London 29 May 2013
Recently refurbished and nicely polished, the venue presents a fairly comfortable setting for seeing The Handsome Family. The audience is calm and collected, fairly covered in beards and almost certainly here straight from work. One gets into an involuntary beard comparison routine right away and my own observation is that they’ve definitely outdone Brett Sparks, who seems to have had a pretty neat and tidy trim compared to his recent publicity photos. I wonder if all those other guys are disappointed.
Husband and wife Brett and Rennie take the stage without any long delays, (I suppose there were no puppies backstage this year) and delve directly into “Octopus.” They play it somewhat faster than on record, with Rennie making a much more hearable presence as well, while Brett sings, if not
Continue reading The Handsome Family (live at Islington Assembly Rooms) [...]
London 29 May 2013
It’s a Wednesday night in London’s hideously wanky Shoreditch, and we’re in an art gallery, and nobody’s really sure what to expect. Current music media darlings Savages and the achingly hip Bo Ningen have united to give us what they describe as a “sonic simultaneous poem”, and “a unique EXPERIMENTATION inspired by the early DADA concept of SIMULTANEOUS POETRY”. Seems like the only thing- well, two things, really – that can save this from being a terminal arsefest are the twin facts that, despite being cursed with both hipness and critical acclaim, both Savages and Bo Ningen are really, really good bands.
All dressed in black, they take the stage, part-adversarial (the bands are, for the most part, lined up facing each other), part collaborative (the drummers sit side by side). Women to the
Continue reading Savages/Bo Ningen (live at The Red Gallery) [...]
Aix-en-Provence 19 May 2013
A night of metal and more in one of the heartlands of Provence; not an area generally well-known for its enthusiasm for all things dark and loud. Luynes is a placid near-suburb of Aix-en-Provence, and close enough to Marseille to bring a decent audience from the current European Capital of Culture and beyond, but Le Korigan (a mischievous Breton elf-like creature – none more metal a name) is also far enough from the neighbours to avoid putting them out of sorts.
The venue, part rehearsal studio, instrument repair centre and music school and part sweaty rock club, is also a haven of noise and subcultural bandname-swapping among the crowd gathered outside to smoke and chat patiently while awaiting the opening of the doors. Lurking nonchalantly among the picturesque villas of a well-to-do town which is sometimes
Continue reading Godflesh/Philippe Petit (live at Le Korigan) [...]
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire 17-19 May 2013
Bearded Theory is, pretty much by definition, a party that got out of hand. It started out as a birthday bash, and is now in its sixth year as a music festival. Somewhere in among this tangled web of history is an obsession with beards, and on the Sunday they have an attempt at the world record for the most fake beards gathered in one place. Which is… definitely a thing. It’s also a sign that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – although everything’s handled incredibly professionally and there are few problems, there’s never a sense that anyone, including organisers and security, aren’t actually enjoying themselves at the same time.
As we arrive, with
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London 19 May 2013
Stuck in traffic, time was slipping away from us like a buttery thing, a total nightmare as impatient idiots decided to forge an extra lane in front, and I’m behind this person in a huge sports car that was probably twice the price of my house! He’s busy checking the mirrors – for gazes of envy, no doubt – I feel like making silly faces in response, but Robby Shackleton‘s E-jack was on the stereo, those wayward charms drifting out through the open windows, doing an ace job of crushing any sort of misconception.
After kerb crawling for what seemed an eternity we reached Battersea power station and an open road, arriving at Heaven just in time to check out the final embers of Mika Vainio‘s set, his massive sonic juggernauts slamming into
Continue reading Carter Tutti/Mika Vainio (live at Heaven) [...]
London 15 May 2013
It had been a while since I was last at The Underworld in Camden. At one point I almost seemed to live there, seeing some great doom bands week after week, so it’s always good to come back here. And what a night to do it on, a night of diabolus in musica with three of the hottest bands around.
As I enter the darkened room Black Magician are already creeping into their set. Haunting organ underpins some massive doom-laden riffs that hang in the air like the smell from a charnel house. Their sound is a mixture of huge Black Sabbath-style chords with eerie keyboards and a vocalist who sounds like he’s screaming from the very pits of hell. Their set is short and punchy but has the feel of covens
Continue reading Moss/Purson/Black Magician (live at The Underworld) [...]
Bexhill on Sea 11 May 2013
Personal history, you can skip this bit if you like: Back in the late 1990s I discovered what was London’s finest, most idiosyncratic record shop, These Records, following a tortuously convoluted traipse through the back-streets of Elephant and Castle guided by an A-Z and an address label stuck on the back of a second-hand Nurse With Wound CD. Behind the shuttered windows on this unprepossessing residential street, the shop’s wall was lined with a series of oversized cardboard wallets baring unfamiliar, opaque and confounding titles and representations of digital abstractions and oblique geometric forms; MEGO‘s in-house graphic designer Tina Frank‘s representations of what would soon, for better or worse, come to coalesce into a codified ‘glitch’ aesthetic.
What most differentiated MEGO from – say – Carsten Nicolai‘s contemporaneous Raster-Noton imprint, was that Alva-Noto et al seemed in endless pursuit of a mathematical rigour and
Continue reading Editions Mego at De La Warr Pavilion [...]
27 April 2013
Out here on the periphery, the phrase ‘sole UK appearance’ instinctively elicits grumpy mutterings about ‘privileged Londoners’… after all, nobody ever does ‘sole UK appearances’ in north Wales!’ But what’s this?… Michael Rother presents the music of Neu! and Harmonia at Helsinki… Tilburg… Krems… St. Petersburg… Wrexham… Wrexham!?!… surely not THAT Wrexham?
