Archives by month/year

Earth / Black Spirituals (live at Komedia)

Brighton 24 February 2015

Last time Earth came to Brighton they played The Haunt, a tiny space which scores highly on the intimacy scale, but you couldn’t help feeling a band of this stature deserved a bigger stage, both literally and metaphorically. It’s pleasing then to see them upgrading to the Komedia, but before the main event we have the intriguingly named Black Spirituals, who turn out to be a duo from Oakland, California.

Black Spirituals Komedia February 2015 2Zachary Watkins, on guitar and electronics, provides a hazy mid-range backdrop over which drummer Marshall Trammell improvises ever-changing percussive patterns, like an expressionist painter daubing Miro-like pictograms over his bandmate’s canvas. He’s a superb drummer – I was repeatedly reminded of Rashied Ali’s playing on John Coltrane’s ‘Interstellar Space’,

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Anthroprophh – UFO

Cardinal Fuzz (Europe)/ Captcha (North America)

Anthroprophh - UFOThe latest from the trio of Paul Allen (of longstanding and criminally under-exposed Bristolian psych-rockers The Heads), Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb (both of Big Naturals).

The track titles are a selection of place names and dates (“14.10.54 Southend-on-Sea”, “17.7.55 Bexleyheath”) referencing several decades’ worth of UFO sightings around the UK. However, the tracks themselves don’t bear any obvious relationship to these signifiers of time, place, and event – there’s no sense that any given piece is attempting to capture or convey anything about the specific incident for which it’s titled. In fact, what you really have here is two long pieces of the stoney-droney-spacey stuff, divided somewhat arbitrarily into nine tracks that blur into each other.

Anthroprophh – UFO (CFUL034) by Cardinal Fuzz Record Label

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Gong / Psigong / Andy Bole (live at The Garage)

London 28 November 2014

Gong live November 2014A few years ago, Daevid Allen unexpectedly reconstituted Gong with a new and (relatively) youthful line-up, and long term fans were initially rather flummoxed (no doubt this was part of the idea — the Alien having long delighted in wrongfooting his audience). But after a series of barnstorming live performances and a fine new album, I See You – the best Gong album since the early ’70s classics on which their legend rests – the revamped line-up had proved its mettle, and the announcement of a new set of tour dates promised more delights to come.

Then came the bad news – Allen had been diagnosed with lymphoma, he was undergoing treatment in Australia and would be unable to tour, his son (and Gong drummer)

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Steve Hillage – Rainbow 1977

Gonzo Multimedia

Steve Hillage – Rainbow 1977Newly released on Gonzo, this album captures the Steve Hillage Band live at London’s Rainbow Theatre in November 1977, and as such invites immediate comparison with the established classic Live Herald, which dates from the same period, and indeed one track, “Electrick Gypsies,” is actually taken from the same gig as the one presented here. Aside from that single overlap, however, there’s much less similarity between the two releases than one might expect, largely because of the line-up.

Unlike the expanded musical formations on some of the Live Herald tracks, the Steve Hillage Band documented here is a stripped-down four-piece, comprising Hillage himself on guitar and vocals, his long-term partner Miquette Giraudy on keyboards, and an all-American rhythm section of Curtis Robertson (bass) and Joe Blocker (drums). The

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Swans (live at Brixton Electric/Concorde 2)

Swans live at Concorde (Pic: Al Robertson)Brixton Electric London 27 May 2014

Since reforming – or, perhaps more accurately, reincarnating – in 2010, Swans have rapidly become one of the most extraordinary musical entities of our age. Their comeback album, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, was a fine release, and they soon re-established themselves as a formidable live act. But with 2012’s The Seer – a vast, audacious, and stunningly wonderful double album – they scaled hitherto unconquered peaks, and matched that with a series of quite astonishing live shows which were about as close to holy communion as some of us are ever likely to get (see here for Jim Bliss’ review of one such gig in Dublin in 2013. I wasn’t there, but I

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Oil City Confidential

Cadiz Music

oil city confidentialAlthough Julien Temple’s film about pub-rock heroes Dr Feelgood dates from 2009, it is only now receiving a DVD release (through Cadiz Music) in the US, and it’s this new edition that is reviewed here, although I’m not aware of any difference between this and the original release.

Nevertheless, the fact that this is intended for an American market immediately invites focus on an intriguing aspect of the high-energy four-piece who were, for a brief period circa 1975-77, one of the biggest live draws in the UK: the way in which their music, rooted almost entirely in American styles and tropes, was nevertheless a peculiarly British phenomenon. Indeed one can narrow the locale down much further than that, to Canvey Island, Essex: a bleakly atmospheric place

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The Residents (live at The Barbican)

18 May 2013

Residents at The Barbican 2013A rare London appearance from The Residents, stopping off at The Barbican on their Wonder of Weird 40th anniversary tour. The show is presented as a kind of unreliable ‘history of our band’, and begins with a short film, a collection of excerpts from old (and formidably strange) videos and live performances. This does a fine job of encapsulating their appeal and setting the scene, and this often somewhat sterile venue is crackling with anticipation by the time the group take to the stage.

Four decades into one of the longest and strangest trips ever undertaken, the anonymous band have assumed a new disguise, perhaps their most ingenious yet: tonight The Residents present themselves as a fictitious band: a trio called, you guessed

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Guapo/Stars in Battledress/ Disinformation/La Jetée (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Corsica Studios, London 25 April 2013

Kavus Torabi of GuapoTo Corsica Studios, for an intriguing evening of films and performances to launch Guapo’s new album History of the Visitation, a tremendous release that maintains the consistently superb standards set by this London-based instrumental rock outfit since their inception in the mid-90s.

Proceedings began with a screening of Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée. It seems a little superfluous to review this, one of the most influential sci-fi films ever made: it is the subject of whole books of analysis (see here for one), although is perhaps best known nowadays as the basis for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys.

It concerns a man who has survived an apocalyptic war and is coerced into being an experimental guinea pig within a community

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Hawkwind Light Orchestra – Stellar Variations/Dave Brock – Looking for Love in the Lost Land of Dreams

Esoteric Antenna

Hawkwind Light Orchestra - Stellar VariationsA slew of new Hawkwind-related material has appeared of late, as Dave Brock and his ever-changing cast of merry men enter their fifth decade of existence, still flying their pirate freak flags high. The group released a double album, the patchy Onward, last year, a new Brock solo album (see below) has just come out, and to top it all – in every sense – comes this quirky release from three-fifths of the current Hawkwind like-up: Brock himself, long-serving drummer Richard Chadwick, and recent arrival Niall Hone (who, like many latterday Hawkwind alumni, cut his musical teeth in the free festival scene of the 80s, in this case as a member of Tribe Of Cro). The liner notes explain that the three

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Fushitsusha/John Butcher/Temperatures (live at St John at Hackney)

London. 5 October 2012

Keiji Haino’s trademark wall-of-guitar noise, with its many layers and overtones, often puts me in mind of church organ music at its loudest and most resonant. so this mightily atmospheric and imposing place of worship felt like an oddly appropriate setting for his fabled power trio Fushitsusha’s headline slot at this triple bill.

First up were Temperatures, a bass/drums duo who took your jaded been-there-heard-that correspondents by complete surprise. Put simply: they don’t sound much like anything else, rather they seem to occupy some ruptured gap between genres, and they are brilliant. Astonishing fluid polyrhythms topped off with chanted underwater vocals, locked tight in a shambolic shudder, grounded with precision bass kicks. The best new band either of us have seen in a very long

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