The Cellar, Oxford
3rd June 2005
Opening this hip hop-flavoured Oxfordbands.com relaunch gig is Capsky, whose staccato lyrical patterning is layered over the guitar of Greasy Red and their interesting glitchy electronic Aim-like backing. The contrast works quite well, but the vocals may be suited to something less mellow, and the backing could sound good on its own in an Ulrich Schnauss way. It’s all a little unpolished and the delivery could be more confident, but promising.
Flooded Hallways are similar in composition but differ in style; their looped samples become quite wearing after a while and they sometimes stray into The Streets territory, but tracks like After All and Formulae show off clever rhymes and nice rhythms. The two rappers’ voices work play off each other dynamically, but the whole thing would work better with fewer monotonous loops.
Even though they’re an MC down tonight, Big Speakers still barely squeeze their 7-strong personnel and equipment into the Cellar. The instrumentation blends a wide range of styles – hip hop, soul, jazz, funk and even ska – by way of synth, guitar, bass, scratching and sample sounds, while MCs Tomohawk and Soulface’s aggressive Gravediggaz/Wu Tang Clan-like vocals both meld nicely and contrast sharply with the more laid-back Fragger and soulful yet underused AJ. Always tight despite their size, tracks like Lately, Apologies, Overpaid Slave and Apocolypse Rising are catchy and memorable, though still have heartfelt and provocative lyrics.
In some ways it would be a shame to deny a larger audience the intimacy and immediacy of Big Speakers experiences like tonight’s; however, their conviction, and how much they care about both the music and their message, will be palpable however large the audience is. It’s such a delight and so refreshing to come across an act not frightened to mix genres, be outspoken and experiment.
From Nightshift, July 2005