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Keith: Back There

With MySpace indie a plenty, and careers grateful to ‘Big Brother’ for a leg-up where do we go with boys & their bands? We certainly don’t need just another set of ordinary boys with guitars…which brings us to Keith. Sure, you’ll be impressed by the passionate individual croon of vocalist Oli Bayston, but Keith is a clear democracy where drums (Johnny Winbolt-Lewis) and bass (John Waddington) stand just as tall as the singer.

As you read this, it’s almost a year to the day that a demo version of the band’s debut cannon, “Hold That Gun”, won Zane Lowe’s ‘Fresh Meat’ phone-in. Then 3 months later their debut EP (recorded with James Ford – who has now gone on to albums for Test Icicles & Mystery Jets and Arctic Monkeys) – became NME‘s Radar single of the week. Remix versions of the same tracks by Simian Mobile Disco and Herbert later won them ‘Leftfield Single Of The Month’ in Touch magazine and saw them play at TDK Cross Central Festival alongside club stalwarts and groove merchants such as Jeff Mills, Grace Jones, Tom Vek & Jamie Lidell. That was before they performed at France’s breakthrough Les Inrocktibles festival in November 2005. Talking about genre-straddling, here they return with a double-edged sword showcasing two sides of their very sharp musical soul.

“Back There” is co-produced with electronica experimentalist Nick Phillips, aka Boxsaga, who in his spare time runs a label with Gabriel from Spektrum and provides ideas for Massive Attack’s forthcoming opus, as well as collaborating on a ‘True Stories’ album with Phoebe Tolmer from much vaunted cover fanatics, Nouvelle Vague. Here punchiness abounds, and Mark Nicholls’ guitars echo African hi-life & the textures of Eno’s avant-garde Talking Heads era, alongside the sweetest singalong with brooding lyrics examining the insecurity of uncertainty where personal ideology battles commitment. The key affirmation : “Don’t box me in!”

On the flip Keith’s nerve to cover a track selected as one of the best of 2005 by numerous tastemakers, including NME (number 15), iTunes (number 8), Daily Telegraph & TuneTribe (number 1!) proves inspired. On their version of Sebastien Tellier’s masterpiece, ‘La Ritournelle’, you can tell Keith’s drummer is informed by the Afrobeat of Tony Allen and cross-cultural film programs like “Keeping Time”, featuring DJs Cut Chemist & Nu Mark alongside classic funky drummers. It’s no surprise Tellier gave his seal of approval when the band backed him in performing the song at his sell-out Bush Hall date in October, having only met him hours earlier. What’s more, on this recorded version the delicious ambience and ethereal vocal mantras show skills Sigur Ros would be proud of. Here the band collaborate with secret weapon, up’n’coming Manchester engineer George Atkins, who’s recently recorded with new Manchester hotties, Cherry Ghost & Liam Frost.

XFM’s John Kennedy tipped Keith as ones to watch in 2006 in both ‘The Fly’ & ‘Dazed & Confused’ and the eagerly anticipated debut album, “Red Thread”, is just around the corner. After a spin of Keith’s new single we’re sure you’ll be backing them too.