Manchester venue YES showcased an enticing range of local artists, culminating in a moving headline performance from singer-songwriter Yasmin Coe. Organised by the towering, suit-clad Cal Moores, the night was a thrilling assertion of Manchester’s vibrant indie scene.
I’ve always liked bands with members that all look as if they’re from different groups, thrown together by some sort of cultural misalignment. Local band Harpans Kraft fit into this category rather well – half of the members looking like they’re on a train journey to a football match, the other half seemingly stuck in the late 70’s post-punk scene.
Ambling into the YES basement, bananas sticking out of pockets (no, that’s not a euphemism), Harpans Kraft prove that they sound as eclectic as they dress. The ska-tinted twangs of ‘Canal Diving’ – think The Specials if they knocked about Oxford Road – ring out with a playful ferocity, and their final song (humbly entitled ‘New Synth 1’ on the set list) contrastingly drenches the venue with sullen, gothic keyboard washes.
With the new addition of local drummer tour-de-force Louis Oddie, Harpans Kraft’s live sound is joyously propulsive, stitched together by evident influence from the jittery, nervous patterns of Stephen Morris. The group’s unpredictable style peaks with new single ‘Teflon Tez’, lyrically functioning as a sort of macabre, twisted take on Blur’s ‘Tracy Jacks’. Angular, disjointed, and Frankenstein-like in its rhythms – formally echoing the titular Tez’ re-animated corpse – the single, in all its bizarreness, is greeted with open arms. You’ll be seeing ‘Teflon Tez’ stickers all around town. Keep your eyes peeled.
Okay, here I must admit my journalist failings. Unfortunately, distracted by old friends in YES’ upstairs bar (and nursing many a pint of Amstel), I missed the majority of Pyncher’s set. However, what I did manage to catch was extremely hypnotic. Characterised by spidering guitars, murky textures, and sardonic drawling, Pyncher are a band designed for any bedroom-based cynic. Part shoe-gaze, part grunge, part post-punk, EP intro ‘Frogs & Tomatoes’ is a treat for the ears.
Easily the most performative, animated, and eccentric act of the night, Oliver Marson is what you’d expect from the late Tony Wilson if he formed a band instead of a record label. Swinging stands above his head like an Italian chef would a pizza, reaching out to his crowd with outstretched arms, jiving in an oversized trench coat (and occasionally dropping the odd microphone), Marson proves himself to be a wonderfully engaging front-man. Drawing on Depeche Mode, A-ha, and the polarising pop records of Bowie’s 80’s output, Marson’s catalogue could easily fit in with the seductive synth-pop soundtrack of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.
‘Cocaine Romance’, an incredibly fun, tongue-in-cheek stand-out song, ropes audiences in with its coiling bass line and camp synthesisers. A similarly dance-inducing, groove-based style is employed in single ‘Andalusian Girl’: as any great pop song should, it houses itself inside your head through accessible, sing-along melodies, but always hints at darker, unnerving ambiguities. The crowd all bob their heads throughout the synth-bass stuttering – like a sea of floating apples. Somehow both serious and unashamedly silly, Marson is certainly one to watch.
It must be said: singer/songwriter Yasmin Coe must have felt a large deal of pressure headlining a motley crew of such talented local artists – all tough acts to follow. However, after proving with her 2022 single ‘No Hope’ that she can break your heart in the space of two chords, it comes as no surprise that Coe breaks our hearts multiple times throughout her shimmering, reverb-drenched performance. Nervousness apparent, the singer-songwriter maintains a charmingly jittery stage presence, working to craft a rare emotional transparency between artist and audience.
Coe’s glitzy melancholy is the half-way point between Clairo and The Cure… a common ground on which both angst-ridden sixth formers and balding BBC6 Music dads can stand united. YES’ basement, recovering from the wailing feedback of earlier acts, becomes an echo-chamber of gleaming shoe-gaze and dream-pop. Coe’s live sound is made up of feathery acoustic guitars, Robert Smith-esque lead playing and a melding, mellow bass tone.
One can only hope for new records from Yasmin Coe in the future – the iridescent sphere of noise in YES’ basement on Friday night simply needs to be preserved, and then made available on streaming services for every self-respecting indie kid’s playlist. Yasmin Coe could very well be Manchester’s newest indie pop star. You heard it here first.
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