POP & JAZZ

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Embrace play the Phoenix Festival on 18 Jul and the ICA, London SW1 (0171-930 0493) on 23, 24, 25 Jul

If Embrace guitarist Richard McNamara didn't already possess the brusque, no-nonsense manner with which he relates his band's rapid climb this year, then he'd need to find it pretty quickly. As one of the most celebrated rock arrivals of 1997, life for the band is hectic. Every day piles on new priorities, and it is a wonder his head isn't caving in with the pressure. The number of the studio at which they are currently recording has been kept a closely guarded secret to stop a deluge of calls coming their way. Switching on the radio often results in hearing announcements about Embrace plans which they know nothing about. And due any minute is a 32-piece orchestra, to play on an upgraded version of their debut February single, "All You Good Good People", which catapulted them into the public eye. To top it all they still have work to complete on their debut album. Two producers have been fired already. "When we started recording, getting a producer was expected so we did it, but they would ruin everything, twiddling with things just to justify their existence. We soon realised we knew our own stuff best," McNamara asserts.

The Embrace's focused, disciplined outlook is probably born out of their three-year self-imposed isolation in Leeds. They weren't going to take on the pop world until their heady rock sound and gameplan were in fine fettle. And this year has gone like a dream. Copies of the limited edition "All You Good Good People" were snapped up in one day, and the follow- up, the "Fireworks" EP, ascended to number 34 in the charts. "One Big Family", released this week, is easily expected to top that. Although the celebratory laddishness of Oasis is what some people might sense in the title track, McNamara insists their influences lie elsewhere. "We're really into Motown and Sly and the Family Stone," he enthuses. "Yes, we have a brash guitar sound, but listen to the bass and drums on the record. The song is sort of a call to arms, sort of like, people get ready."

The challenge of Phoenix is this week, but the band will also lay on the rock razzmatazz with three days at the ICA, assisted by guest DJs Steve Lamacq and Paul Oakenfold. Whether they are the new Oasis or Sly and The Family Stone - or a mix of both - the spirit is with these tough cookies. So (Em)brace yourselves.

EYE ON THE NEW From The Jesus and Mary Chain to Teenage Fanclub to Bis, Scotspop tumblers The Pastels have been around for effectively three generations of Scottish bands. And just to prove they still have surprises up their sleeves, their show coincides with new single, "Unfair Kind Of Fame", which boasts remixes by Tim Goldworthy of Mo' Wax remix team U.N.K.L.E. and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine.

London Borderline (0171-734 2095) 15 Jul

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