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Current 93/Reinier van Houdt (live at Meltdown 2011)

Meltdown Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 19 June 2011

“Please take your seats in the auditorium, as this evening’s performance is about to begin.” Sent scurrying into the Queen Elizabeth Hall by Sir Ian McKellen’s stentorian tones, we bury ourselves deep into the QEH’s welcoming black leather seats just as the lights goes down. I bolt down half a glass of the overpriced pseudo-Coke sold to me minutes earlier, and instantly regret it.

The lights dim, and the tableau remains lit by only six small lights – five blue and one orange – as dry ice swirls around moodily in eerie little clouds. Out onto the stage strides Reinier van Houdt, a curious and beguiling mixture of diffident and confident. Pale, thin (picture Christian Bale in The Machinist without the Method humour by-pass) and barefoot, the Dutch pianist sits down at the black Steinway Grand and greets us with a disarming

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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (live at Meltdown 2011)

Meltdown The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 17 June 2011

A soaking rain in London tonight makes it thinkable to skip out on a trip to the South Bank Centre and opt for home movies instead. In New Orleans it can rain much harder and you’d never think of staying home when there’s good music to be heard, so I try to take on that spirit and trudge on. There are so many differences between achieving this in London versus New Orleans, mainly being that New Orleans rain would be warm and sexy and in New Orleans going out is easy. As easy as a quick walk through some pretty little streets with people you know giving you a nod and a smile. In London it’s cold, it takes an hour long smelly bus ride and the only nod you might get is a

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SunnO)))/Chrome Hoof (live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall)

Meltdown 2007 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 18th June 2007

Chrome HoofThe smoke and glitter which characterises Chrome Hoof‘s performance at Meltdown 2007 is something of a wonder to behold. Unleashing a brain-boggling riot of progtastic disco – complete with intoned disclaimer for any responsibilty for the effect of the show on the audience at the start, this thirteen-piece bunch of silver-clad space invaders proceed to set out to do their level best to give the term weirdo a good name.

Chrome HoofIt’s a good thing that Chrome Hoof have a stage big enough to fit them all on with room to spare, and it later becomes apparent that the troupe will make the most of the freedom a nice bit of

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Nurse With Wound/Christoph Heeman (live)

Ether 07 Queen Elizabeth Hall London 3rd March 2007

Christoph Heeman opens proceedings as special guest at the debut London performance of Nurse With Wound as part of the Ether 07 festival. His solo presence onstage, lit by sweeping blue light projections, is not the most engaging of performances visually, but the drones and surges of electronic tones he coaxes from a small assortment of devices soon swell up to fill the auditorium. While there is a reasonable amount of truth to the assertion made by some members of the audience afterwards that the minimalist sounds Heeman was generating were no longer the most original, he is someone who was – and arguably remains – an innovator in deep listening sounds of this sort, and kudos is due to Heeman for his role in making amelodic music swim beyond the mere lounge sounds of Ambient and into the rich depths

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The Residents: Icky Flix – Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 9th June 2001 – Icky Flix DVD

Label: Ralph (America)/EuroRalph (Europe) Format: DVD, CD (soundtrack only)

The Residents singThe Eyeball ResidentMolly Harvey

There have been plenty of strange and powerful musicians and groups out there for many a long year. Captain Beefheart, Coil, Wesley Willis, Ken Nordine an so forth, each extending the realms of taste and disrupting the boundaries of what exactly constitues music and art . Then there are The Residents.

The Residents play Third Reich'n'Roll

Through thirty years of wilful obscurity and cutting-edge innovation, they have maintained a largely successful anonymity, one of the features about the group which is at once integral to their mystique and irrelevant. The eminently ridiculous sight of a Resident in a tuxedo with an eyeball for a head is at once silly and sinister, a

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Jah Wobble/Jaki Liebezeit/Pole/Burnt Friedman (live)

The Wobble EnsembeQueen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, London 28 March 2001

