Sonic Cathedral is 10

Sonic Cathedral is 10

So last weekend came and went and after months of excitement we got to say a big hello to one of the bands we never thought we’d see again at the Sonic Cathedral 10th birthday bash. I last saw Slowdive playing mid afternoon at the Slough festival and the rest is history that I’ve already blogged about before.

Ironically, two days after I posted about my love of their second album in January I got a cryptic text message that took me about 2 seconds to work out, “Slowdive are back together” was my response and I was absolutely right. Over the following weeks more and more facts emerged until the band finally confirmed it was true. I was therefore incredibly excited when Slowdive agreed to play a warm-up show at Sonic Cathedral, it was even more exciting when I was offered a DJ slot on the day.

This post was going to start off as a review of a couple of brilliant days, but a quick Google will give a 100 other better reviews than I could have written.


I’ve always loved Sonic Cathedral’s releases, its easily the best label since Creation to my ears. There are not many labels you know you are going to love every release, if they did a subscription service they’d have no end of people signing up. The brilliant mix of established artists like Neil Halstead and Dean Wareham brushing shoulders with new bands like Younghusband and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete works so well. It also tries to push the sound forward rather than just signing imitation acts.

A decade ago The Telescopes DJ-ed and The Radio Dept played live at the first Sonic Cathedral gig. The first record I played on Sunday was ‘I’ll Follow You Down’ by Slaughter Joe, I know it’s Stephen from The Telescopes favourite record and it slots in perfectly with the Sonic Cathedral sound.

You can listen to my full setlist below.

Sonic Cathedral 10th birthday party setlist by Mr_Stew on Mixcloud

I first met Nat who runs the label at a Ulrich Schanuss gig in Kings Cross a decade ago. I was running Hungry Audio at the time and Sennen were one of the support acts. Sonic Cathedral was just a gig or two old at the time and was still to become a record label. I’d been putting on gigs in Norwich and we’d already discussed via email the possibility of bringing Sonic Cathedral to Norwich. We did do this several times, putting on gigs in the Arts Centre which is a converted old church that sadly no longer seems to put on decent gigs. At that time I was also obsessed by Ulrich’s remix of Rachel Goswell’s ‘Coastline’, now Nat knew Ulrich so I asked him if he’d ask Ulrich to remix a track by Mark Gardener, there were a few tracks from his solo album that I felt would really work well. I had no idea (or cared) who’d release it, I just wanted to hear it.

Over the following months we’d also discussed the possibility of launching a record label together but it soon became apparent that Nat’s contribution would have been far greater than mine. For starters he was based in London and was far more entrenched in the ‘scene’ down there. If I wanted to see any of the bands I liked I had to travel to London or put a gig on myself, both requiring time off work and some organising in advance.

Back in those days I never predicted a decade later Sonic Cathedral would still be pumping out great records. He’s already released two of the best albums of 2014 (Lorelle Meets The Obselete and Dean Wareham) and there’s the utterly fantastic The Vacant Lots album coming soon which I love, ‘Make The Connection’ is easily one of the best new tunes of the year. I know there’s another couple of releases planned too.

Fancy listening to many of the releases from the first 10 years of Sonic Cathedral? Listen to the mixtape below.

Sonic Cathedral is 10 by Mr_Stew on Mixcloud

Now when Creation had been going for a decade, they may well have had a lot more success but they’d sold their souls to the devil and there was no going back. Although it was great that bands like Super Furry Animals and The Diggers had the massive marketing budgets that Sony could offer, but the ‘thing’ that made Creation so special had gone, it was now just another record label as the gang mentality was gone. Fortunately I don’t ever see a day when Sonic Cathedral will sign a Mishka and make up stories about how he was discovered on a beach (everyone knows Alan McGee was good friends with Mishka’s sister). I also don’t ever see a day when Sonic Cathedral will ditch all the decent acts because they aren’t selling enough records in favour of chart placings, in 2014 to think that Slowdive were actually dropped by Creation just seems insane, the outpouring of fanatical devotion (and tears) many showed last weekend I have not seen in years, infact I’ve never seen it before and even the band looked close to tears at times. Outside their Village Underground gig the following night tickets were exchanging hands for over £300 (£20 face value).

About a year ago I mentioned to Nat that I’d noticed Rachel (Goswell from Slowdive) was campaigning to have her sign language fees paid for so she could communicate with her deaf son. This is another of those postcode lottery’s you hear about on the news and if Rachel had lived in a different postcode this would all been paid by the local authority. You can read Rachel’s blog here. I stated that we (or ‘he’ more like) should arrange some kind of fundraising event to help her, perhaps he could even suggest that maybe some of her old band could play. I don’t think anyone could have imagined a world tour even a year ago. I have no idea how the band did get back together but Nat did arrange a gig reuniting Neil and Rachel for the first time in years late last year. The last Mojave 3 tour featured a guest vocalist at the time as Rachel was ill. Just this piece of news I posted on the Creation records site about the two of them playing together again gained the biggest volume of hits I’ve ever seen on the site, far higher than the new My Bloody Valentine album several months earlier, and the gigs sold out almost instantly.

Where does Sonic Cathedral go from here? Can they ever surpass last Sunday’s party? Who cares as long as there is another 10 years.

You can watch Slowdive’s set below.

You can watch Ulrich Schnauss’s set below.

The full line-up.
Posters for the night