It turns out to be true – the recently established Focus Wales festival have eccentrically booked Mr. Rother and Charlotte Church as joint headliners for this year’s festival – I’d wager a decent sum that it’s the first time the two have shared a bill.
Rother’s foray into revisiting his back catalogue a couple of years back as Hallogallo featured an all-star line-up that included Sonic Youth‘s Steve Shelley. I only experienced that via YouTube – it seemed very good stuff, but not exactly Neu! This time around, Rother is touring with a young Berlin
Continue reading Michael Rother presents the music of Neu! and Harmonia (live at Central Station, Wrexham) [...]
Corsica Studios, London 25 April 2013
To 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 of fellow survivors clinging to life beneath the ruins of Paris. The
Continue reading Guapo/Stars in Battledress/ Disinformation/La Jetée (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut) [...]
London 27 April 2013
It’s raining. It’s cold. And it’s the West bloody End. But it’s also The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing‘s biggest headline gig yet, so let’s check it the fuck out anyway. As we walk in, Reprisal are onstage, and making quite a splendid racket. Three longhairs, heads down, studiously cranking out some loud as fuck death metal riffs, while a massive skatepunk-looking dude bellows his face off at the front. It’s quite a winning combination, and certainly succeeds in warming up the crowd; especially one Mr Andrew O’Neill, of tonight’s headliners, frantically headbanging himself into a frenzy down the front. Big chunky bass and
Continue reading The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing + Thee Faction + Reprisal (live at The Borderline) [...]
London 13 April 2013
Slipping quietly into the performance area, arch-noisemonger Russell Haswell opens his set with a slow build of spluttering sharp attacks, crawling eventually into chaos wrapped in shards of broken glass spat bloody and still sizzling into the ears of the willing victims in the crowd. Haswell is hunched intently over his boxes of dubious FX, never looking up and playing his devices the noisnik rather than the muso way – hard, brutal and as instruments themselves, an analogue/digital miasma with any emergent beats left to fend for themselves in musical purgatory.
Gravetemple are tonight (the first of two shows they will perform at Café Oto this weekend) the core trio of Stephen O’Malley (also known as SOMA), Oren Ambarchi and Attila Csihar, an international avant-metal/experimental/doom/drone supergroup of sorts. For the relatively confined space
Continue reading Gravetemple/Russell Haswell (live at Café Oto) [...]
Lyon 27 March 2013
The advantage of seeing Swans play at a relatively small venue like l’Epicerie Moderne over, say, one of the larger auditoriums in a bigger city (or one with a more active fanbase) like Paris or New York is that the experience is a little more intimate than when the gig is held in a very big room with not as much chance of seeing the band themselves. Actually, it usually is possible, by daring to approach the massive speaker stacks and taking a long-term risk to the hearing, but here the venue is not so huge and for that matter, not so crowded.
“To be kind, to be real”
Once the band have entered to enthusiastic applause, they set about constructing a curtain wall of sound, Michael Gira‘s semi-acoustic guitar sending
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An arena, London 2 March 2013
HERE IS A RUBBISH PICTURE THAT LOOKS LIKE GIRLS ALOUD HAVE AN ACTUAL TANK THAT HAS DISCO LIGHTS RATHER THAN WEAPONS AND IS THEREFORE ALL QUEER-FRIENDLY AND SUCH:
The arena is a complete bastard. I’m no Belgianologist, but it could fit Belgium in it, twice. The beer cost me roughly four million pounds and was watered down foamy rubbish. The staff were pleasant enough. But it’s an inhuman aeroplane graveyard hanger of a space filled with hatred and inhumanity.
Here is another crap picture of the Girls Aloud tank:
There are many things this picture fails to capture. One of those things is that Girls Aloud are on a massive shiny floating sign which reads ‘GIRLS ALOUD’, in capital letters. Another thing it
Continue reading Girls Aloud (live at an arena) [...]
The Lamb, Devizes 8 February 2013
Gentleman’s Relish are a wicked combo, a spiky pop duo of tight guitar evolves, countered by neat percussive candy. Those quirky poetics of lyric, comically charged and made further so by the drummer’s Bill Bailey mannerisms. A lot of sweet action indeed: that switch-a-roo guitar slashing in an angelic upstart-esque insistence as the syllables broke across your head in a bank of warm jets. The howler monkey finale raising a surreal Pearl’n’Dean wah-wah, the cherry topping to their rather short set; really looking forward to another EP appearing from these boys really soon.
The lighting is suitably dimmed for Thought Forms, Deejus cross-legged, chanting out a spiral of voice, swaying in a nest of undulating textures and Plexiglass burrs. The well-paced effect washes filling your headspace as everything
Continue reading Thought Forms/Gentleman’s Relish (live at The Lamb) [...]
3 February 2013 The Exchange, Bristol
Giant Swan were first up, a duo plying a lush clamour of harsh ear schisms that materialised into gristlised rhythms, a lot of box teased goodness to soak up. These boys certainly knew a thing or two about the art of bending circuitry. Loops and pick-up burrs literally ear danced in textural plugholes of echoed vox, resurrected in scars and sycamore incisions that wavered from slithering invisible points, suggestions of words playing in your inner ear – I swear I heard dildo o-o-o-o-oh-ing in all that fedback tourettes…
Having seen Gnod a few times now, I was half expecting a nomadic instrument showdown; slightly huffed to see my favourite head merchants had opted for a completely electronic persona. Needn’t have worried though, the resulting sounds didn’t lose any of that psych(ed) Gnodness, as the row of metallic
Continue reading Anthroprophh+Big Naturals/Gnod/Giant Swan (live at The Exchange) [...]