Archives by month/year

Boredoms (live at Station to Station)

Boredoms live at Station to Station 2015The Barbican, London 27 June 2015

88 cymbal beaters, five drummers, four bassists, four guitarists and one EYƎ, an ensemble that literally dwarfed the stage bathed in super-real colours. Right from the start this felt more like a ritual than a show — an invocation even. From its early referential whisperings it held you in its meditative grip, then flung your expectations wide open on colossal tidal pulls, propelled further by EYƎ and Yoshimi’s invocation-like chanting.

Circles within circles pulsating inward/outward, like a ceremonial henge splashed in roaring schisms and driven tribals. A hissy tide that eroded your senses in chattering collateral. At times it felt like you were riding the massive bow wave of some scaly Kraken, or a radiating, sizzling shoal of shape-shifting piranhas.

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ZZ Top (live at Wembley Arena)

London 24 June 2015

I’m shuffling through the Wembley sand, but my head’s in Mississippi.

It’s been a long time since I was last at Wembley Arena. Twenty-two years ago this month, in fact, lured like a Hamelin rat by the strange and, ultimately, ill-fated second coming of The Velvet Underground (Reed and Cale needing to spend more time together in order to remember exactly why it was they stopped spending time together in first place). So on this hot London summer night, a startling crescent moon already faintly visible overhead, I’m once again walking up Olympic Way.

Counter-intuitively, Fiona and I are heading straight for the venue that I used to dread the most. I’d walked away unsatisfied from almost every gig I’d ever seen here, its vast hangar-like structure exercising a seemingly occult power in squashing the life out of any performer hubristic enough to take to its

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Zone Six – Love Monster / Electric Moon – Theory of Mind


Zone Six – Love MonsterKick out the jams and get your freak flag flying with two new releases from Sulatron. Zone Six are a mindbending mixture of members of Electric Moon, Modulfix and The Pancakes (who also get together under the name Krautzone) playing spiralling hypnotic psychedelic madness in free-form jams that have been condensed down to these four blistering tracks.

Komet Lulu’s bass kicks us into the title track, its deep, steadily pulsating rhythm fusing well with Sula Bassana’s drum pattern. Over the top of this krautrock beat, Martin Schorn gives us washes of synthesizer sounds while Rainer Reeff pulls along the perforations of acid tab lead guitar. Its heady brew of moonbeam highway sonic pulses scatters psychedelic tentacles into luminous stratospheric globes that circle planet Earth. The

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Cocteau Twins – Tiny Dynamine/Echoes in a Shallow Bay


Cocteau Twins - Tiny DynamineNobody ever sounded like the Cocteau Twins, a band so startlingly original that they spurred a lot of imitators; they took the jangle of indie to a whole different level, an otherworldly soak that no doubt inspiring the shoegrazery verve that would follow in their wake. By 1985 they already had three albums under their belts, but their sound was still evolving to ever-more luscious territories, concocting a few catchy (unintentional) hits along the way; amazing realised pearls such as “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” and “Spangle Maker”.

Now Tiny Dynamine and Echoes in a Shallow Bay were two EPs originally released two weeks apart from each other (each a companion piece for the other) that attempted to follow in that “Spangle Maker” vein but ended up more subtle, atmospheric — dare I say experimental affairs in comparison. An output

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Gnod – Infinity Machines


Gnod - Infinity MachinesSprawling its way across three sides of vinyl and two CDs, Infinity Machines is Gnod at their most epic. There’s a lot of it and can feel initially daunting to step into it as you realise the weight of expectation, and the fact that your brain has to disseminate so much music, creep up on you. So I’m going try my best at reviewing such a large body of work that has all the mystical trappings of being almost progressive, but steps away into a realm of its own.

Album opener “Control Systems” shifts between the initial barrage of its Throbbing Gristle-sounding industrial leanings that make it slightly verge on the latter’s “Discipline” territory. After this, the track moves into an almost wistful ambient-sounding section that bought to mind Japan’s “The Tennant” and “Experience of Swimming”. The fact

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Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Ariel Kalma – FRKWYS Vol 12: We Know Each Other Somehow

RVNG Intl.

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma - We Know Each Other SomehowThe slow evolutions of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (AKA Lichens) and Ariel Kalma are curling my head to perfection, all long sustains and modular gurgles mingling gently with the environmental ambience of aviary tweets, bubbling brooks the call of the wild. The saxophonics climbing through most tracks like a waking body stretching in span-like evocations, coupled with the blissful smoothness of simple melodies that would make Popol Vuh blush. The more you listen, the less aware you become of the tick and tock, the churn of reality disappearing as you slip bio-rhythmically into its meditative space.

FRKWYS Vol. 12: Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma – We Know Each Other Somehow by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma This is a must for all you headphone

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HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit (live at Café OTO)

London 16 June 2015

HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit posterThere is a German proverb which reads, “Jede Leiter fängt mit der untersten Sprosse an und nach der obersten kommt nur noch freier Fall.” We might possibly translate this as, ‘Every ladder begins at the lowest rung, but after the highest the only way is down’. Tonight, the capacity audience packed into a summer-heated Cafe Oto are treated to evidence that miraculously both confirms, and at the same time, gloriously disproves this pithy aphorism of folk wisdom.

