Facing each other across the Tyne, Newcastle and Gateshead harbour music scenes that are both vibrant and refreshingly independent. It’s deeply exciting to see an urban area that has so many pockets of scenes making music – using everything from folk heritage to prepared guitar to do it. Here are 20 of our favourite Gateshead and Newcastle bands and artists who are shaking things up on both a local and national level.
Richard Dawson’s most recent album Peasant felt like a watershed moment – one where his unique and mesmerising interpretation of folk tradition and outsider-music came together to create a truly special concept album.
It was a nice curve-ball, then, when Hen Ogledd came to attention after being signed to Domino Records offshoot Weird World. Their third album,
Dawn Bothwell, Rhodri Davies, Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington make up the current line-up, and the instrumentation (mixed vocals, bass, a groovy rhythm section and shredding synths and guitars) come together to make a truly brilliant wonky pop four-piece.
A ‘doom-pop’ group from Newcastle, No Teeth’s music occupies a really interesting subset of ‘heaviness’. On 2017 single Wither, guitars, bass, drums and satisfyingly growling vocals sound like they’re almost being thrown along by the drummer and percussionist.
More recent releases have taken things into weirder, denser territory. Fans of the sound of fairground pipe organs, metal sheets launched across rooms and troubled ranting all sent through some sort of granular smoke machine (while all sounding somehow completely tuneful and pretty catchy), sign up below.
Baste yourself in Black Butter here.
This incredible noise-pop duo
Moving on from the IKEA car-parks of previous records, the daughter and father duo recorded 2017’s KRUTCH in a ‘Renault Clio in Holland and Germany, and at Aurora, Budapest throughout early 2017.’
Allowing music making to invade and permeate everyday family processes, they record constantly in their car – creating an archive of improvised sounds to re-processes into piercing synth and vocal arguments which sound like nothing else.
Listen to Helping Art is Not.
Me Lost Me
After a successful crowd-funding campaign in 2018, Jayne Dent released her debut album Arcana in November 2018, and it’s well worth the wait.
A mix of arrangements of traditional folk songs and her own compositions, this is atmospheric folk horror at it’s best. Jayne’s incredible voice is, of course, the main instrument – but lurking behind throughout is a bubbling river of loops, accordion and electronics.
Evoking elements of Dark-Wave and horror soundtracks, it’s best seen live. She regularly tours the north and it’s well worth seeing these amazing and haunting songs be constructed in the flesh – highly recommended!
After moving to Gateshead from Sheffield, where Adam Denton was a member of radio, human flesh and tube TV botherers Trans/Human, he became a co-founder of The Old Police House, an incredible DIY house-of-hell in a quiet backstreet near a gigantic shopping mall.
They’ve now relocated to Workplace Gallery and have been very busy causing more chaos including a mass takeover of legendary experimental and jazz venue Cafe Oto in the heart of North London. His solo work as SW1N Hunter utilises prepared guitar, field recordings and tape manipulations to make embroiling ribbons of noise and frequencies.
Check out Material Conditions 1-5.
Firm favourites for the award for ‘best band name ever’, GGAllan Partridge make extremely fun punk music and are relatively new to Newcastle.
Formed from a variety of defunct Teeside bands, their diverse interests carry through to make 2018’s Eyesore EP an exciting collage of sounds and influences blared out through sax, catchy vocals, synth, drums and guitar. ‘Visitors’ is a psychedelic exploration of ‘Roxy Music gone wrong’ and the other tracks are absolute post-punk ear-worms.
Have a peep at Eyesore by GGAllan Partridge.
Noisy Garage Rock duo Mouses are known for their raucous live shows and thankfully idiosyncratic sound in a well trod genre. This is in part due to the vocal delivery of Steven Bardgett – like everything they do, it’s a voice with resilient confidence and a touch of glamour.
Behind him, the fuzzed out guitar and punchy drums carry you through on a high speed rock n’ roll ride. Lyrically they’re not afraid to touch on darker subjects but twist it through a surreal, creative approach. Their recent demo explores the story of a local suicide and is raising money for Ditch The Label, an anti-bullying charity.
Check out Edison here.
Something a bit darker now, as we enter the gloomy and dread filled world of Penance Stare. Drifting like freezing fog across doom, dungeon synth, witch house and black metal, Esmé Newman’s project is deeply accomplished and versatile.
This culmination of 2 years of ‘sonic exploration’ comes after involvement in some truly fantastic projects and bands (Melting, Commiserations and Etai Keshiki) – so it’s no surprise that the last 2 years have seen a bevy of brilliant releases. Her latest, released in February this year is her second full length, released on the Radio Show-cum-Label Crow Vs Crow and mastered by Stephen Bishop of Newcastle mega-label Opal Tapes.
One for the night time. Listen here.
Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra
This gypsy jazz meets western swing six piece have earned their chops in Newcastle now, having spent 7 years making their retro-inspired music after originally meeting at Newcastle University.
Their members hail from across the British Isles, and they’ve now been regularly touring across mainland Europe for quite some time. Their fourth album, ‘Soul of My City’ has just been self-released by the band and is a unashamedly joyful retinue of throwbacks to the golden age of troubadours.
Fitting for their name, Archipelago meld a cluster of disparate styles and instruments to craft a unique sound that places them apart from their Post-Jazz peers. Opening track ‘More Bamboo,
The rest of the LP continues to surprise – even touching on Lighting Bolt for the rollicking ‘Light Pollution’. Lauded by Radio 3’s Late Junction, if you like your music to mess with your head, this one comes highly recommended.
