Eccentronic Research Council: Queens Social Club, Sheffield

Beating the snow barrier that closed many roads in Sheffield this evening, the hundreds who turned out when it was much easier to stay at home in the warmth should be applauded, and indeed they were later by Maxine Peake, the very talented actress and now much lauded front woman for the wonderful Eccentronic Research Council.

Immediately before the main event, and apologies to the DJ’s and musicians I missed by arriving late, was an excellent film The Delian Mode, telling the tale of Delia Derbyshire. A woman decades before her time who composed dance / techno music in the late 60’s when that sound was very difficult to produce with the limited technology at that time. Delia was perhaps mostly famed for the haunting Dr Who signature tune, for which sadly she received no royalties.

Directed by Canadian Kara Blake and co-produced by Kara and Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, the film won the Canadian Cinema’s short documentary award and has toured the world, so fitting it should get an airing tonight in a room of appreciative minds, evidenced by the cheers and applause at the end.

The ERC are next up, the brainchild of charismatic and eccentric muso Adrian Flanagan, alias Kings Have Long Arms, who recruited iMonster’s multitalented Dean Honer, three impressive female singers/ chanters / synth players in Lucy Hope, Philly Smith and Lucy Cunsolo and maybe the masterstroke was nabbing Maxine Peake. Maxine’s high profile thankfully helped get the necessary exposure for ERC’s debut album 1612 Underture, a 12 track modern day retelling of the Pendle Witches. It’s a masterpiece that explores some wonderful electronic soundscapes with witty, at times hilarious and often cutting lyrics delivered via spoken word in Miss Peake’s broadest Lancashire accent.

With Autobahn 666 (travelogue #1) setting the scene by telling of the A666 known as the Devils highway Ms Peake expresses her disbelief that the “Devil came from Bolton and gorged himself on black peas astride a small stone elephant, and I don’t believe he was ever a fan of Chris Rea”, and so it goes.

1612 Underture, the title track has what sounds like a steam organ wheezing its way through a hypnotic minute and a half before leading into Trial By Jiggery Pokery which ridicules the trials and mocks the injustice the twelve Pendle ‘Witches’ suffered and the album also reveals some stark similarities to what’s happening in today’s society.

The three part Pendle Wind/No Hackney Cab To Gallows Hill / The Hangmans Song, was written to represent the final journey of the Pendle Witches from Lancaster gaol to their final moment and achieves the desired effect spectacularly. The Hangmans Song element, beautifully sung by Lucy Hope with the noose around her neck that the lyrics demand, initially sounds like a superior Bond theme before reaching a crescendo of whirling sound that’s decays into silence.

Another Witch Is Dead, is hilarious at times and yet still manages to provide some insightful statements, describing the Pendle Witches as a 16th century Holland & Barrett is perhaps the most telling.

It is heartwarming to hear electronic music of this quality, much of which was written in Sheffield by the City’s adopted son Adrian along with Dean, enabling the audience to celebrate another milestone in the city’s fine tradition in this field.

This album is exceptional and it is to the ERC’s immense credit that their live rendition is top notch too, just ask any of the throng cheering for more and getting Black ChristMass before returning to reality and making their way home through the incessant snow that’s waiting outside.

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