Q: What do Minor Victories, Syntax and the Bloom Twins have in common?
A: I didn’t go to see them in concert, but I came away glad that I had.
Supporting Placebo at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena recently (see Return of the Black Pencil Liner part 2) were Minor Victories, a band that Wikipedia calls ‘a British alternative rock supergroup’, which I guess they are in the sense that they’re made up of parts of other bands. Consisting of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Editors’ Justin Lockey, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite plus James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club providing visuals (more here).
I’d never heard of them before the Placebo gig, which is one thing that they have in common with Syntax and The Bloom Twins; the other is that when I left the gig, I immediately went out out to find more about them. I don’t like to miss support bands, generally. Yes, regular readers will point out that I wilfully skipped The Cure’s support recently, but I did at least check them out on YouTube first (to see whether I would like them (I didn’t)) and instead I spent the time most profitably (eating).
The first thing that struck me about Minor Victories were the visuals. Now, if you’ll indulge me a slight tangent, I have this theory about buying wine (which I don’t drink, I only buy it for my girlfriend). If you buy a bottle with a thoughtful, well-designed label, my theory says that you will get a good bottle of wine. It’s all about making an effort. If you think you’ve made a great bottle of wine, you’re going to take the time and effort to craft a label that makes you stand out whilst saying something about you. If you make something that tastes like Castrol 5W-30 mixed liberally with generic brown sauce (most wine IMHO) you’re likely to slap any old crap on the bottle just to get it out of the door. I stick to that theory religiously (in the face of much derision it has to be said) and it has yet to fail me even once, even partially.
That’s how I feel about visuals that go with music. It’s one of the reasons that I love Depeche Mode so much. Anton Corbijn’s photography and videos, Mute’s art direction – it all comes together in one symbiotic package with the music and the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts. And that was my first impression with Minor Victories. They have a slick and edgy visual identity and the level of craft and care employed is evident from the opening notes of set opener ‘Give Up The Ghost’. In the image below, you see the logo on the screens to the side, over the video for ‘Scattered Ashes’.
- Give Up The Ghost
- A Hundred Ropes
- Breaking My Light
- Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)
- Folk Arp
Now, I did think about giving you a blow by blow account of the set list, but I can go one better than that. I found this video of them performing the same setlist at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris this year – really, there’s no good reason for me to keep rabbiting on when you could just click play.
However, if you can’t be arsed to click play, here’s what you get. Goswell’s vocals, which I’m sure I’m contractually obliged to describe as ‘ethereal’, float delicately over beautifully crafted meshes of distorted guitar, bass, keys and drums. The songs are thoughtful, and are given space to develop. None of them are unnecessarily rushed. I’m not really a shoegaze aficionado, but I have it on good authority that if that word means much to you, you’ll find a lot to like from the very opening notes of the eponymous album. Personally, I’d probably describe the songs as slightly sinister, lovelorn, dramatic soundscapes, and then remember I’m not some hipster turbogit and give myself a sound shoeing. But again, if that description resonates at all, you should have already stopped reading and just clicked play.
- Website: http://www.minor-victories.com/
- Rough Trade records: https://www.roughtrade.com/music/minor-victories
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Minorvictoriesband/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/minor_victories
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNPpMLDPeCrq0Xz_pKmd3Q/featured
- Google Play Music: https://play.google.com/music/listen#/artist/A7sffdbxtk6zi7yb6y3vcrpmjne/Minor+Victories
Now, I teased you earlier about the Bloom Twins and Syntax and it only seems fair to plug them too.
We saw Bloom Twins supporting Duran Duran in early 2016. They make a melancholic yet playful brand of dark pop with delicate vocal harmonies; this is their single “Blue”, but you should certainly also check out their cover version of Kish Mauve’s “Fahrenheit”.
Syntax are a dance-oriented duo formed in 2002 whom we saw supporting Scissor Sisters in Sheffield before either band was very big. Their debut album “Meccano Mind” reminds one of our most regularly played albums and this, “Pray”, is the lead single from it. Our other top recommendation is “Bliss” from the same album.