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Gary Numan (live at The Forum)

Gary Numan live at The Forum October 2015

London 23 October 2015

Can you imagine how hard it was being Gary Numan in 1989? A decade earlier, shortly after “Are Friends Electric?” had been released in May 1979, Tubeway Army made their triumphant appearance on Top of the Pops, and the sound of a generational gasp could be heard all the way from Truro to Inverness. Punk’s white light had burned away so much dead wood, reinvigorating youth culture and opening the door for those with the boldness of vision to step through it. Now, a new dream of futurism seemed completely embodied in Tubeway Army’s woozy Polymoog synth wash and Numan’s cold, android stare. Like the Apollo space programme earlier in the decade, Numan’s emergence into the musical firmament promised a new dawn that felt so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

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SK Kakraba – Songs of Paapieye

Awesome Tapes From Africa

SK Kakraba - Songs of PaapieyeOh, liner notes! I get that some people just want the music to speak for itself, but, frankly, that’s nonsense. I want someone to put it in a context, which is what Awesome Tapes From Africa have done here; thanks, ATFA. We learn that SK Kakraba comes from a line of gyil players, and we learn that the distorted buzzes on the slats is caused by silk walls of spiders’ egg sac and is called paapieye in Lobi.

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Morton Feldman – Clarinet and String Quartet

Important

Morton Feldman - Clarinet and String QuartetComposition’s kind of ridiculous to write about in that you have to write about (broadly) two things — the composition and the delivery — and differences between various recordings can be relatively minimal. Usually, the appeal of composition from about the ’40s onward is that it falls into one of two categories — shit, therefore over-recorded (Phillip Glass, most Americans) or amazing, therefore under-recorded (usually by Europeans). Morton Feldman is an anomaly in that he’s an American composer who isn’t shit and is relatively well-recorded.

Feldman’s also an anomaly insofar as he makes some gruelling, implacably tense music that has an appeal that’s relatively broad. He’s sometimes termed a ‘minimalist’, which is true in a fairly flat sense and not true in another. Some of

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Vessels / William Arcane (live at XOYO)

London 21 October 2015

I have found it quite dispiriting lately to read so many”death of live music” pieces when my experience is of a scene that is exciting and fresh as ever. I can only surmise that the people who write this stuff are not going to the gigs I’m going to, because I’d defy anyone to go to a night like this and not come away with a sense of optimism.Vessels live October 2015

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor (live at The Roundhouse)

London 30 June 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the once-elusive collective from Montréal, are now becoming an almost regular fixture on the live circuit since reforming in 2010. In addition to live activities, we’ve seen them almost double their late ’90s / early ’00s recorded output with the dual whammy of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend (2012) and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (2015).

Godspeed You! Black Emperor live at The Roundhouse

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Half Man Half Biscuit (live at The Forum)

London 15 October 2015

OK, I’ll start with the controversial part, just so as I can get that out of the way and you can decide for yourself whether you want to read any further in this review. Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, is one of the finest living British lyricists currently working. New Model Army‘s Justin Sullivan‘s another, and you could also add The The‘s reclusive genius Matt Johnson, if you could go back in time to the last time he released any songs. Some people would argue Morrissey, but again you’d have to go back in time to the last time he was producing quality work and wasn’t being a twat, which is… hmm… quite a long time ago.

Half Man Half Biscuit live October 2015Half Man Half Biscuit (live at The Forum) […]

ESB – ESB (Y. Tiersen / L. Laquerriere / T. Poli)

Bureau B

ESB - ESBESB’s album lands on my doorstep at the same time as the first pictures of Pluto filter through the cosmos and are shown for the first time for all humanity to see. Somehow the music created by the trio of Yann Tiersen, Lionel Laquerrière and Thomas Poli is fitting as its soundtrack.

“Market” is the album opener, and it’s full of glistening synths that seem to recreate Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in musical form. When the pounding rhythm hits in I’m reminded of John Foxx’s Metamatic album. There is a sheen to the music, its tall tower constructions hover around you as your monorail train moves through the landscape. Sci-Fi music? Not quite, as ESB has more to offer than this. “Spoon” has

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Keith Rowe and John Tilbury – Enough Still Not To Know

Sofa

Keith Rowe & John Tilbury - Enough Still Not To KnowSometimes, you just want to write a review made up of ephemera and snatches of observations rather than, y’know, syntactically cogent sentences. I would say “poetic”, but what I really mean is that I find my own notes hilarious and disingenuous and the idea of having a series of shit kōans in place of a record idea is amusing.

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Ufomammut / Jex Thoth (live at O2 Academy Islington)

Ufomammut live October 2015

London 9 October 2015

October is the month of Samhain where the boundaries between other worlds and our own is at its thinnest. It is the time of ancient occult rituals to the ancestors and a sign that year is slowly crawling to its end. While the autumnal sun shine hangs in the air the creeping nights have more than a hint of chill to them. It is the perfect time of year for two great occult/psych rock bands to revisit the capital.

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Shelley Parker / Leslie Deere / Graham Dunning / Tom Richards / Tom Mudd (live at Ghost In The Machine Music)

New River Studios, London 1 October 2015

Graham Dunning is a name that seems to be popping up all over the place. This isn’t a surprise as he is busy performing, exhibiting, and now, curating; tirelessly working away and putting others to shame with his prolific energy. Performances of late have been as an improv duo with Colin Webster, where they team up on turntable (Dunning) and sax (Webster); with the duo also enlisting the assistance of Sam Underwood (Ore) on tuba from time to time, with magnificent results.

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Rose McDowall – Cut With The Cake Knife

Night School (Europe) / Sacred Bones (Americas)

Rose McDowall - Cut With The Cake KnifeToday we’re here to talk about the idea of perfect pop music, and in the ’80s, that decade where pop ruled the world, there was no band more perfect than Strawberry Switchblade, who burned ridiculously brightly for one lone album and then dissolved in acrimony.

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Current 93 – Swastikas For Noddy / Crooked Crosses for the Nodding God

The Spheres

Current 93 - Swastikas For NoddySwastikas For Noddy was my favourite of Current 93‘s work until Thunder Perfect Mind stole its glory some years later. It’s very much a family affair, a pulling of disparate threads directed by David Tibet chasing his hallucinogenic vision of a crucified Noddy.

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Now (live at The Strongroom)

London 3 October 2015

Anyone who’s seen London stalwarts Now play live will know that they are always different, yet always reliable (as in they will always deliver). They’ve been existing in different formations for over a decade and a half now (Now!), and have collaborated with the likes of Damo Suzuki, who is basically Krautrock royalty, for those of you unfamiliar with his name.

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Trembling Bells – The Sovereign Self

Tin Angel

Trembling Bells - The Sovereign SelfIt’s harvest time and the nights draw in and we prepare for the long winter ahead. In a few weeks the warmth of long summer days will be a distant memory and we will count the days down to the sun’s warm return.

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Hard To Be A God

Arrow Films

Hard To Be A God DVD coverAleksei German‘s Hard To Be A God is sci-fi in the Tarkovsky tradition, very much a state of mind rather than flashy tech and shiny spaceship CGI. The film is based on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky‘s 1964 novel of the same name, and was completed after the director’s death by his son Aleksei German Jr.

The back story is that a group of earth scientists (although they don’t seem very scientific) have been sent to a alien world, a planet whose evolution is currently entrenched in the unprecedented filth of mediaeval squalor, their mission to help (or is it just to observe?) this fledgling civilization.

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