Hip-hop breakbeats, snarling synth drawls and matrimonial dynamic flourishes - this is what Manchester sounds like in September
The summer gig slump is over and September is packed with live music. Kicking off with Manchester Psych fest headlined by Kurt Vile and The Coral, there are plenty of itty bitty gigs too if you like to get down and dirty right at the front of one of Manchester's coolest indie venues.
This month we have everything from murky murder ballads to modern Motown-tinged pop as well as plenty of the kind of outside-the-box (and frankly stomping all over the box) artists that you bookmark this column for.
Here are September's recommended gigs in Manchester.
Header image: Mica Millar via Facebook (please email firstname.lastname@example.org for credit)
Wu-Lu's debut album Loggerhead thrusts a knife deep into the abdomen, spilling the darkened punk entrails of South London all over the carpet floor. Rife with anger and claustrophobia, the record doesn't shy away from discussing all that has driven the Brixton artist, Miles Romans-Hopcraft, out of his hometown. Fraught with abrasive hip-hop breakbeats and caustic cries, Loggerhead's experimentalism is an exploration of the conflicts between black identity and Post-Brexit England. Moody tracks like South illustrate the societal struggles and gentrification: "Priced out, forced change, more rent to pay, lockеd down full days", and Scrambled Tricks has a scuzzy bassline and ominous soundscape that feels suffocating at times. Still, it is the kind of suffocation that brings you a fuzzy head high at the end of it.
Loggerhead is a genre-bending patchwork blanket, sewn and strewed together with callused fingers and nothing but love, and if you're a fan of artists such as Massive Attack, Clipping, Death Grips and Black Midi: Wu-Lu will be sure to rope you in; friction burns and all.
If you could listen to a Robert Eggers film (The Northman, Midsommar, The Lighthouse) instead of watching one, Dali Muru & The Polyphonic Swarm would be precisely that. They're a Belgian avant-garde collective that centres their music around folkloric mythology and storytelling, with experimental hip-hop and krautrock as the pulsating sonic backdrop. The band consists of filmmakers and artists Dalia Neis and Enir Da. Together, they create an onslaught of whispered vocals fused with murmuring instruments. Slothrising on their self-titled debut record, has a snarling synth drawl and succubus-teeth bassline, crawling along the surface for four minutes until it reaches its climactic bite. This ambitious track-listing explodes deep into hypervisual poetry, enticing the listener towards their world of fairytales and disorder. Their live performances demonstrate the music's expressive and performative nature and will take place in the murky underbelly of SOUP's basement.
Japanese math girl-rockers Tricot formed in 2010 and have since taken the alt-rock world by storm with their enigmatic live performances and incredible jazz-fusion chaos. The niche group are never cemented in one sound, esteemed for their amorous play in many different genres (punk, jazz, pop). Tricot released their first album, T H E, in 2013 on their label, and it is abundant with lush candied vocals over helter-skelter time signatures and precise playful riffs. Their latest release, Jodeki, is maybe the most colourful or accessible they've ever been, with 4/4 catchy choruses and occasional pop frolics - yet they still manage to dig their heels in their fan-favoured math experimentalism. The album's single track いない wriggles out of its constraints in an uncomfortable schizophrenic turmoil, writhing outwards in syncopated Nirvana-type guitar noise. Tricot is a band to see live to truly understand the full breadth of the weird and wonderful music they are creating.
Husband and wife, Brett and Rennie Sparks are The Handsome Family. The American Gothic musicians and lovers-in-arms have been together singing the deep blues since 1993. If you haven't already heard of them for HBOS's True Detective theme tune, but you enjoy the melancholy laments of Songs Of Love And Hate by Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave's Abbatoir Blues, then The Handsome Family will surely be of interest to you. Sparks' matrimonial dynamic flourishes in eerie storytelling, with their songs expressing pain, sorrow and moody gothic murder ballads. The rest of the band accompanies the couple on their headline tour to bring their live rustic moodiness to a grand audience at The Stoller Hall.
Nestter Donuts has developed somewhat of a small yet devout cult following since he sprouted out from whatever battery-acid-doused soil he was planted in. The naked (yes, nude) one-person flamenco trash band is a cowboy western on steroids; it's a travelling circus, bullring fever dream of eccentric mayhem, and behind the pseudonym is Alicante's ringmaster, Nestor Jose Lillo Fernandez. Where is the need for a band when you can play every instrument with all your extremities? Yep, that's correct - he rocks the vocals, guitar, kick and hi-hat. Hard-hitting garage rock single, Infección, crashes into the eardrums before you've even had the chance to notice - and that's how Nestor wants his flamenco to be. Destructive. Tickets for the Big Hands event are a total bargain. Catch Señor Donuts for four quid, I reckon it'll be a flamboyant fiesta you're sure to get hooked on.
