So, how was 2013 for you?  The Riot Squad have had a brilliant year bringing you the best in contemporary music wherever we find it.  Allan, John, Klare and Louie have reviewed some exceptional live and recorded music throughout the year and we all thank you for reading our reviews and looking at our photos.  We couldn’t resist this opportunity to remind you of some of the artists we reviewed for the first time in 2013.

We saw live performances by the Emile Gerber Band (which became Stoneface Travellers), Henrik Freischlader, Josephine, Marcus Bonfanti (solo and with his band), The Kennedys, Federal Charm (twice), Black Casino & The Ghost, Coco and the Butterfields (several times), The Dirt Tracks, Carrie Rodriguez, Aynsley Lister, Civil Protection, Wheatus, Dean Owens and Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion.  Quite a selection, really.

We reviewed albums and singles by Henrik Freischlader, Marcus Bonfanti, Sally Shapiro, Tomorrow’s World, Black Casino & The Ghost, Jimmy Livingstone, Austra, Tess of the Circle, Aynsley Lister, The Nyco Project, The Dirt Tracks, Nadine Shah, Sullivn,  Radio (in my) Head, Tal National, Layla Zoe, Kinver, Au Revoir Simone, DENA, Hartebeest, Polly Scattergood, Glasser, Annie, Emika and John Grant and probably a few others as well.  Along the way we had some great fun and met some lovely people; you all know who you are, and we’re hoping to meet most of you again this year.

Looking forward to 2014, we’re hoping for more of the same.  The review copies are already coming in and it’s starting to look pretty good already.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our predictions for 2014 from the Riot Squad and possibly from a few guest contributors as well.  And, while we’re on the subject of guest contributions, many thanks to Aynsley Lister, Steve Jenner, Marcus Bonfanti and Billie Ray Martin for their contributions to our High Fives feature last year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, I’m in a basement bar in Dalston, painted black of course (the room, not me) on a Sunday night in July and it’s the hottest day of the year so far; this had better be good.  I was in Birthdays on Stoke Newington Road for the launch party for a new release from The Nyco Project, whose EP “The New Machine” is being released in the form of an app.  The Nyco Project (TNP) has four members: Ben Hardy, Zahara Muñoz, Joantoni Segui and Daisy Brodskis.  I’m not going to list their instruments because, apart from the drummer, Joantoni, they mix it up quite a lot.

There were two support bands for the evening, Sky Between Leaves and Turnpike Glow.  TNP decided to ignore the usual headline-band-last hierarchy and played between the two support bands to ensure that anyone leaving early to make sure they could actually get home on public transport (yeah, that’s me) didn’t miss their set. Unfortunately that meant I missed Turnpike Glow; sorry about that and I’ll try to catch you soon.

After an interactive session using the sound and vision clips from the EP on a big screen which allowed the audience to remix the songs in real time, Sky Between Leaves took the stage to play a set which was enthusiastically received despite the unbearable heat in the venue.  The low-tech lighting effect created by shining a lamp through a stencilled cylinder rotating on a Technics SL1200 deserves a mention as well.

TNP are usually described as psychedelic indie, but there’s a lot more than that going on.  From the opening song of the set, “Blown”, it’s obvious that they have great songs but the really impressive thing is that they deliver so well as a live act.  The playing isn’t flashy, but the arrangements are perfect and when it has to be spot-on (vocal harmonies, for example) the band always nail it.  The EP tracks “The New Machine”, “Fade Away” and “You’re So Weak” are spaced equally throughout the set, but TNP save the best for last.  The final three songs, the storming “Poor”, the experimental “Disco Pedro” (which has a feel of early Pink Floyd) and the closer “She’s Only Carbon” are stunning.  The final song was dedicated to a friend of the band who is no longer with us and demonstrated the quality of the band as they gave a perfect performance while struggling visibly with strong emotions.

So, what’s all the fuss about the EP/app release?  The concept is that the band recorded each instrumental and vocal take as audio and video files with the motto “Everything you hear, you see”.  They took this concept to the Arts Council, which agreed to fund the project (so even that losing lottery ticket is a winner for someone) and that enabled them to produce the app which shows the video footage of all of the takes used in the production and allows the user to isolate individual instrumental and vocal parts or to get information about the band members.  It’s an original idea which works really well because the listener gets the chance to unpick the song and hear the way the parts fit together as well as having plenty of eye-catching visuals.  It’s very addictive because you can’t see or hear everything at one attempt and you have to repeat to pick up on the parts you missed.  And the live interactive version on the big screen is even better.  Apparently there’s a chance that you might even be able to see this at The Barbican at some point and it’s the kind of installation that should work really well in that environment.

As a live band, The Nyco Project is superb and the EP/app is an innovative attempt to explore the possibilities being opened up by developing technologies; I love both approaches and I think you should download the EP/app and then get out and see the band live as soon as you can.  You won’t regret it.