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The Handsome Family / Drunken Prayer (live at the Round Chapel)

The Handsome Family live March 2018The Handsome Family band play in Clapton, a very recently happening neighbourhood of London. The Round Chapel is such a lovely old venue, and this is not my first time here. In fact, all my times here have always been so emotionally charged. The Handsome Family normally charges me, so let’s see if tradition holds.

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Bonnie “Prince” Billy / London Sacred Harp (live at the Union Chapel)

London 27 July 2017

Bonnie Prince Billy live July 2017Growing up in North Carolina with a fair amount of Baptist and other mountain church influence, I have been no stranger to shape note, or square hymn singing. It’s a strange old thing which the London Sacred Harp group has perfected for the here and now.

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Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Bitchin’ Bajas (live at Café OTO)

London 24 March 2016

Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Bitchin' Bajas (liveI think about what Bonnie “Prince” Billy has been to me the last few years since I began listening to him. I was late to the party, obviously, but caught up very fast and developed my obsession in earnest.

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Einstürzende Neubauten (live at Koko)

Einstürzende Neubauten November 2014London 19 November 2014

As one does before seeing a show by a well-loved band, I muse on my own personal history pertaining to this group as I make my way to Camden to see Einstürzende Neubauten perform their latest release Lament. I can work out in approximations that I have loved this band since 1984 or so and I’ve seen them around 20 times before. They are a group I never tire of, one I never lose my love for.

Lament is a performance work commissioned by the city of Diksmuide in Belgium to mark the centenary of World War I. One marvels at the genius of the commissioners in choosing EN to be their ambassadors; I picture outdated businessmen in stern suits convening in a bleak

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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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The Handsome Family – Wilderness

Carrot Top (N America)/Loose Music (Europe)

The Handsome Family - WildernessAptly titled, this latest album from Rennie and Brett Sparks is like a beautiful life sciences lesson. Packed with facts I presume are correct, and I wouldn’t argue with songwriter Rennie’s instructions – one can learn an awful lot about beasts of our world. The worst beasts being of course ourselves, mankind.

The Handsome Family deliver stories in their songs which seem almost always like age-old tales but are cunningly crafted in the here and now. They’ve chosen an older type of Americana to base the music on, seriously strong on bluegrass and Appalachian traditional tunes, melodies and harmonies. On Wilderness, for the first time, I’m finding myself hearing that these tunes sound like those in other Handsome

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Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

Bad Seed Ltd

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky AwayLast summer whilst I was living it up in my small way in the south of France, celebrating true heat and the glories of car-crash-like French music spectacles which dominate the season of the votive festivals, I was utterly unaware of the fact that just half an hour away, down a treacherous twisty road lined with diseased plane trees, some of my most revered musical artists were completing the record I shall now attempt to tell you about.

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Laibach (live at The Tate Modern)

The Tate Modern, London 14 April 2012

Picture: Pete WoodheadIn the days following the Laibach “We Come in Peace” show at The Tate Modern it is Mina Špiler’s singing of “Across the Universe” that stays on permanent replay in my head. Such a beautiful nearly acapella lullaby she made of the ominous lyrics, both promise and threat that nothing is ever going to change in this or any universe. Her clear little voice a fantastic bell ringing softly in contrast to the super power sound of the rest of this gig; she so delicately poised over her little keyboard and slightly trembling. Not one other Laibach song of the evening impressed itself upon me so, or equalled the nervous tension, the fragility of music, life as we

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