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Playlist: Aelius

Ones to watch at Newcastle's new alternative festival

By Andy PottsPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

Another weekend, another festival. The Aelius Alternative festival in Newcastle is preparing its first edition on Saturday and it promises to be a belter. At a tough time for smaller music venues, it’s great to see a cluster of bars around the railway station work together to showcase some exciting local talent.

Jenny Lascelles – Inertia

Jenny Lascelles is, in her own words, pissed off. Pissed off with complacency, pissed off with a world intent on kicking the can down the road. Writing songs about impending climate catastrophe might lay a musician open to charges of literally fiddling while Rome burns, but when underlying anger fuels a blazing track like this, there’s really no cause for complaint.

It's a slow burner. Double-tracked vocal and a sparse drum loop kick us off, and while inertia feeds the machine the intensity builds and builds. We finish off flying through a fuzzed up soundscape with a dystopian edge to it. Lyrically, it revisits some of the ideas from last year’s Strange Weather; musically there’s a darker, more menacing edge that makes for a compelling listen.

Overall, this is powerful stuff, not to mention exciting evidence of how Lascelles has mastered her songwriting craft in the decade or so that she’s been on the scene. There might be much to get pissed off about in this world, but Jenny’s music is definitely one of the consolations of life in 2024.

Polyvinyl – Modern Art People

Straddling the knife-edge between genius and disaster, this track veers wildly from New York City punk to 50s doo-wop and back again. Impressively, it manages not to crash off the rails and holds its unlikely mash-up together despite all inherent contradictions.

Post-modern, right? Well, maybe. But I’d think twice before telling the band that. The lyric is pretty coruscating towards the pretention and pomposity of the modern ‘art for art’s sake’ world: it’s a fair bet that this lot have little interest in studying sculpture at St. Martin’s College, thirst for knowledge or not.

But that doesn’t prevent Polyvinyl, a Tyneside five-piece building a burgeoning live reputation, from standing out as wholly uncommon people. Debut EP “Closure” is a whistle-stop tour of styles. From the bizarre blend of Modern Art People to the synth-inflected power balladry of Blind, via the bleak anti-love song It’s Raining Somewhere Else (complete with vocals evoking Blondie) there’s plenty going on here. Polyvinyl was on my Stockton Calling longlist, edged out by another Aelius Festival act, Hannah Robison. So there’s no question that they’ll be high on the hitlist this weekend.

Amateur Ornithologist – A Hidden Path

Stepping off the beaten track is often a roundabout route to good things. And that’s absolutely the case with Amateur Ornithologist, a Tyneside quirk-pop ensemble with a ever-growing numbers. Mastermind Daniel Clifford started this project on his own during lockdown; latest album Hide, released in January, unveils the souped-up sound of a six-piece band that incorporates viola and sax.

The soundworld also explores some hidden byways: A Hidden Path, the opening track from Hide, kicks off with Maddie Smyth’s viola solo evoking a nineteenth-century string quartet. Lyrically, there’s a nod to Wordsworth’s Lucy and “her untrodden ways” and that only adds to the echo of The Divine Comedy in some of the musical textures (Neil Hannon’s art-pop poseurs, of course, set Lucy to music on their second album, Liberation).

Hidden Path is also a great introduction to Hide, an album with greater breadth than its predecessors. It’s the sound of an artist growing to maturity and revelling in the opportunities afforded by his collaboration with a growing cohort of colleagues. Aelius represents a first festival gig for Amateur Ornithologist and promises to be a great chance to take stock of the story so far.

Thanks for reading the fifth of my playlists. If you liked it, give a like and subscribe. If you really liked it, consider buying me a coffee. But, most of all, please consider supporting the artists by buying their music or attending their gigs.

Previous playlists: Folksy flavours / Politics / Stockton Calling / Russia

song reviewsindiealternative

About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶2 months ago

    Well done… another good read. I liked the singing and music of the second group and the instruments in the third. Hope you’re enjoying all these music festivals 🤩✅

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