Concert Review: Sundara Karma

If you think guitar music is dead, think again, you obviously haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Sundara Karma live.

An indie rock band originally from Reading, Sundara Karma released their debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, at the beginning of 2017, following up from three successful EP releases. The October 5th gig at the o2 Academy Brixton was the biggest venue of the tour, and as lead singer and guitarist Oscar Pollock said whilst addressing the crowd, the biggest show the band have ever played.

Up first out of the two support acts was Willie J Healey, an indie guitarist, who released his debut album in August and whose blend of classic indie style guitar music, combined with some slightly rockier undertones in later songs, went down extremely well with the crowd. Following him was the Brighton band The Magic Gang, a band that was the perfect choice to support Sundara Karma – stylistically, the band produces music very much in the same vein to that of Sundara Karma, and the two bands share many of the same fans, evident by the mosh pit that sprung up during the first song of The Magic Gang’s set. The Magic Gang have been outspoken in previous interviews about wanting to bring the UK indie scene back, and after seeing them perform, it’s clear that they are incredibly intent on doing just that with their ear-catching and exciting music. They played a seven song set including crowd favourites ‘Lady, Please’ and ‘How Can I Compete,’ and are due to release their debut album sometime next year.

Prior to Sundara Karma taking the stage, what sounded like a ‘Nature Sounds for Sleep’ album was playing, creating a chill atmosphere in what was otherwise an incredibly excited crowd. The band opened with ‘Another Word For Beautiful,’ from their debut album, a song which was the perfect choice to follow the pre-set music, with its ambient opening and lead singer Oscar Pollock’s almost Bowie-esque vocals on this track. It only took the band six songs until Pollock jumped into the crowd to sing ‘Flame,’ an undoubted highlight of their set and a song that is, without question, one of the best indie songs I’ve heard in recent years. The crowd seemed to agree, and it was amazing to see a band that had such support from fans already, having only just released their debut album. Sundara Karma is comprised of lead singer and guitarist Pollock, bassist Dom Cordell, lead guitarist Ally Baty, and drummer Haydn Evans, who all seemed to be genuinely having the greatest time onstage, and truly relished being able to play their new album to their fans. The band have spoken previously about using literary and philosophical references within their songs, most notably in ‘Flame’ and ‘Loveblood,’ and this attention to detail could also be seen in their backdrop of three circles, recognisable for being used several times in various album and EP cover art. These were lit from behind, looking almost like an eclipse and adding an even more artsy vibe to the gig. Other notable songs were the upbeat and catchy ‘She Said,’ an indie classic if ever there was one, and the two encore songs, ‘Happy Family’ and ‘Explore.’ The band put on a truly fantastic show for their biggest one to date, and having gone to the gig already a fan, I came away an even bigger one, with a renewed faith in the current UK indie scene.

Review by: Phoebe Hagan

GIG REVIEW: Transviolet @ Boston Music Rooms, 18/05/16

2016 has been a ludicrously exciting year for new music, and one of the bands at the very forefront of that are Transviolet. Having only released four songs to the world so far, they’ve already attracted an ever-expanding hardcore fanbase, many of whom were won over on their recent tour with Twenty One Pilots. As brilliant as their debut self-titled EP was, there’s no acid test quite like your first UK headline tour. Insanity caught Transviolet at a sold out show at London’s Boston Music Rooms, and they certainly did not disappoint.

Before that, though, the capacity crowd got a more than welcome taster of the talents of London’s own Miamigo. Drawing elements from The 1975 and The Killers and throwing them into a blender with 80s new wave textures and an intangible additional spice, the four-piece were consistently impressive over the course of their 30 minutes on stage. If anything, the set got better as it went on, building from fun electro-indie that entertained, but rarely excited, into more unusual sounds. The bluesy strut of “Forever” was particularly striking, with a chorus that shifted time signature so effortlessly it was barely noticeable. Ending their set with the intriguingly left-field minimalism of “Hard to Love”, Miamigo made more than a few friends among Transviolet’s fans.

If the ecstasy among many of those fans when the headliners took the stage is anything to go by, then they won’t be in venues as intimate as the Boston Music Rooms for long. “Bloodstream” is a genius choice of opener; the dark, pulsating synths of its recorded version bolstered live by heavier guitars and bass. Transviolet’s music as a whole is meatier and more “rock” in a live environment, and all four of the band members throw themselves into every crescendo without slipping out of the tight structure of the songs. Many good bands are full of energy, but great ones are made up of characters. Vocalist Sarah McTaggart is a captivating presence, assuming the role of mesmeric rock star but ensuring the focus is always on her chameleonic, stunning voice.

What’s also very reassuring about the band’s live performance is that they are very much a band, rather than a vehicle for their singer, and each musician plays an integral role in how the songs are recreated live, whether it’s Judah McCarthy’s varied guitar lines, the pumping bass undercurrent from Mike Panek or the great balance between sampled and full-on rock drums provided by Jon Garcia. Those songs are, without fail, excellent. Inevitably it’s the already released tracks that get the biggest reactions, but unreleased gems like the dreamy “Astronaut” make the imminent prospect of a full-length Transviolet album tantalising. “New Bohemia” is predictably rousing, while it’s obvious why “Night Vision” is almost unanimously designated the band’s favourite song to perform live, as its chorus hits harder and soars higher each time it bursts out of the speakers. The best is left until last, an encore performance of “Girls Your Age” that perfectly captures the dark electronic magic of its recorded version and sends the crowd home very happy indeed.

Transviolet’s show proves not only that they can recreate their songs in a live environment to a standard that equals, and at times even betters, the EP performances, but also that they have a catalogue of material at least as good that’s ready to be unleashed on the world. The band return to the UK this summer for the Reading & Leeds festivals, and if you happen to be going then they’re a part of the lineup you do not want to miss.

Review by Michael Bird

Check out our interview of Transviolet here. The band’s self-titled EP is out now.

Meeting Altered Sky: 'Without Wonderland' Album Launch

I have heard a lot of positive feedback about Altered Sky and they didn’t disappoint in person.

The band really made my first time at The Venue 229 in London a night to remember. Playing music from their new upcoming album ‘Without Wonderland’ alongside some of their older and well known tracks, the group created a fantastic energy where you couldn’t help but dance along.

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