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Nazoranai+Flower/ Corsano Duo (live at The Scala)

Keiji Haino of Nazoranai live at The ScalaLondon 11 July 2013

So the first problem is always going to be that, writing after the fact, things get a bit distorted. Nazoranai were utterly amazing. To the extent that what, on any other night, would’ve been a totally formidable set from the Flower/Corsano Duo ended up falling flat in my retroactive estimations. That sounds a bit “damning with convoluted praise,” but it’s not meant as such.

Dues to the duo: starts off with Michael Flower very carefully pulling out a two or three note melody, steadily stretching it out but never veering too far away from his tonic. Modally, Flower’s definitely playing it steady for most of the set – there’s a tonic and it’s not moved away from

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L’Orchestre D’Hommes-Orchestres Joue à Tom Waits (live at the Purcell Room)

The South Bank Centre, London 2 July 2013

“Bonjour messieurs.” “Bonjour David.” “Est-ce un rêve ?” “Non, vous êtes vraiment voir cela. Et aussi l’entendre.” “Oh, c’est bon. Pendant un moment j’ai pensé que j’étais d’imagerie un groupe de fou Quebecoise, jouer de la musique de Tom Waits. Je suis heureux qu’il n’est pas une illusion.” “Oui, il peut être un peu désorientant. On l’aime comme ça.” “Puis nous commençons.”

Les New Cackle Sisters at the Purcell RoomSet Dressing for the Evening

Boots, Banjos; Fruit; Flowers; Prams; Whiskey bottles; Stepladders; Old television sets; Gramophones; Dolls; Crash helmets; Cups and saucers; Cones; Barrels; Suitcases; Euphoniums; Accordions; Washing line.

My ticket says ‘E20’, but I seem to be sitting inside Jeunet and Caro’s Delicatessen. I’m looking

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Black Dice/Dominic Butler (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Dominic Butler at Corsica StudiosCorsica Studios, London 24 June 2013

The last time I saw Black Dice was in 2009 at the Tufnell Park Dome when they were joined by fellow uplifting souls Experimental Dental School amongst others. The evening had been a reasonably enjoyable listen of eclectic sounds and rhythms up until the point that the three members of Black Dice took to the stage. From then on in it was absolute deafening chaos of the most enjoyable kind. I was lucky enough to catch the shock, horror and outright disgust on the faces of the north London bar staff as they frantically reached for the nearest set of earplugs to abate the sonic terror being unleashed from that small stage.

It is with quite a bit of

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The Handsome Family (live at Islington Assembly Rooms)

London 29 May 2013

The Handsome Family tour poster 2013Recently 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

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Savages/Bo Ningen (live at The Red Gallery)

London 29 May 2013

Savages ask for no picturesIt’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

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Godflesh/Philippe Petit (live at Le Korigan)

Aix-en-Provence 19 May 2013

Godflesh at Le Korigan 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

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Bearded Theory festival 2013

Mark Chadwick of The Levellers at Bearded TheoryKedleston 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.

Friday

New Model 

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Carter Tutti/Mika Vainio (live at Heaven)

Chris n Cosey @ HeavenLondon 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

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Moss/Purson/Black Magician (live at The Underworld)

London 15 May 2013

Purson at the Underworld (pic: Andy Oram)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

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Editions Mego at De La Warr Pavilion

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

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Michael Rother presents the music of Neu! and Harmonia (live at Central Station, Wrexham)

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

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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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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing + Thee Faction + Reprisal (live at The Borderline)

London 27 April 2013

Andrew O'Neill of TMTWNBBFN (Picture: Zoë Gillard)TMTWNBBFN (Picture: Medwyn Jones)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

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Gravetemple/Russell Haswell (live at Café Oto)

London 13 April 2013

Russell Haswell Cafe Oto April 2013Slipping 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

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Swans (live at l’Epicerie Moderne)

Lyon 27 March 2013

Michael Gira of Swans Lyon March 2013The 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

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