Partisan is a relatively new but thriving collective based in the heart of Manchester. Based also in the hearts of their volunteers, they’ve transformed two junk-filled floors of a building on Cheetham Hill Street into a community arts and social space. Hosting an array of innovative DIY gigs, club nights and arts festivals, as well as a plethora of arts workshops and community meetings, they’re the twinkle in the eye of many a Manchester-based creative. Currently in the (expensive) process of applying for their full premise license, this wonderful not-for-profit collective needs all the support that it can get. Enter Saddleworth-based Kiran Leonard, who has volunteered to headline a fundraiser gig for Partisan on the 8 September.
After a number of digital-only releases via Bandcamp, a seventeen-year-old Kiran Leonard shot out of the blocks with 2013’s album Bowler Hat Soup. In this home-recorded debut, the precocious young songwriter played upwards of 20 instruments, on which he spanned almost as many genres. At times recalling Sufjan Stevens and at others Frank Zappa, its frenzied mash-up of styles brimmed with unrestrained self-expression. Next was Grapefruit, an album which equalled the former’s charming eccentricity. 16-minute epic ‘Pink Fruit’ was an unlikely single, but so was ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead, with which it’s regularly (and aptly) compared.
Last year came album number three, in which Leonard dialled down the hyperactivity and adopted a more romantic tone. Derevaun Seraun was written and recorded during a residency to celebrate the re-opening of Manchester’s Central Library. It’s a concept album, made up of five songs, each of which focusses on a particular work by one of Leonard’s favourite authors. Lead single ‘Living With Your Ailments’ is inspired by Albert Camus’ 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus – a moving defence of finding purpose in an ‘absurdist’ world. Predictably dense from a lyrical standpoint, this track is tempered by the simple beauty of Leonard’s melody writing.
Orchestrated entirely for strings and piano, the economy of the record’s instrumentation allows Leonard’s excellent songwriting to breathe. A personal highlight is ‘Could She Still Draw Back’. In this song Leonard assumes the voice of Eveline from James Joyce’s short story of the same name. There’s a meeting of glimmering hope and forlorn reflection in this song which perfectly captures the dilemma of Joyce’s protagonist. One of the most special moments on the record comes in this track, when Leonard’s voice joins the violin’s falling motif between verses. It’s magical.
Leonard has a new album just around the corner, entitled Western Culture. If lead track ‘Paralysed Force’ is anything to go by, then it’s set to be another winner. We’ll be among the first to hear these new tracks live at Partisan, where Leonard will be joined by Cult Party and The Birthmarks. When we asked Partisan Collective about this lineup, they had the following to say:
“Some of us knew Kiran from university and a load more were fans of his. We really want to be a part of local DIY scenes, and Kiran’s been playing all over Greater Manchester for years and so we trusted his judgments regarding support bands. Kiran, Cult Party and The Birthmarks often pop up at each others’ gigs, so it seemed a natural fit. They’re also all wonderful in their own right. It was an easy decision!”
We concur. All in aid of a collective which does wonders for the local arts scene, this is a gig that ought to be scrawled immediately, and with rabid excitement, in your diary.