14 October
Castle Hotel

It’s easy to see why Mancunians have a soft spot for the Castle Hotel. Its sepia corridors, tiled façades and wood-panelled walls channel a sense of Victorian Manchester into the present day, a throwback bolt hole nestled in the Northern Quarter. Juxtaposed with the pub’s nostalgic atmosphere tonight is a raft of forward-thinking musicians performing in the intimate back room.

John Haycock and Iben each, in their very different ways, provide sterling support for the headline act, Plume. The former’s mesmerising kora hushes the room into respectful silence, creating an atmosphere so still it’s easy to forget there’s a bar filled with people a room away. Where Haycock’s set is soft and contemplative, Iben’s is glossy and energetic, the trio launching through their own polished electro-pop productions (and a nicely reworked MJ cover) with gusto.

After, Plume seem relaxed and eager to get on stage. Traversing ably between lilting neo-soul, massive layered soundscapes and a nod to 90s drum and bass, they borrow from various pockets of inspiration yet manage to craft a sound that is suitably theirs alone. John Martyn’s ‘Don’t Want To Know’ is especially absorbing live. Anchored by a wandering, Reichian backbeat and layers of processed guitar, their version crescendos until the room reaches breaking point, a perfect mirror image of the original’s fadeout. Tunes from their new Limefield EP, notably three-movement ‘Bloxom’, cement Plume’s style of experimental live electronica and are received warmly by the crowd.

At the end of the set, Haycock joins Plume for new age calypso banger ‘Second Sleep’, his kora slotting perfectly into the song’s many layered elements. With the walls of the small room and most of its occupants dripping with sweat, Haycock’s appearance with the headliners sees a top-quality night of musical innovation come full circle.

Aidan Daly


21 October
Deaf Institute

“No frills. No BS. Y’all still dancing,” says Khruangbin’s guitarist, Mark Speer, during the encore of their teeming Deaf Institute debut. His lilting Texan drawl lends extra weight to this fact. Khruangbin are a band whose quality lies in their ability to keep a crowd moving, clapping and yee-hawing with an energy that should be at odds with the languid pace of their music.

The trio, which also includes Laura Lee on bass and Donald Johnson on drums, have built a solid following for their laidback, cinematic style. They take their core inspiration from the 60s and 70s Thai funk cassettes they’d listen to together back in Houston, weaving other traces of yesteryear, not least the ridiculously tight funk patter of Johnson’s drumming, into a refreshingly vintage package. It’s familiar, nostalgic, but undeniably relevant. Recent gigs for Gottwood and Boiler Room, coupled with their LateNightTales label deal, mean Khruangbin are crossing over into a space populated by a raft of DJs and producers also throwing back to the era of funk, soul and disco.

After opening with ‘August Twelve’, they meander through most of their critically acclaimed debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You. The crowd are especially receptive to the disco-meets-highlife ‘People Everywhere (Still Alive)’, the plaintive ‘White Gloves’, and ‘A Calf Born In Winter’, which, given its woozy lullaby pace, should be an odd choice to finish a set. Khruangbin make it work and the crowd approve, meeting them with sustained applause.

The lack of a lead singer only intensifies their dreamy, open sound. All three share vocal duties, but they’re secondary to the enticing grooves they’ve built their reputation on, specifically Speer’s Asian-influenced guitar melodies. The emphasis is rightly squarely on the music and though they draw on so much, Khruangbin have pared it down to the point of sounding like nobody else.

Aidan Daly