Tonight’s Wire Session Live promises to present a few intriguing collaborations, and first up on the scene are Jaki Liebezeit and Burnt Friedman. The latter’s usual live minidisc setup is enhanced with a Korg analogue synth and another keyboard, from which he produces a series of smooth, almost liquidly funky electronic rhythms and grooves. With the added input of Liebezeit’s spare yet enveloping drumming, the short set they work through occasionally sparkles, sometimes wanders but is never dull by any stretch. The combination is almost exquisite, thanks to the percussive dexterity and the smartly-programmed and played electronics. Together they build short but hypnotic stretches of sinuous music out of deceptively simple arrangements, played by two master musicians of differing generations of innovation who are clearly enjoying themselves, as are the spellbound

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Japanorama: Otomo Yoshihide/Sachiko M./Yasukatsu Oshima/Haco/Ishikawa Ko/Yagi Michiyo/Toshimaru Nakamura/Taku Sugimoto/Furuta Mari (live)

Furuta MariQueen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, London 17 January 2001

It’s something of a joy to behold – the entire Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer buzzing with anticipation before the start of the London event in the Japanorama tour of eleven British towns and cities. Why a joy? From Kendal to Liverpool, Colchester to Manchester and Sheffield, in venues with capacities of a few hundred to tonight’s couple of thousand, the tour is sold out. Who would have expected it for this dizzyingly good representative sample of the fringes of Japanese underground music? But enough wonder, and suffice it to say that the results are more than worthy of the audience’s faith. Perhaps it shows that the West has woken up to the exciting possibilites of Japan’s rapidly diversifying culture, beyond the old cliché of copyism and kitschadelic gloss into a recognition of

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The Young Gods and guests (live)

15th Anniversary Show Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, London 4th December 2000

As usual, I arrived at this show in a rush, a little late and with no idea of what to expect. Straight into complete darkness and tracked by lovely ambient sounds and an over-zealous usher trying to get me to take any seat as there were plenty available and filming was going on, so wandering about finding my assigned one was not desirable. Spacey, pretty, and drawn out, the atmospheric lilting of synths soothed me out of my disoriented fast pace while my eyes adjusted and took in the stage. Two banks of gear set up, one each on the right and left of the stage, engineered by non-descript-seeming men from The Young Gods under well-focussed spot lights provided this hypnotic ease and I settled in.

A lecture followed given by anthropologist Jeremy Narby concerning the similarities

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Labradford’s Third Annual Festival Of Drifting

David Pajo; Robin Guthrie; Pole; Labradford Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank Centre, London 24th June 2000

This year’s Festival of Drifting sees each participant playing all in one night as a national tour, as opposed to the previous two years when performances were spread out over the course of 4-6 days at various venues. Labradford‘s idea is to bring together an artist-led festival featuring performers from the softer side of Rock/Ambient/Electronica, and piece them all together between a stich of writers and a thread of visual artistry, developing a tapestry of music, art and literature that all revolve and influence each other in this world of dark and calm atmospheric expressionism. Competing with Glastonbury this weekend, Drifting has attracted an impressive quantity of observers, even if many of them come out a little disappointed.

The first problem presented to festival goers was a schedule issue. The Queen Elizabeth Hall seems

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Slapp Happy/David Thomas & Two Pale Boys (live)

Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank Centre, London 13th June 2000

The South Bank Centre seemed to be all on with their rules of protocol as I watched David Thomas from a tiny vertical glass in the big imposing closed door or the Queen Elizabeth Hall. I was a little late and the steward decided not to send me and the long line of other late-comers in to take seats until a break between songs. Mr.Thomas, (frontman of Pere Ubu) doesn’t bother too much with breaks between songs, so we stood, me in the lucky only view spot, for most of the trio’s set. Eventually we were all loosed on the inside and found seats and got on with enjoying a great lot of humour and bittersweet master performing. David Thomas seems to have just the right hold on the most righteous of Mississippi Valley blues. His voice is big and

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To Rococo Rot/SchneiderTM (live)

Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank Centre, London 7th May 2000

It’s City Slang‘s birthday – ten years old and going stronger than ever at the interface of good old-fashioned Post-Indie Rock, Country dispatches from the edge and exuberent German Electronica. Tonights show is the first London event, featuring the latter stylings in the shape of Dirk Dresselhaus‘s bubbly bleep outfit SchneiderTM and the ever-evolving melodies of To Rococo Rot. Somehow Schneider have expanded by 300% for this show, with Dresselhaus flanked by various intense cohorts and their boxes of tricks, and together they produce a near-chaotic mishmash of generally upbeat rhythms and some quite quirky noises.

