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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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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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Mind Your Head 03: Current 93/Carter Tutti/Danielson Famile/They Came From The Stars, I Saw Them/Diamanda Galás/Acid Mothers Gong/Damo Suzuki/The Incredible String Band (live)

9, 15, 17, 21 October 2003 The South Bank Centre, London

The Mind Your Head festival for 2003 is subtitled “Exploring new meanings in sacred music”, though this seems more of a loose thread connecting the line-up together somewhat tenuously. However, the intriguing double bill which opens the series at The Queen Elizabeth Hall provides some food for thought on the issue, as do the series’ participants in nearly two weeks of events which follow.

Carter Tutti is the re-branded identity of stalwarts Chris And Cosey, and their manifestation on stage opens the series with an esoteric concoction of glitch and drone, of male/female interplay and the surge of a powerful psychedelic imperative – which is perhaps what the new sacred music allusions refer to in their particular case. A quantum step on from their CTI ambiences and Electro-Disco songs as C&C, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti‘s glistens with

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Coil (live at Mind Your Head)

Jhon Balance (Picture: Mink Pelican) The Royal Festival Hall, London 1 October 2002

Following an introduction which emphasizes the psychedelic nature of the selection of musicians and bands from Glenn Maxx, the South Bank Centre’s mastermind for the Mind Your Head season, Coil emerge on stage bathed in UV light, their white costumes stark as the sine waves of their opening number, traces of the music projected visually on the giant screen behind the band. They are joined by Massimo and Pierce of Black Sun Productions, who stand to the front as nude statues in deliberately-paced motion, palms out and impassive as the chaos of noise and light builds behind almost as slowly. The strobes kick in at brain-bending frequencies to match the electronic whirlwind, subliminal texts flicker across the screen, and John Balance dusts his hands, declaring “Electricity has made angels of

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Sigur Rós (live)

Mind Your Head Royal Festival Hall, London 1 October 2002

After a blazing performance by Coil, (which was, incidentally, their best yet which I’ve seen: completely charged with the energy one craves from Coil) I was not optimistic about seeing Sigur Ros, despite being a devoted lover of Agaetis Byrjun. Another example of a headliner being shown up by their “special guests”? Just goes to show how wonderful it is when expectations are low and surprise is at hand, for Sigur Rós delivered one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen.

There were eight of them in total, none of them looking as if they could have breached the 25 year old mark. I could not tell you a thing about their set list, as I had never heard most of the songs they played and couldn’t understand them if I knew the titles. Singing in what

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Faust (live at The Royal Festival Hall)

An angle, grinding London 12 October 2001

ZappiGiven that this appearance by Faust marks both their 100th live performance since the group’s reformation in 1993 and possibly their final show, it’s somehow appropriate that the emergency services soon became involved once again.

> Print this

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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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London Musicians’ Collective Ninth Annual Festival of Experimental Music

South Bank Centre, London 27-29th May 2000

Now semi-permanently established at the South Bank for the past few years, the LMC Experimental Music Festival has become one of the fixtures of the London Improv and New Music scene, struggling through into something approaching mainstream cultural acceptance – though that’s a relative position of course. This isn’t to say that its become particularly watered down, blanded out or easily commercial; far from it, and while not everything will be pleasing to all ears, it neither should be nor could be, and much on offer is is such high quality that a few dull spots can easily be avoided by those disinclined to favour one piece of Avant-noodling will soon find another of superb quality for their edification and enjoyment.

Ninth time around, and Saturday’s Purcell Room show has two extreme of that which can be described as experimental – Die Trip

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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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