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Lonelady - Electrowerkz, London, 24/2/2015

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 12 / 4 / 2015

Lonelady - Electrowerkz, London, 24/2/2015


Chris O'Toole watches Manchester-based electro folk artist LoneLady, despite initial technical problems, make an energetic return to the stage at the Electrowerkz in London to promote her forthcoming first album in five years, 'Hinterland'

Five years is a long time between a debut record and its successor. In a world driven to frenzy by the internet hype-cycle, bands can issue a promising debut, a disappointing second album and then break-up in less time than it has taken for LoneLady to follow up on 2010’s ‘Nerve Up’. But with sophomore album ‘Hinterland’ now just around the corner, time has been kind to Julie Ann Campbell, the waiflike Manchester-based songwriter at the centre of the act. Instead of silently fading away in the half decade since the release of the warmly received Warp debut, LoneLady have gathered an ever growing number of fans, winning admirers with their taught, curt, post-punk style. Of course, having the back story in place does no harm either. Campbell’s biography duly notes she grew up in Audenshaw where, at the age of 16, she taught herself to play on an acoustic guitar bought for £10 from Ashton market. Like so many groups before - Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire - LoneLady draws from a fascination with the post-industrial ruinscape of northern England, translating the faded energy of the place into sparse, atmospheric material. Material that is at once alive with frenetic vigour, but shrouded in darkness. This is the sound of spending ten years trapped in a tower-block next to a motorway in a concrete jungle thinking only of escape. So what does this mean on stage at the Electrowerkz in London? Well, ahead of the launch of the second LoneLady album it seems a little unfair to pass judgement, with the group still feeling their way through the new material. Playing as a four-piece, with bass, drums, and an electronic percussionist, Campbell is the centre stage, occasionally nervously looking down at her guitar on newer tracks. The economy, inventiveness and sharp turns are all in evidence in the new material, but the confidence to pull them off in a live setting is yet to materialise. Getting off to a slow start, with a yawning silence after the first song as the band battles to overcome a technical hitch, Campbell seems at a loss before the synthetic drums come pounding back. Not that it doesn’t pick up. At its core, LoneLady is based around simple drum machine grooves, spliced through with Campbell’s intricate, choppy and dynamic guitar playing. When these two forces, guitar and drums, lock in it’s a tremendously energetic sound, with the crowd moving in time in a way rarely seen in London. The songs on ‘Hinterland’ are also longer, more exploratory, moving away from the sharp choruses of ‘Nerve Up’, and giving themselves more space to stretch out and grow. On top of this Campbell’s vocals are also poppier live, and she sings with more freedom. It’s as though the cultivated darkness of the record can’t hide her love for performance, with the songs all the more engaging. With a few more performances under their belt, LoneLady are sure to be one to watch in 2015, much as they were in 2010.

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Lonelady - Electrowerkz, London, 24/2/2015

Lonelady - Electrowerkz, London, 24/2/2015

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Hinterland (2015)
Extraordinary second album from Lonelady, the moniker for Manchester musician Julie Campbell, which combines sparse industrialism with both soul and funk

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