When: 7.30pm on Tuesday 24 February 2015
Where: Gullivers, 109 Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LW
We’re delighted to be working with H. Hawkline for the first time!
In The Pink Of Condition – H. Hawkline’s first record for the irrepressibly brilliant Heavenly Recordings – is a transportational record. Through twelve tracks, it folds the space between a pinched grey seaside town in North Wales and the bleached-out wide-open spaces of the City of Angels. In doing so, it creates a glorious hybrid environment – one where a rundown, rough and tumble branch of Pontins could occupy the space once reserved for the Disney castle and where ‘spooky dogs’ wait for you around corners, their ‘two eyes set in a lick of fog’.
Shot through with the blues, the reds and the golds, the greens and the wispy white clouds that hang lazy over the rolling Pacific, In The Pink Of Condition truly marks Huw Hawkline’s arrival. His first album proper for Heavenly Recordings, it blossoms with all the charm, beauty, wit and wonder that’s been hinted at over the last few years across the artist’s limited run releases, singles and EPs and adds a brilliantly clear-eyed focus.
A few words of background. Huw Hawkline was born in Cardiff and raised in sunny Prestatyn, a seaside town famous for the aforementioned Pontins holiday camp and the first ever branch of Kwik Save. Formerly co-presenter of S4C’s flagship music show Bandit (alongside BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens), 29-year-old Huw recorded three albums in his native country (2010’s A Cup Of Salt, 2011’s The Strange Uses Of Ox Gall and the 2014 collection Salt Gall Box Ghouls) before taking flight for a life in LA late in 2013. (Well, you would if you could, wouldn’t you?)
The effect of the relocation on Hawkline’s music is total. Recorded in Seahorse Sound Studios just off Skid Row and produced by long-time cohort, fellow Welsh émigré and musical maven/genius Cate le Bon, In The Pink Of Condition is ‘strange pop’ (words borrowed from Huw): a controlled explosion of lazer-guided guitar melody (think a careering Television set or the Pavement outside the original site of Spillers) and whip smart bi-lingual wordplay. From the scratchy proto-disco Everybody’s On The Line to the haunted saloon bar rattle of In Love and the demented strut of Moddion (Welsh for medicine), it’s a record that clearly feels the benefits of good weather.
That said, Wales is in there too – how could it not be? Viewed in backwards glances across countries, it’s there through weather smudged-windows of Rainy Summer (‘Head full of crashing waves on dog mouth dunes’) and Concrete Coloured Clothes (which paints a picture of a place ‘where slate grows slow’). If Wales is Hawkline’s brooding foundation stone; California is the optimistic extension constructed atop it.
Although reluctant to cite a shopping list’s worth of influences, Huw nods to two permanent inspirations – the maverick U.S. author Richard Brautigan (the Hawkline name appropriated from Brautigan’s 1974 ‘gothic western’ The Hawkline Monster) and a just-turned-solo Paul McCartney (Huw namechecks Ram, an album coincidentally recorded when the once-and-future Beatle was also 29 years old). From the former, a wistful ways with words – songs constructed as slices of life, surrealist observations on the everyday. From the latter – what else would one ask for other than a just smidgeon of Macca’s six sense for abundant, tumbling melody?
So, Brautigan, Macca and a union between one wild west coast and another; forks in the road on the journey of one of the most unique musical talents to emerge from Wales – or anywhere – in the last ten years. Worth sticking around to see where he’s heading next.
Main support comes from Douga, a band based in Manchester. They have grown from wide-eyed, exploratory experimentalists to become a BBC 6 Music-featured act who have now created a record gripped with a gentle but firm sense of cohesion and clarity. The group have built their debut album, 2014’s The Silent Well, on the foundations of their love of kosmische music, through rhythmic repetition and psychedelic drones.
Opening the show is Irma Vep. Llanfairfechan-born, Manchester-based musician/dancer Edwin R. Stevens records and performs his solo guff under the nom de bum ‘Irma Vep’. Some say he’s a sex junky of the most sordid kind with an insatiable hunger for interpretive dance; others say he’s the best darn support act they’ve ever seen and will stop at nothing to get a slither of that hot ‘Hot Cheddar’.