A relatively new project – but one that’s been creating a lot of excitement with recent live sets, Late Girl is hi-tech and opulent take on experimental electronic pop. Drawing on classical composition and electro-acoustic techniques, she crafts considered layers of loops which gel perfectly.
Over this, Late Girl talks and sings humorous, surreal stories. A regular at The Old Police House nights, she melds perfectly with the group’s groundbreaking but mischievous approach.
Recently released on Kaneda Records’ NORTHERN ELECTRIC #3 compilation, we also highly recommend checking out a recent live recording on her Soundcloud.
Check out ‘So long and thanks for the fish’.
Bad Amputee are an exercise in restraint and repetition. This brooding and guitar band is relatively new to the city but January’s collection of Demos released on Bandcamp bodes well for the future. Opening tracks Stick Herod and Last Path meld into one slow stalking hike – simple repeated chords conjuring images of tired feet plodding one after another.
To some this might sound unappealing – but it’s done with nuance and an atmosphere that builds through the two tracks and beyond to craft something truly menacing. For fans of Slint and walking across moors.
Listen to ‘Demos’ here.
The Noise and the Naive
I’ve always found it fascinating how different a descriptor ‘
Their newest EP is due out at the end of March and the singles released so far show two distinct sides of the band. Mus Musculus is a
Seek Solace is something entirely different, but also truly special – a delicate and affectingly simple dedication to loss. Look out for their EP ‘Inside Me Ten Thousand Men Ten Filthy Curs’, which is coming out soon.
As the other co-founder of The Old Police House, Mariam’s work in Newcastle and Gateshead is vibrant, far reaching and consistently exciting and subversive.
Primarily, she’s a composer, improviser and DJ – with notable projects including a recent theatre soundtrack for War of the Worlds on the Northern Stage, two electronic improv groups delivering hexes against ‘the bastions of reasonable culture’ (Blue Lamp Foundation and Swarmfront), and a ongoing vocal / turntable duo with YOL.
She’s also just released an incredible, fluttering ambient and techno EP on bandcamp called DAM which we thoroughly demand you check out.
Listen to DAM here.
Singer and bassist of doom titans Bong, 2018 saw David release a brand new solo effort on Opal Tapes – and it’s what you would expect from an absolute master of the slow burn.
Opening with an 18 minute meditative, swelling track where he layers throat-singing style vocals with accordion and synthesiser, the EP carries on, slowly adding more instruments and gentle but dogged percussion to craft an enveloping atmosphere.
Described as ‘music of chronic melancholia’ and with the longest of the three tracks clocking in at 43 minutes, this is perhaps not for those who like their tunes short and sweet. But for those whose favourite place to listen to music is a bath slowly going cold, or a darkened room – this should be on your wishlist.
Originally hailing from the hardcore punk scene in the North of England, New Horror have undertaken an interesting mutation in Newcastle. Taking the familiar route away from guitar music towards an interest in electronics, a sudden sharp left turn found them at 2017’s Another Day in Bed – a paean to 90s baggy brit-pop culture.
Thankfully this is no posturing tribute to the ‘glory days’ – brought from their hardcore past and interest in techno and electronics comes both an appreciation of sonics and textures, and a satisfyingly nonchalant approach. Singer Lewis Thompson also runs Soft Verse – a northern electronic label well worth checking out.
Close your eyes and listen to ‘Another Day in Bed.’
Although he’s been performing for a couple of years now, refreshingly there’s little information or an easy access central ‘brand’ from this incredible singer songwriter. What we do have instead, however, is a smattering of stunning session videos, regular live performances in and around the city, and a few recordings on Soundcloud.
This is enough to see that Diji is deeply talented, and absolutely one to keep an eye on. With influences ranging from Ani Difranco, Lucy Rose, Outkast, Robert Glasper, Imogen Heap and Poliça, his sound is a simple but rhythmically textured interpretation of the classic ‘singer songwriter with acoustic guitar’ mold – and his beautiful voice and delivery is show-stopping on its own.
Check out the video from his session for Shutter Productions.
Originally from Pembrokeshire, Katie MacLeod is a cellist and singer who continues to heavily draw on folk tradition while adding new twists with her original pieces and improvisation. Sonically, it’s a transfixing and mesmerising arrangement – the low tones of her cello providing a bed for her smoky voice alongside Will Hammond’s vibraphone and percussion accompaniment.
She’s also been joined by Faye MacCalman on clarinet and Jamie Cook on Synth and Electronics. Katie continues to regularly tour across the north and beyond – so catch her soon!
Blóm are a furious, inventive hardcore punk three-piece originally born from the embers of Tough Tits, another Newcastle trio.
Each the three tracks they’ve released so far is a twisting, turning exercise in the contorting of riffs – taking you on a gripping journey through the constant wall of sound. The simple arrangement of yelled vocals, almost bit-crushed guitar, synth and drums is clustered so tight that it almost borders on math-core.
Clearly, live, it’s an incredible force – they’ve already scheduled in an extensive run of gigs across the country for spring, alongside a slot at the legendary Raw Power Festival in London.
Now for something completely different – Portraits are a dexterous neo-soul and contemporary jazz
Led by the catchy, bouncy vocals of Georgia May, it’s a hook-laden sound, but with enough
Last year saw them release two EPs – Like A Siren and Like I Saw You – both come highly recommended for a lazy Sunday listen. Check out their video for ‘Siren.’
Header image: Cicely-Grace Ellison
Follow Pink Wafer on Facebook.