Joy Division walked so this Californian darkwave act could run - so they're calling home to play in the post-punk Manc-motherland. Renowned for their libidinous lyrics and sensuality, She Wants Revenge is an electronic band wired with all things sex, filth and darkness. Justin Warfield's mischievous baritone vocals wail over blackened synths and gritty Depeche Mode-esque grooves. Tear You Apart, the band's most famous single from their acclaimed self-titled album, is replete with new-wave ambience and the most infectious goth-pop hook you've heard since Bauhaus' Bela Lugosi's Dead. Their "Disappear" tour is for those that desire to sway side-to-side to dusky disco rhythms and indulge in murky club hedonism. Catch them at FAC251 in your best leather and latex - it will be seductively sticky.
The iconic 60's New Century Hall, once home to the likes of Hendrix and Tina Turner, is reopening after a £10 million renovation, and London's Los Bitchos are here to perform for a night of tequila-drinking Colombian dance rock. Their well-awaited debut record, Let the Festivities Begin!, was released in 2022 and fittingly named as the cowgirls storm the saloon with their Latin-inspired psychedelic instrumentals. Like other dual-nationality bands such as Khruangbin or Toro Y Moi, Los Bitchos delve deep into their cultural inspirations and wear them on their tasselled sleeves. Turkish Psych, the Australian outback and Argentine Cumbia are just a few examples of the many genres they explore. Combine all this with dreamy vintage synths and percussive instruments, and you'll hear that Los Bitchos have perfected their kaleidoscopic sound.
Born and raised in the city, Mica Millar is South Manchester's soul sensation, captivating listeners worldwide with her extraordinary vocals and dynamic songwriting abilities. Millar's voice feels like a 70's Motown manager captured it in a vintage time capsule, delicately stored it away all these years, and dusted it off in the 21st Century. Heaven Knows, Millar's debut album, demonstrates her sheer gospel power and potential as an upcoming and thriving R&B artist. Tracks like Girl showcase Millar's exploration of love and female empowerment with a slick Dusty Springfield chorus, and Flashlights flourishes as the standout track on the album, with a divinely sensual vocal and funky downtempo bassline - reminiscent of Corinne Bailey Rae's blissful groove on her album The Sea or Joss Stone's powerful delivery on The Soul Sessions. Mica is showcasing the album in her hometown at the remarkable Albert Hall venue, and it will surely be a glorious evening of vibrant energy for fans and new listeners.
Steven Umoh was born in Nigeria and raised by his grandmother, but he moved to London at 17 to reunite with his estranged mother. In these fruitful and abundant years, the flowering buds of his musicianship as Obongjyar began to blossom. Obongjyar is an afro-beat musician pushing his sound so far out of the box that it's unclear whether he was ever really in one from the beginning. Obongjyar approaches his sound innovatively, conceptualising his culture through seismic rhythms and eclectic melodies. The track Tinko Tinko from his debut record, Some Nights I Dream Of Doors, burns a passionate fire with Tony Allen-inspired rhythm and heartfelt lyrics as Umoh's falsetto sings out to his former lover. The lyrics, "Don't play me for a fool, I'd rather be alone than be next to someone who doesn't feel like I do. Are we in love or are we just comfortable?" cut deep as he explores young love and naivete with an open mind, but Obongjyar manages to capture more than just his heart on the record. Parasite confers his frustrations with politics and governments; as he cries over the eccentric shuffly track, "There's a man on the television tryna tell me how to live my life, and he ain't never lived it".
His debut is an exciting exploration of what is in store for Obongjyar as a songwriter, and he will perform at Band On The Wall on 25 September. If you're into Sampha or Little Simz - check his album out; he's the up-and-coming performer of this generation.
The Rhythm from Hatchie's newest record, Giving The World Away, has all the markers for a 90s dream-pop renaissance. A clear-cut genetic offspring to Curve's Doppelganger or Cocteau Twin's Heaven or Las Vegas, Hatchie (Harriette Pilbeam) is a cosmic Aussie artist lost in her own starry-eyed world. Beach House drummer James Barone produced tracks on the album, which answers for the lulling shoegaze and spacey reverb in the songs. Hatchie describes her latest release as an album about self-confidence, as she discovers the world and young adulthood through her soft-hued pastel-pop glasses.
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