FOR people of a certain age, the name Gdansk81 will perhaps evoke memories of the early Eighties: political rallies in shipyards, Lech Walesa and maybe the mournful World in Action theme winding down in the background.
At the same time, the music of post punk movement seemed to chime along with this febrile moment with its awkward rhythms, claustrophobic sounds and overtly political postures.
Taking in such heady influences as The Wedding Present, Prolapse, The B-52s, The Fall and Wire, Gdansk81 process all of these sounds to concoct a healthy dose of spiky neo-post punk.
After playing a barnstorming gig at Greenfield’s The Railway Inn, Inner Space spoke to Gdansk81 guitarist Steven.
From their humble beginnings as members of a ‘wildly unsuccessful’ Sunday league team (Steven’s words, not mine) getting together to make a racket, Gdansnk81 now have a line-up stretching from Mossley to Liverpool.
So, where does the name come from? “(Vocalist) Macker and (keyboardist) Clair’s hometown, Liverpool, has loads of connections with Gdansk with its industrial roots and political struggles.
“Macker’s dad worked on the docks and was often involved in political and labour disputes.
“Gdansk often supported the Liverpool dockworkers by refusing to unload cargo from the port of Liverpool’.
“It’s clear that those politically charged times provided a backdrop on which the band could paint their urgent post-punk racket.”
The band is rounded out by Claire (guitar and vocals), Aaron (bass) and Martin (drums).
When it comes to song writing, all the band pitch in ideas and then leave it to Macker and Claire to add their own brand of charged lyric.
However, recent restrictions have made it difficult to get together and record new songs.
Steven cheerily reckons that has worked in Gdansk81’s favour as they have managed to ‘fine-tune the songs for an EP-Star of the Sea-recorded at Oxygene Studio, Manchester. There’s a video for the first track, Hypernormal, to be released soon. So, what else is up on Gdansk81’s schedule?
“We’ve got a good few gigs before the end of the year and a headline show at Jimmy’s, Liverpool on January 8,” added Steven. “We’re also working hard on getting more gigs throughout the year and hopefully a festival or two during the summer,” continues Steven. “Now that we’ve committed these latest songs to record, we’re all excited to ramp up the song writing now.”
With reports coming in of blistering live shows, it sounds like now is a good time to catch up with Gdansk81
Star Of The Sea by Gdansk81 is available online at https://gdansk81.bandcamp.com/album/star-of-the-sea
SHARING their name with the constellation famed for finding your bearings in the firmament, Great North Star are a duo with local roots who are poised to release their self-titled, fantastic debut album onto vinyl on The Acid Test Recordings label.
Comprising of Saddleworth’s Phil Considine on percussion and electronics and ex-Mossleyite guitarist Dean Thom (who has now decamped to Derbyshire), GNS capture the solitude and quiescence of stargazing in wide open spaces.
Imagine (ex-Fairport Convention’s) Richard Thompson’s electric guitar soundtrack music, meeting the icy post rock of Mogwai or Papa M, the astrally inclined Krautrock of Harmonia, then dusted over with subtle electronic beats and flourishes that puts you in mind of Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada then you are getting close to the sound of the band’s debut.
Kind of like a chilly, bracing blast of wind whilst up on the moorlands.
So, where did the idea for Great North Star come from?
“The name comes from our mutual interest in astronomy,” says guitarist Thom.
“We’ve spent hours together, freezing, watching meteor showers.”
After playing in various bands together over a period of 30 years, they formed this project on the suggestion of an audience member who saw them perform in a previous ambient, instrumental project.
“We started with a view of making music to soundtrack a film but it has grown organically into what it is now,” added Thom.
Considering the widescreen nature of GNS’s music, it’s easy to see why it would lend itself easily to sound tracking film.
“I wanted to write music that evoked lone travel, walking in wild landscapes, the moors, mountains, being on the open ocean, distant, remote lands, whale watching, birdwatching, cloud watching, star watching, weather watching, solitude.
“We’re obviously influenced by where we live – the endless moorlands, the big skies, wide vistas – and I hope that’s apparent in the music.”
Given the ambience and quietude on the GNS album, it’s worth pondering whether the band are breaking new ground, switching cranked amplifiers for binoculars and creating music ideal for birdwatching?
“I know it doesn’t sound very rock’n’roll but I’m in my element sat in a bird hide, with a flask of Earl Grey tea, a packed lunch and whiling away the hours watching the comings and goings of the natural world,” added Thom.
“It’s about finding those moments of inner contentment and letting go of a chaotic world. it’s often in moments like those that I find melodies arising.”
Not ones to stay idle in their bird hides, GNS are already working on a follow up to their debut and have plans to play live in the future when they get a band together.
“I’ve been approached by a number of musicians, who’ve listened to the album, and have offered their services, which is a nice vote of confidence,” said Thom.
“In the meantime, we will be keeping our antennae up for further news.”
At Inner Space, we pride ourselves on picking up on the promising signals emerging from the new musicians over on this side of the galaxy.
Cult Casual, last year’s album by Heavy Salad (some of whom reside in this fair village), certainly made a lot of people sit up and pay attention with its sheer vision and chutzpah.
Not least, it caught the ear of legendary music producer Stephen Street. Check through the production credits of albums by The Smiths, Blur, Courteeners or any number of indie giants and you will see that Mr Street was sat behind the mixing desk on them.
It’s easy to see what appealed to him about Heavy Salad. Released on upstart UK label – Dipped In Gold – Cult Casual mixed whip-smart, off kilter grungy indie guitar rock reminiscent of Pavement and the aforementioned Blur with lush gospel arrangements (courtesy of accompanying vocal trio, The Priestesses) that recalls the expansive breadth of both Spiritualized and Flaming Lips.
It’s fair to say it was certainly one heck of an opening statement for any band. As the band are currently recording the new album, Heavy Salad’s guitar wizard Rob Glennie from Greenfield reveals how they managed to rope in Stephen Street.
“We called out to the cosmos and sent Stephen a copy of Cult Casual,” he said. “He immediately replied asking what our plans were for the next album.
“We got to work straight away and recorded five demos of songs that we had been working on remotely during lockdown.”
Receiving this news while on the motorway was almost too much for Rob. “It is dangerous driving conditions finding out your dream producer wants to work with you,” he added.
Teaming up with Cristoph Bride who co-produced Cult Casual (alongside Ross Orton), work has begun in earnest on Heavy Salad’s sophomore album as they have decamped to London to start on the sessions.
So, what is it like working with such a legendary producer? “It’s pure magic… he’s like a production Jedi,” laughed Rob.
“He has lots of amazing ideas and leaves no stone left unturned. He really gets us!
No doubt with a heavyweight producer at the helm, we will hear an expanded sonic palette for the second album, which is quite an exciting prospect given the scope of their debut.
“It feels like we are exploring lots of different places that we didn’t go to on Cult Casual. It’s probably going to be a lot more sprawling than the first.”
Rob tells us to expect ‘Scary Monsters, Human League, Tropical, Disco, West-Coast vibes… it goes all over the place’.
And after the tape has stopped rolling, what’s next for Heavy Salad? ‘We’ve just recorded a performance for Sky TV, so keep your eyes peeled for that… and we are going to hit the road in September for a UK tour’. Lots to look forward to, then.
Keep your antennae up!