IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 24 Monday, 10 August 2009 London Lite MARKLAND STARKIE was so concerned about being pegged as an acoustic singer-songwriter (yawn) that he fiddled his name to make it sound more like a band. Whether anyone would have realised that Markland Starkie was not a band is uncertain, but Sleeping States fits with the current trend for alliteratively folky monikers. Starkies sparse, stark arrangements are initially soft and dreamy, and more winsome than the complex harmonies of label-mates Fleet Foxes, but they build into such whopping, cymbal- led crescendos that its hard to believe one man can create such a gentle racket. M DE L REVIEWSMUSIC S ome might say that attempt- ing to leave London via the m4 on a Friday night is behaviour only a madman would consider. But Here- fordshires Big Chill festival still attracted tens of thousands only too willing to brave the catastrophic traffic. Those who endeavoured enjoyed live performances from band of the mome n t , F r ie nd ly Fires, and veteran house producers Basement Jaxx. Into S a t u r d ay, e ve r y t h i n g happened at once. Alice Russell, Four Tet and The Nextmen all vied for the 8pm slot, which meant that none pulled the crowd they deserved and it resulted in a disappoint- ing lack of atmosphere for each. Things did improve for Four Tet, however, who eventu- ally packed out the Rizla tent with his signature masterfully produced electro. mirroring the diverse demographic of the festival, a surprisingly compatible combination of parents push- ing maclaren buggies and bass-loving hedonists, the organisers had tried to cater to every want. It just meant there wasnt quite enough atmosphere for anyone, and even Saturday headline act, orbital, cant be held completely to blame for their lukewarm reception. It became apparent that despite a hefty dance line-up (boasting the likes of Kode 9 and Congo Natty) and a worthy sound system, this festival is definitely more geared up for (clues in the title) chilling out. Norman Jay was relaxed to the point of stupefied on Sunday afternoon and what you could hear of gorgeous Dylan morans typically mumbled stand-up had his sun-soaked audience in fits. After an ultimately relaxing weekend, the trauma of Friday nights journey had just about been appeased by the time it came to make the return drive. The Big Chill had done exactly what it said on the tin. Stadium-bound dance: Calvin Harris ...andoneyoullwanttoforget FESTIVAL The Big Chill EastnorCastleDeerPark,Herefordshire HHHHI ChArLoTTE mELVILLE Hot stuff: Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires at The Big Chill and, below left, a colourful reveller PoP The Temper Trap Conditions (Infectious,11.74) HHHHI THeReS no point even pretending this Australian four-piece doesnt sound a lot like the bastard child of Bono and Chris martin. The core DNA of Conditions includes swelling, magisterial atmospherics and guitar lines so shimmering they belong in a desert. That they dont sound horribly manipulative and empty is down to two things: Dougy mandagis extraordinarily gymnastic voice and the bands restless nature. Despite their influences, theyre not content to just pump out mid-paced piano ballads and chest-beating anthems. Resurrection, for example, could be Faithless as interpreted by muse. even better, Conditions improves on repeated exposure. PAUL CONNOLLY PoWER pop titan Matthew Sweet and underappreciated Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs first teamed up for 2006s Under The Covers Vol 1, a pretty nifty set of covers of Sixties pop. Their second outing sees them take on the Seventies and while there are some puzzling choices, there are some terrific moments too, including The Raspberries Go All The Way and Fleetwood Macs Second Hand News. The real showstopper is their barnstorming blast through Rod Stewarts Maggie May, led by Hoffs honeyed growl. Now, an album of original songs please. PC ThE BIG NoISE Calvin harris ReadyForTheWeekend (Columbia,12.72) HHIII To order any CD reviewed, call The London Lite CD service on 01634 832789. All prices include P&P PoP matthew Sweet And Susanna hoffs UnderTheCoversVol2 (Shout!Factory,11.74) HHHII BLUES She Keeps Bees Nests (Names,10.76) HHHII JeSSICA LARRABee doesnt sound like she keeps bees so much as gobbles them up for breakfast. Naturally, when girls get the blues they cant help dripping raunch, and the sweaty sultriness Larrabee evokes on the taunting Gimme and the moody Strike makes you wonder how she and Andy LaPlant get any recording done in that bedroom of theirs. A sort of inverse White Stripes (she sings, he drums; theyre lovers, not divorced), the loop pedal harmonies of Bones Are Tired give this duos rugged blues a more ancient, gospel feel. Though Larrabee and LaPlant are a pretty young white couple living in Brooklyn, you can still taste their New orleans hometown torment. M DE L FoLK Sleeping States InTheGardensOfThe North(BellaUnion,10.76) HHHII Do YoU want the good news, or bad? Well, happy days, Calvin Harriss second album is an improvement on the first. That said, 2007s I Created Disco was not only proof that Dumfries-born Harris could barely replicate disco, it was hard to stomach at best. Dodgy prawns on a tequila hangover would be an improvement on the Tesco- electro peddled by the sunglassed dance kid who had a former life stacking fruit in m&S. Still, its impossible to deny that Harris has become a fixture on a dance-pop scene dominated by the likes of David Guetta and Basshunter. Acceptable In The 80s may have been unacceptable to eardrums of a discerning nature, but it got bums off bar stools and hands in the air. even if the hands didnt belong to anyone youd introduce to your grandparents. This time, Harris has stepped up on production and, blessedly, variation. But only just. Hes figured out that stadium dance for the sort of clubs he wants to play (big, naff and with more topless torsos per square inch than the San Antonio strip) needs to be blustery and bombastic. So he ropes in token girl vocalists (Flashback, Stars Come out) and cranks up trance chunkiness and melodic variation. However screechy the single Ready For The Weekend may be, its more of a tune than the shuddersome This Is Industry. Calvin even sneaks in Dance Wiv me, the track he assisted Dizzee with. Naturally, its the albums highlight. Lyrically, this stuff is wince-a- minute. The Rain features an abhorrent line about sun bringing out girls sex appeal (not to mention a rogue saxophone and an ill- judged klaxon) and You Used To Hold me (is thumpcore a genre yet?) is so whiny it seems to be tugging at your trouser leg. The C-man insists that he wants this record to sound commercial and, by Jove, hes done it. Ready For The Weekend is as commercial as zipping up your Umbro shellsuit, hopping in the Fiat and nipping by mcDonalds before catching Transformers 2 at Vue multiplex. Kerching. 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