Perhaps there is a little of the cheesy on display tonight – a little of the DiscoTechnoPop muted by the surroundings, if only for the audience. No, Dirk is well up for it, punching the air, jerking like he’s been plugged straight into the

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Scanner/Pan Sonic and FM Einheit/Project Dark (live)

Sonic Boom Live Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank Centre, London 4th May 2000

Presented in conjunction with the excellent Sonic Boom exhibition of sound installations at the Hayward Gallery, the line up for this event features three groups and artists who have also been selected for inclusion in the gallery. Project Dark are the first onstage, lurking behind a bank of samplers and sundry equipment, with the audience decked out in 3d-glasses for the presentation of the Disc Continued film – and handily, that universal promoter of all things vinyl and experimental, John Peel pops up in the movie’s intro to remind everyone to slip on the red and blue filters. The film and soundtrack are used by the three members of Project Dark as a template on which to build a really quite slick presentation of their various works of deconstruction meted out to the very idea of needles,

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Cornucopea – Two South Bank Evenings With Julian Cope

Anal; Ash Ra Tempel; Brain Donor; Coil; Julian Cope; Groundhogs; Kid Strange; Queen Elizabeth The South Bank Centre, London 1st-2nd April 2000

Since this two-day festival in the South Bank Centre is essentially Julian Cope‘s entry in the venue’s largely excellent series of Mini-Meltdowns, it probably comes as no surprise that he is seemingly omnipresent, playing solo twice, and collaboratively in the guise of both Brain Donor and Queen Elizabeth. This could easily have been something of an ordeal for those not of the fanlike persuasion for this most eccentric and Rock of eccentric Rock stars, but thankfully there was much to be admired and enjoyed at Cornucopea – the brightly psychedelic esoteric symbolism on dispay in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the first night (all too appropriately run on All Fool’s Day); the marvellously Tardis-sized starry-print, fake-fur Disco booth of the Miniscule Of Sound, a superb

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Stereolab (live)

The Peel Sessions Live Queen Elizabeth Hall, The South Bank Centre, London 3 June 1999

The ongoing, haphazard selection by John Peel for his live Sessions continues with the welcome return of Stereolab to live performance after an absence of a year or so. Peel comperes in his usual style, jovial, knowing, knowledgable and slightly diffident, broadcasting (hopefully) the existence of the Neoist Necrocard to a national radio audience. Stereolab take the stage to a rapturous welcome, and it’s like it always was – the arrangement of synth, bass, guitar and drums in an array of joyous power drawn from the sheer beauty of these instruments, these people.

So maybe their forays into Easy Listening kitsch have been some kind of Prog-Lounge journey worthy of some concern for their dubious Muzak propensities; unfortunately, they fail on two levels, that of interest or engagement, and on their former proud boast to

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Daniel Miller’s Mini-Meltdown Festival

Irregular #5 The South Bank Centre, London 8th-10th April 1999

The last five to ten years have seen an exponential rise in the number of intriguing events at London’s premier Arts Council-funded cultural centre on the South Bank of the River Thames, thanks to an innovative booking policy and the success of the events themselves, expanding the venue beyond its associations with Radio 3 “serious” music concerts and other more traditionally high-culture performances into the staging of events such as the London Musician’s Collective’s Annual Festival of Experimental Music and the recent Atari Teenage Riot gig which resulting in the closure of the venue due to crowd over-enthusiasm. Following on from the Meltdown series of festivals held each year, with past guest directors including Laurie Anderson and John Peel (this year’s is Nick Cave), Daniel Miller, founder and head of Mute Records, was invited to draw up his wish-list for

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