypnotic future pop soon had the soggy, bedraggled crowd mesmerised. In fact it’s quite a triumph to perform a concept album sung in the Welsh language, based on an obscure dystopian Sci-fi novel to a mainly( we assume) non-Welsh speaking audience, on a Sunday afternoon, in the pissing rain and make it a thoroughly enjoyable (and educational) experience .
Gwenno connected with the audience straight away explaining the meaning behind her songs with intelligence and warm humour. For example ‘Patriarchaeth’ was introduced as ‘ This is a song about Patriarchy – I never really know what to say about this song other than ‘isn’t Patriarchy really shit.’ She discussed themes that lay behind the album such as government surveillance and how having your own language and culture can be subversive and actually protect you from government intrusion. Weighty stuff perhaps, but her music manages to be accessible despite the language barrier and the political messages that lay beneath because this is beautifully crafted electronic pop music which can be enjoyed on a number of levels. And you sense that after various guises and disguises in the music biz over the years, this is now the real Gwenno Saunders stepping forward and singing about things that truly matter.
Kid Waves debut album ‘Wonderlust’ is without doubt a wonderful debut, and one of our albums of the year so far. We’ve caught them live a few times over the past few months and they never fail to impress … Their music is often compared to indie/grunge/shoegaze bands from the past and although there may well be these elements in their musical mix, our recent interview (HERE) with Lea Emery proved that this was perhaps more by osmosis than by design. Their set which included highlights from their debut album such as ‘Baby Tiger’ ‘Best Friend’ ‘I’m Trying To Break Your Heart’ and recent single ‘Honey’ was sublime and as the sun began to peek through clouds that were greyer than John Major’s scrotum the audience gave the band the rapturous response their set clearly deserved. Such a great band
Liverpool-based trio Stealing Sheep decided they wanted to do something a little different to celebrate Heavenly’s 25th Birthday bash. And they certainly managed to do that with a twenty-five minute plus score entitled ‘Legs’ replete with brightly coloured leotard-clad dancers. The trio explained that the plan was “to take elements of our artwork and aesthetic and transform them into a piece of Modern Musical Dance set to an especially written score ” and it worked wonderfully well delivering one of those ‘only in Liverpool’ type moments. The dancer’s strange robotic movements had an air of Bladrunner meets Flashdance and their deadpan expressions where rather unsettling, especially when they stepped forward to within about a foot of your face and stared at you!
Hooton Tennis Club
Another local act on the Heavenly roster who gave a blistering performance and a band who seem to grow with every performance. The term ‘slacker pop’ may have been attributed to them in the past, but there was nothing slack or lackadaisical about the band’s performance. Their Bill Ryder-Jones produced debut album ʻHighest Point In Cliff Town,ʼ is out on Heavenly Records in August and based on the evidence of this set it could well take them to another level.
King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizzard
The problem with a lot of prog/psych bands is they can be a pretty po-faced bunch – ditto their fans, who often seem more concerned with technical craftsmanship rather than being engaged on the emotional level. Fans often nod sagely, and talk in reverential whispers about the bands ‘kit’ or the light show amid much stroking of beards and lordy and it can be fucking dull – to quote Half man Half Biscuit ” No way, joke shop excrement/ Don’t say the light show’s excellent/ It makes you smell of the laboratory instead of a/ Fan of the band” …
King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizzard. who describe themselves as ‘fried theremin wielding psychopaths’ are the antithesis of this sort of nonsense, yes they are without doubt fine musicians, yes they produce some quite mind-bending guitar jams, but rather than ask that you sit back and worship at their psych alter of musical excellence they demand that you actively participate in the whole deliciously deranged experience. Their set was wild, at times technically brilliant, at others unhinged and gloriously chaotic, but always intense, and something you felt very much part of. As a live unit, the prolific (five albums in two years) Aussie seven piece are as thrilling and barking mad a collective as we’ve seen in many a year.
If The Wytches felt a little intimidated coming on after King Gizzards remarkable set they certainly didn’t show it, and wasted no time in whipping up the crowd with an intense sonic attack of visceral garage doom surf. Having only caught the band once before and bumping into an incredibly polite Kristian Bell off stage at Sound City a few years back, the band have improved immeasurably as a live act (and they were pretty darned incredible before). If Bell is polite off stage he’s a man possessed on stage his feral roar matched only in intensity by the band’s frenetic playing and the crowds response!
A fitting way to end a sublime event in which a truly great record label proved why they are so loved and respected and have remained a jewel in the UK’s musical crown for 25 glorious years. Long may they continue! For more Pictures – Click HERE