Sounds From The Other City 2019


This is Sounds from the Other City’s birthday and to celebrate they’re throwing a quindecennial party. To save you a trip to your pocket e-dictionary, that means they’re fifteen years old, a hell of an achievement for an annual one-day music festival. For this one-off occasion, they’re throwing their usual format up in the air and doing something special.

As I arrive at the Regents Trading Estate in Salford (the area around Islington Mill to you and me), I am greeted by a fully-fledged summer festival atmosphere: an outdoor stage, a blaring DJ in an open air tent, food stalls, haystack furniture, hipster beers, portaloos, someone walking around dressed as a chilli, the whole shebang. The organisers, to their great credit, have created a bubble in the heaving industrial centre of Salford that feels like an escape and for nine hours everyone in attendance is somewhere else entirely.

The music is separated into five stages, four of which are housed in the cavernous warehouses that surround the site. One thing SFTOC has earned a reputation for over its decade and a half is offering a platform for young and hungry guitar bands to strut upon, and this afternoon’s first key attraction certainly fit that bill.

ILL are a Manchester quartet that, by their own description, deal in “disobedient noise”, as evidenced by their excellent debut album We Are ILL from last year. Their provocatively dramatic onstage persona, especially that of keyboardist/vocalist Harri Shanahan, is addictively prickly. One song climaxes with Shanahan jumping off stage, microphone clutched tight, before staring down every member of the front row and screaming the words “YOU ARE A LIAR” into the depth of their soul, one by one. They distil punk back into its primal state, a melody-free howl of rage and disgust, laced with sardonic humour. The sound is echoey, although it is hard to tell whether that is due to the vast, empty space that the stage has been set up in or if this is the band’s objective. Either way, ILL’s message is heard loud and clear.

The joy of events like SFTOC is in sampling and discovering unfamiliar artists. A wander into the Unit 3 building finds North Yorkshire five-piece Avalanche Party. What immediately strikes you is the sheer magnitude of their sound, a thick fug of music charging from the back of the stage. Avalanche Party trade in a sort of testicular macho rock that can, in a post-Kasabian world, seem a little out-dated, but they perform with conviction. Boasting the most impressive and elaborate stage lighting set up of the day too, it is easy to imagine that they would have found success in decades gone by, but time will tell whether the grand cycle is ready to come around for them again just yet.

Fresh from a blistering set last night opening for The Fat White Family, Working Men’s Club are still on fine form as afternoon starts to give way to evening today. The Todmorden quartet are the best reincarnation of the classic mould of post-punk that has come along for some time, a not-too-affected cool demeanour twinned with a scorchingly authentic playing style that leaves you wondering how they could only be in their teenage years. Guitarist Sydney Minsky-Sargeant has a rolling, arpeggiated guitar style that he’s probably already sick of being told is a dead ringer for a certain troupe of 80s indie masters, but that’s too bad because boy does it sound like them. They carry themselves with a sense of belonging, a confidence perhaps propelled by their recent signing to Heavenly Recordings. Their early single ‘Bad Blood’ is a standout, a taster of what could prove to be a heavily signposted debut album sometime in the next year.

Black Midi

By the time they finish, the festival is at full stride. Post-disco eternal winners from Gwen McCrae and LCD Soundsystem pump from the DJ tent, whilst former Factory Floor man Gabe Gurnsey is attracting the dance kids to the outdoor stage with his slinky, wiry electronica. For me, it is off to Unit 5, though, to catch a spellbinding set from Irish trio Woven Skull. The timing could not have been improved: several hours into an ale-filled Bank Holiday Sunday, the mind is more active than the body and this set of hypnotising, meditative ambient rock is a gateway into some inner peace. Packed into the smallest space in the festival, each attendee is entranced for…well for how long I honestly couldn’t tell you. It could have been ten minutes, but it must have been several hours. But how could it have been. Time stops happening, or at least stops mattering. They slide imperceptibly between scuzzed up noise rock attacks of sound (slow attacks, mind) and ancestral, mandola-led gentle melody, never rocking the listener out of their own zen.

Fully cleansed and grounded, it appears to be past 11pm and it’s time to head back to Unit 3 for the pseudo-main event act, Black Midi. Having seen them slay the Yes venue earlier this year, their reputation precedes them, as seemingly it does for the many others who fill out the room. Clad now in cowboy hats, a curiously incongruous affectation, they are nevertheless still ploughing their own path of destruction through the noise rock wilderness. They’re not even at the ground level of being interested in pleasing neutrals, they are gonna play their own damn racket, and if you want, you can stand by and watch. They appear to be constantly improvising, although it’s impossible to tell – they can be swinging through a monumental guitar dirge in one moment and a surprisingly optimistic tune the next. Our curiosity and expectations are just another toy for them to coerce and manipulate; they have that art school mentality that everything is there for them to fuck up, and whilst all of this might sound like a living nightmare, in fact it is excitingly alienating. Nobody has ever left a Black Midi gig and hummed a tune, the whole experience is had in the moment. They end a magnificent day of the next generation of guitar music with a note of hopefulness, that for as long as there are bands like these willing to disturb and create, then everything might just be ok after all.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.