Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Yard Gig

Friday night in Cheetham Hill, just north of Manchester city centre with Strangeways prison dominating the after dark skyline, is a part of the city that stubbornly refuses gentrification. A ten minute walk up the main road from the back of Victoria Station brings you to a relatively new Manchester gig/ event venue, The Yard. Friday night's bill saw Wigan guitarist Mark Peters and Manchester ambient techno three piece Marconi Union playing. Mark stepped up to the low stage, clips from 1950s Western films playing behind him, in line with the North West England meets the wide open spaces of the prairies psychogeography of his albums (2017's Innerlands and 2022's Red Sunset Dreams). 

With backing tracks playing through the laptop, Mark plays a wonderfully chilled set of tracks. The songs and his playing reflect the cosmische guitar sounds of Michael Rother, the delay and chorus fretboard work of Vini Reilly and his own ambient guitar styles. The opening song is a new one, Cinder Flower, and there are the windswept but beautiful soundscapes of Innerland songs Ashursts's Bridge, May Hill and Twenty Bridges. Alpenglow and Magic Hour, both from a just released EP, sound full and rich as the notes fill the converted 19th century building. Alpenglow is chiming krauty bliss, as if Neu! had been from Winstanley rather than Dusseldorf, and Magic Hour is indeed magical, understated but gently heroic, the spirit of early Verve intact. Towards the close of the set, just before Alpenglow, Dot Allison's voice drifts through the PA as her vocal from Switched On The Sky floats on top of Mark's guitar and then he soars into the spaced out version of the song, Switched On.

After a short break Manchester trio Marconi Union take the stage, three figures lined up behind a bank of keyboards, synths, laptop and machines. The laptop and synth stage right kick into life and the dark, brooding sounds fill the room, lots of texture and atmospherics but with melodies and purpose too- no floating ambient drift here, but tracks with intent. There is guitar centre stage, the notes another layer of sounds on top of the machine music, along with the sometimes mournful keys/ piano.

The films projected behind them- skyscrapers shot from below, a Manchester Metrolink tram gliding slowly past from left to right-  add to sense of motion. Everything happens without explanation. There's no chat between the songs. It's impressive and weighty stuff and the room, pretty close to being sold out, is an appreciative audience. This is Strata Alt, from May last year, giving a good idea of what they do. 

Back in 2011 they recorded a track called Weightless, an eight minute collaboration with sound therapist Lyz Cooper, field recordings, piano and guitar with tones specifically designed to induce a trancelike state and aid relaxation and sleep and reduce anxiety. It has been streamed millions of times on Youtube and if you want more there's a slowed down and stretched out ten hour version here

On my way home, through a sequence of events I won't bother to go into right now, I met my wife (out on a separate night out) and we ended up at a party on Swan Street in the city centre, a party in a former chip shop now cocktail bar, and were dancing until 2am, the oldest people in the room. Later on we were wandering the wet streets of Manchester city centre looking for a taxi in the rain. 


Anonymous said...

There is something strangely poetic about your last sentence....lovely piece. Swc.

Swiss Adam said...

Thank you Swc.

JC said...

Enjoyed reading that.....was trying to picture the walk from Victoria, but it's one of those parts of the city that I really don't know at all.

Really loved the final part. Can just picture you and Lou dancin' away but more importantly, reliving the youthful days of searching for taxis as the rain falls hard on the not so humdrum town.