Gliding out behind the curtain of backstage into the spotlight Ren Harvieu stirred a silence into the room of the rowdy crowd waiting for Benjamin Francis Leftwich at Manchester’s Academy. Her pale skin glowing under the light and her oil black hair slipping over her face carelessly, the songstress held a hand up to the mic and closed her eyes. A humble set up of drums, keyboards and guitars collided together to create a sweeping orchestration to accompany the Salford lasses voice.
Her smokey alto began to ooze over the crowd and her passionate crooning transformed the dingy Academy into a lonely midnight walk across the park, a lone moon staring blankly down from the night sky. Ren was a pained woman and a lingering soul caught in a perfect moment straight from a David Lynch film. The street light cast a shadow of unrequited love upon her and she sang her blues with a haunting sadness. When Ren speaks inbetween songs her wavering voice and strong Salford accent is timid and shy yet as soon as she sings her wounded cry filled with emotion is powerful and domineering, she may be singing of sadness but this girl isn’t one to stand down.
This year Ren had recovered from a critical state of being bed ridden regaining use of her back and legs after a nasty drunken collision which involved people jumping over a fence at a party in a field. It has been a tough year but the glimmer of hope is her excellent new album being released. Miss Harvieu is still gathering fans and making a name for herself but with her striking image, voice and visuals such as the video for her debut single Through The Night with kaleidoscope colours refracting through chandelier droplets shadowing the starlets face and shots of the sun’s ray flaring the lens to create a dreamy 35mm haze, many will soon fall for her unique charm.
Performing at The Ruby Lounge the 23rd December Ren Harvieu is sure to put on a dazzling show to get everyone she serenades feeling festive. Next year will hopefully be another big one and I can’t wait to see what spectacular album, enchanting videos and gorgeous visuals Ren delivers in 2013.
Dozens of peculiar branches stand upright to greet you entering The First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery which exhibits 30 international artists all ingeniously working with the humble medium of paper. Colourful cobwebs of earthy greens and browns jaunt out from the stems with felt like texture and considerable size. Hanging down from the ceiling each unique tree slowly rotates creating a forest of barely there shapes, forming constantly moving patterns of oversized leaves swaying without a breeze. The large span imitates sizes seen in exotic rain forests but the colours are clearly from the emergence of autumn in Manchester, a marriage of familiar and foreign.
Nature is a recurring theme at the exhibition, perhaps paper naturally lends itself to the familiar forms of foliage but that shouldn’t mean artists need to keep returning to roses. I enjoyed the alternatives to the usual vintage books cut up into quaint fantasies and fairy tales of shadow puppetry tradition. Instead what really interested me was the paper pieces with heavy statements lurking beneath the surface.
At first glance Tom Gallant’s contribution is a perfectly lovely investigation into the arts and crafts movement with emphasis on Morris inspired wallpaper and feathery birds. Another look, a look with your head pressed against the glass, you’ll begin to spot a hint of smoky glamour girl eyes or red glossy lips and appearing from the birds unsuspecting wing a mans hairy arm is fondling a woman’s breast or perhaps bum, it’s hard to tell. The provocative piece is deceptive and created by the scantily clad bodies of pornography being collaged digitally then textured by cutting to masquerade its real identity. Censorship immediately comes to mind with the revelation of sexual acts hidden behind the decorative facade, the erotic secrets of the 19th Century hidden behind a decorative front.
Four framed images and text again by Gallant from a shady gentleman’s magazine cut out revealing nothing just the silhouettes of where bodies would be and empty shapes where the words were again examine censorship, or lack of censorship of pornography with it’s minimal appearance. Another politically motivated piece is by Justine Smith is a grenade and gun made from foreign notes, a striking and bold image. Surely the message is simple ‘What cost is War?’ the millions of pounds rather than pounds of flesh lost to war yet the motivation of the deaths are as clear as the dollars formed around the ring pull and trigger. It is simple and effective with the seemingly lightweight objects heavy with the questioning of global greed, conflict and corruption.
Several stand out amongst the exhibition where many works remain paper thin in substance as well as form. Craftsmanship, patience and skill are in abundance but when it comes down to innovation of ideas and discussing politics through paper, a few really are a cut above.
Lightning guitar shredding was received with a thunder of applause when Haim dived in to their first noisy number at the Deaf Institute. It was a Tuesday night and the already cosy venue was packed with a wide eyed audience eagerly awaiting to get a taste of the Haim experience. Cramming the small stage with instruments and bodies the three sisters hailed from sunny California had only themselves and a drummer to put on one hell of a show. Manchester was fully behind the girls roaring after every song, shouting out and whooping, the girls responded brilliantly laughing and jeering the crowd on themselves. The sisters’ stage presence and chemistry was as much fun to watch as them playing as they joked with each other in between songs. “Where can I go tonight to shake my ass?” asked Este the sassy middle sister on bass who flirted with several different boys in the audience. “Here!” someone in the crowd responded and Este announced she’d hang around on the condition that she could DJ.
It’s clear each member is extremely talented with their instrument they can thrash out in fan favourite Forever then pull it all back in for the seductive Go Slow. Front woman Danielle’s voice oozes sex appeal and gritty rawness having refined her skills touring with Julian Casablancas and Jenny Lewis. Alana the youngest packs a punch when it’s her time to shine belting out harmonies and ahh’s on the almighty groover The Wire. Fleetwood Mac are a big influence on the siblings who used to be in a band with their parents called ‘Rockinhaim’ covering the Mac, Beatles, Stone Roses and other classic rock favourites. Having ditched the ‘rents and the ‘Rockin’ prefix they are taking the world by storm inducing their powerful guitar driven songs with 90’s R&B sensibilities harking back to Destiny’s Child heaping on a ton of girl power to punch out their kick ass anthems.
Their EP Forever managed to, with just three songs, capture the attention of music lovers worldwide. Everyone is now waiting for Haim’s big debut release in the new year. They officially stormed the Deaf Institute leaving everyone astounded and craving for more of their delicious funk. Haim are surely ready to stand and deliver a firecracker release that will be as fiery as their brilliant explosive performances on stage. The girls have released a taster with the jerky ‘Don’t Save Me’, which has a new video of the band getting stuck into a competitive game of basketball, and the epic ‘Send Me Down’ which parades through with rolling drums and billowing horn part. These two tracks are wetting the palettes of Haim fans for the time being but are making us crave the debut all the more. It’s official that the girls are up for BBC’s Sound of 2013 award who’s past winners such as Adele and Jessie J have gone on to be extremely successful, Haim truly deserve the award and I’m crossing my fingers they’re recognised for their musical excellence, rock and roll spirit and get-out-there-and-go-for-it attitude! You go girls!