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Sounds From The Other City 2018 review

As Salford basks in the glorious bank holiday sunshine, Jonathan Gibson sampled the musical delights SFTOC had to offer.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 15th May 2018

Image: Sounds From The Other City (source, credit - Jody Hartley)

Salford’s trading warehouses and traditional red leather pubs have brushed up for the party. Independent artists of all textures and forms come together to re-claim the night from Spotify. Herds of music lovers graze a sun soaked Chapel Street in search of their new favourite band. 

With upwards of 150 artists playing everything from noisy hardcore to soundscape-y techno, ‘special stuff’ like the BBC Philharmonic Ensemble playing in a church and edgy accoutrements – a hot dog eating competition, to name one – open and curious minds will be rewarded by the SFtOC programme. 

“We want to provide a platform for audiences, artists and promoters to discover, try something new and celebrate what is great about independence”, says organiser, Rivca Burns. “We want to bring a celebration to the area in which we are in, the Other City.”

Rivca and the SFtOC team certainly pulled it of. At a time when festivals are frantically vying with one another in the battle to squeeze as many big acts onto the bill as possible, SFtOC go against the grain and bring an unassuming programme of carefully curated, under the radar talent.

Éntha is a one-man band based in Salford. Densely layered, multi-texture chords and drawn out beats crash down like an iceberg against Salford’s looming cathedral spire. Éntha's music is intense, immersive and dark, sounding somewhere between Mogwai and Clams Casino.

Ova is a step up Chapel Road in Bexley Square. A sullen four piece, Ova plays slow, emotive electronica peppered with finely tuned vocals. Their drummer hammers a sturdy kick and flitters at hi-pitched drum machine percussion, reminiscent of Glasgow’s Koreless, while Jade Mannion packs out the sweltering downstairs room at the Old Pint Pot, her Kate Bush-esque vocals draped over neo-country guitar licks and voluptuous sax improvisation.  

Just a nudge down the road, Her's is two chirpy lads from Liverpool and Norway. Excited and lively on stage, plucking away at the feet of a stained glass St. Phillip, Her's comes across as a mischievous duo of church go-ers who have sat patiently for their turn to put a creative spin on the sound of the 80s. Guitarist Stephen’s jangly chords and romantically fingerpicked riffs resonate not too dissimilarly from that Salford household name, Johnny Marr. ‘Answering Machine’ is a funky 80s waltz, while ‘Cool With You’ is a trip-hop ballroom slow dance that gets the precession swaying.  

Next up is Alxndr London in fourfivestudios. Cloaked in traditional-style East Asian attire, Alxndr London brings a touch of class and originality to carve out its own section of jazz-tinged electronica. The beats are upbeat, vocals sweet and keys fuzzy like an early James Blake. Alxndr London is a treat to the ears and certainly cuts through today’s crowded live electronic music landscape. The closing track, ‘April’, is an imaginatively crafted shoulder shaker. 

Back up Oldfield Road, Kayla Painter is in charge at a sparsely populated re-purposed warehouse. A hyper talented music producer, Kayla Painter’s music sounds like Nicolas Jaar and Objekt having a feisty debate in an early morning Berghain beer garden.

Anna Burch is the first act of the day – at least who I saw – not to be accompanied by some form of computer. A sturdy four-piece indie rock outfit, Anna Burch’s music will be right up your street if you like your Camera Obscura, Alvvays or ex-lovers.

sir Was starts to round off the day at Regent’s Trading Estate. A German duo who patch together their set with dry quips and accidental humour, sir Was’s down-tempo summer trip-hop brings a psychedelic air of cool to sway the crowd’s knees as the sun takes a bow to Salford. The two brothers’ falsetto vocal harmonies are a defining feature of sir Was’s sound, which is my new favourite of 2018.  

Looking down at a well creased duo-tone programme, there are stages and acts that I could not squeeze into my SFtOC battle plan. Looks like another trip to the Other City next year, then. See you there.