Given that I’ve lived in Newcastle for nearly three years, I feel a little ashamed at complete lack of engagement, both on this blog and in general, with the local music scene. I’ve gone to plenty of gigs, but most have been out of town bands on tour and, in the usual way, now that I’ll be most probably leaving for pastures soon in future, my apathy is bugging me. This post won’t do much to allay that, but I can at least point you towards a couple of completely brilliant Newcastle acts, just for the sake of their excellence if nothing else.

First up is a band I’ve mentioned before, but who continue to amaze me, Shift-Static. They bear the questionable title of the Newcastle band I’ve seen live most (twice), and that dubious honour does not come lightly – their technical wizardry and mercurial genre-mashing comes across even better live than on record, simply because you can’t quite believe it’s happening. This five-piece specialise in oscillating between quiet, contemplative guitar work, Laura Smith’s swoonsome vocals and skittering, beat-driven electronic sections which, as a whole, is only anchored by a clear (and clearly well thought-out) sense of purpose in every song. On stage, this translates into a sort of wonderful dance, with band members constantly switching insturments and changing positions around Laura, an oddly apt physical manifestation of their sound. I was recently sent their latest recording, ‘The Furrow’, which extends the already excellent work of their debut EP (still, I believe, available for free on their Myspace page) into more ambient territory, shot through with a relaxed swirl of synth noise and the kind of claustrophobic build up Thom Yorke would be proud of. The final minute, a slow descent into silence is nothing short of beautiful.

Shift Static – The Furrow (YSI)

Our second act, Songs For Dead Sailors, is an artist I originally reviewed last year for For Folk’s Sake’s New Bands Panel. Chris Anderson’s one-man uke ‘n’ kick drum ditties avoid any problems caused by the sheer tweeness of his main instrument, instead becoming wonderful stories in a minor key. With so much attention drawn to the voice, it’s fortuitous that Anderson has the kind of buttery, engaging vocals that make it a positive treat to listen to whatever he has to say, and, usually, that’s something personally poetic (my personal favourite being, “She rubs a naked palm across my sunburned neck and I feel gorgeous”) It’s a mastery of minimalism that makes his songs what they are; quiet, dreamy and surprisingly deep for such sparse compositions. Plus, he employs the mouth trumpet to brilliant effect on ‘Dance of the Midnight Rats’, and what could be better than that? It’s unclear whether what he’s classed as demos will be reworked, or even if there will be any more material at all (his last update was in April), but this tiny cluster of songs are a wonderful beginning or end to a musical project. Now I just have to find out where he plays…

Songs For Dead Sailors – Springtide (YSI)