Bearded’s Guide To… Liverpool

More missives from Our Man up North this week, as Richard Lewis finds out what’s happening in the port of Liverpool.

The Rialto Burns Prior to Sound City enveloping the city next month, you would think that the run up to it would be pretty slim pickings as everyone looks ahead to the three day event from 19th-21st May. Not so. April has seen a bumper crop of gigs, happenings, releases and general musically-related activity taking place in the city. The ribbon was cut on yet another new music venue, the Epstein Theatre (named after The Beatles’ legendary manager Brian), ace Swedish shoegazers Jeniferever mesmerized at the Leaf Café, Liverpudlian/Geordie Kathryn Williams made a welcome return to the city at the new Capstone Theatre and The Sand Band continued their rapid ascent.

On the subject of acts slated to play at Sound City, the eagle eyed among you will have spotted The Rialto Burns name in a previous report. Having played an astounding gig at subterranean music box The Shipping Forecast in February, expectations for their next appearance was somewhat high. Having stepped up to slightly bigger venues, this month saw them prove that the ‘Forecast gig was no fluke as they smashed it out of the park at the O2 Academy. The Mean Fiddler Presents Liverpool bill that was a virtual embarrassment of riches, comprising of The ‘Burns, Fly With Vampires, Liberty Vessels and Battleships demonstrating the fecundity of the music scene in the city at the mo’.

Deriving their name from a newspaper headline, the moniker references the Toxteth Riots of 1981, which saw much of the deprived L8 district of the city ablaze. The Rialto Ballroom was a Mecca of musical activity in its glory days, yet had fallen into a state of disrepair by the early eighties. The inner-city riots (which were not race riots, despite some commentators thinking otherwise) which rebelled against the appalling conditions of the area, left a deep mark on the city and thirty years later it seems strangely fitting that one of the most celebrated new bands in the conurbation should reference the event.

Pieced together through musicians’ forums, chance meetings and encounters with other bands, the ‘Burns’ first assault on the chart system arrived in April 2010 with ‘Radiate.’ An anguished track with a lung-burstingy anthemic chorus that would do Bono proud, it announced their arrival in unequivocal style.

Drawing from the seminal early works of U2, Depeche Mode, Joy Division and incorporating parts of Public Image Limited’s guitar quall, the band have also tapped into the same rich vein of left-field electronica mined by the highly innovative and redoubtably European Simple Minds of the early Eighties.

‘Show Me Your Colours’ mixes this combination of cerebral and physical superbly, whilst ‘For the Asking’ pays homage to Joy Division without sliding into the realms of replication. The swooning ‘Slow/Fade’ pushes the band’s electronic foundation up in the mix, offset by jangling guitars and providing a bright counterpoint to the dark, ultra-modern likes of ‘Back to Life.’

The band’s debut album, provisionally titled Learning to Fight is due before the end of the year following a slew of live dates. Having piqued people’s interests with their excellent run of singles and compelling live shows, the group are highly anticipated to reward this interest with the long player.

Tipping the balance more towards rock and dance as opposed to post-punk and electronica are Fo’netiks. Fired up by the possibilities of blending the thud of the dancefloor with the intensity of the moshpit, the group have emerged from the practice room armed to the teeth with their sonic artillery. United by a love of LCD Soundsystem, Holy Fuck and the ground-breaking TV on the Radio, the trio meld electronic beats, snarling guitar riffs and ambient soundbaths.

A band who seemingly revel in making life difficult for themselves, their music is synched to their projections and back drops, all created in-house and painstaking arranged to be fully incorporated into their live set. Eschewing the practice of acts who stand with brows furrowed over various pieces of musical equipment, desperately attempting to convince the audience they are playing live, despite the fact most aren’t, the band are at pains to render all of their material in real time.

With all of the sounds, textures and effects generated or triggered live by samplers, the group stick to the tried, tested and never bettered method of live drums, vocals and guitars, which crucially retains the raw excitement of live a rock band.

Their sets, honed to a point after many hours of rehearsal room time thunder out of venue PAs as their genre-straddling, multi-media shows explode into life. Like New Order, who were similarly driven to tears by labouring for weeks, even months over the latest piece of kit they had bought to create new sounds from, Fo’netiks have taken up this boundary-stalking mission with relish.

The dynamism of ‘Sounds Like’, the abrasive ‘Vicious Sirens’ and the stunning ‘Antelope’ show the band’s persistence with obstinate computer programs and repeated ‘Error’ messages has been hugely rewarding for both them and the listener.

The Rialto Burns support The View at the Liverpool O2 Academy on 19th May as part of Liverpool Sound City.