It’s like a sardine packers’ outing in here. The only time I’ve ever seen OTO this full before – and with such a palpable sense of fevered anticipation – is awaiting the entry of the Sun Ra Arkestra. And the reason for tonight’s sense of breathless

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SOMEC – Source of Uncertainty


SOMEC - Source of UncertaintySource of Uncertainty is one of those records which pushes the boundaries of expectation quite a bit further than a cursory glance at the list of influences might suggest. So maybe there is techno, electro, Detroit and Berlin-style electronic music in here, and certainly a sense of experiment that is worthy of the term; but Giovanni Napoli’s second Haunter Records release as SOMEC follows on the heels of his delightfully titled Arbitrary Function Generator cassette in a dazzling splash of often highly abstracted tweaks, trills, rhythms and bleeps which are very much their own thing.

This is music to become lost in while following SOMEC’s lead via unfamiliar paths, a road less travelled along the wires of controlled voltages and modulated

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Holly Herndon / Amnesia Scanner (live at XOYO)

London 10 June 2015

It is good to remember why you came. How the reverberation of the bass through every cell is like the lift of a wave that carries you. How each staccato re-teaches your heart to beat. Percussion is life, rhythm is the first language and with it we make sense. Every sentence you’ve ever read and truly felt has had its own cadence to keep it in place.

These are my first thoughts when I wake up the morning after Holly Herndon‘s packed-out show at XOYO remembering the threads of the night before. Remembering why I came.Holly Herndon live at XOYO June2015Electronic music has become ubiquitous and the club scene is so well established as to have amassed whole generations of followers. Techno has become

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New Model Army (live at Camden Rocks)

New Model Army live at Camden Rocks 2015 (Picture: Kyle Perfect)The Jazz Café, London 30 May 2015

A couple of years ago I had the very great pleasure of interviewing New Model Army‘s angry yet affable front man Justin Sullivan for this esteemed organ (matron!), and we got to talking about venue sizes. “All of us”, said he, “when we go to see our favourite bands, we want to see them in the old Marquee, or in some 400-capacity venue”, and I felt sad that the days of seeing the Army at the old Marquee were long gone. And now here I am tonight, watching them in Camden’s “compact and bijou” Jazz Cafá, which apparently only holds 300, and that’s even BETTER!

They’re playing as part of the day-long Camden Rocks festival,

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KK Null & Kawabata Makoto / MXLX / Kepla / Rosen / Morris Meets the Bikers (live at The Island)

Bristol 6 June 2015

Henry Collins’ — formerly known as ShitmatMorris Meets the Bikers (after the ZX Spectrum arcade game?) were up first. They were having so much fun that they were oblivious to the fact that only five people were actually watching, which was a shame for they were really bonkers.

Morris Meets the Bikers live in Bristol 2015Billed as a DJ set, this was more a performance than just spinning tunes. A magical mystery tour with everything basking in a semi/hardly recognisable state, crunched and filter-foddered into slip discs and rumba-chucked grittiness, literally all over the shop: one minute black metal groans, the next balladry whimpers mangled by noisy concertinas and throbbing bass.

That 2001 theme tune sounding like battery acid had been poured over it, the

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White Manna – Pan

Cardinal Fuzz (Europe)/Captcha (North America)

White Manna - PanWhite Manna’s previous album Come Down Safari was an almost lilting psychedelic trip to the outer reaches, like a 1968 Nepalese bhang shop of lysergic loveliness that wasn’t a million miles a way from bands like Lamp Of The Universe in its recreation of bedroom Ganges travelling. What White Manna have delivered with Pan, though, is a totally different beast.

If Come Down Safari was a George Harrison-style trip to inner consciousness, then Pan is the Rolling Stones’ Altamont gig delivered via the cosmic brain of Hawkwind. The title track starts the album with a swirl of space rock rocket madness that also has a greasy trucker’s smell of gasoline about it. The riff and the rolling steady beat and fluttering synths give the track a Space Ritual sound, but somehow has a

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Quttinirpaaq – Dead September

Rural Isolation Project

Quttinirpaaq - Dead SeptemberWhat’s often advertised as noise-rock tends to be just noisy rock. It’s usually very straight forward and just a noisy use of instruments. Lovely as this can be, I find it refreshing when Austin noise-punks Quttinirpaaq‘s third Rural Isolation Project LP is said to be “bleeding-noise industrial electronic rock”. This is the solo project of Matt Turner, who also joins forces with King Coffey from the Butthole Surfers in stoner-noise-rock band Rubble. Not a stranger to other Texas-driven noise happenings, Turner turns his head and gives us a harsh experience, and while we get comfortable in our chairs in front of the speakers, he pierces our minds with feedback and distortions from beyond, but keeping us seated with beats.

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Ben Zimmerman – The Baltika Years


Ben Zimmerman - The Baltika YearsRecorded over the space of ten years up until the early part of the current century, The Baltika Years gathers together a selection of recordings that Ben Zimmerman made almost entirely from samples he manipulated using software running on the now long-defunct Tandy DeskMate computer operating system.

Working around and within the limitations of the music software available on DeskMate (such as 22 kHz 8-bit audio), Zimmerman recorded a range of compositions, some lengthy (the side-long “Phyllis” on the first disc) and others ranging from half a minute to five minutes at the most. Lurking behind the haze of tape hiss and lo-fi digital sound sources is a collection of surprisingly bright music which operates somewhere at the interface between

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Automat – Plusminus

Bureau B

Automat - PlusminusDub is the very beating heart of music made with electric bass and drums, the low end and rhythm pared back to bare essentials as the bedrock of form, then modified with various levels of drenching in echo and other effects. It’s no wonder that a technique developed most prominently in Jamaica in the 1970s went on to enhance and then pretty much take over huge areas of electronic and other music production, especially given the reliance on machines tied to and working within the limitations of the sequencer and its inbuilt tendency towards repetition, much as King Tubby or Lee Perry took the bare backing tracks of a thousand reggae tunes and turned them into head trips of a particularly inventive

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