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October 2019 – upcoming London rock, pop, noise, dancetronic gigs – Hurtling, Stephen Evens and Junodef (17th October); Gum Takes Tooth and Hyperstition Duo (18th October); Bunny Hoova, Gribs, J.B. Glaser and Halfs (18th October)

8 Oct

Hurtling + Stephen Evens + Junodef, 17th October 2019

Alt-rock trio Hurtling (fronted by My Bloody Valentine tour noisemaker Jen Macro) have a debut record to offer you – ‘Future From Here’, on Onomatopeia Records – and are launching it at north London’s The Islington in the middle of October. Their sound’s relatively easy to peg – post-Pixies, post-grunge, post-dreampop – but difficult to dismiss. There’s a full cupboardful of familiar indie rock ingredients to hand, but all reshuffled and re-examined via Jen’s particular perspective and inspired by the disorientations of touring, the displacement of emotions, the waywardness of health: the bumps and setbacks of a bright, questioning human organism pushed into too much motion. Sometimes, despite the noisy ethic, it’s surprisingly gentle; sometimes sludgy guitar parts pile up like rainbow cement ooze; sometimes it’s all about the vocal harmonies.



 
Once upon a time, most of Hurtling were part of cunningly witty indie/artpop sloggers stuffy/the fuses, and their glowering former employer (and current Onomatopeia labelmate) Stephen Evens is also on hand for the evening: ostensibly in a support slot, but probably to keep a dyspeptic jaded eye on them and to crush their remaining youthful dreams beneath his tapping boot. He’s playing solo – probably with guitar, microsynth and anything else portable which he fancies and which comes to hand – and is still working his own 2017 debut album, ‘Bonjour Poulet’. Which is fine, since it was excellent: a mordant larderful of creaky treats which revealed themselves to be gappy armour-plate wrapped around a surprisingly tender heart. He’ll probably give you all that sardonic, seen-it-all expression: actually, he’ll be pleased to see you.



 
London-based Swedish “post-death music” quartet Junodef fill the other support slot. Their debut single, a soft-strummed slice of spectral folk with additional Gothic guitar boom and the bleakness of a death metal song, was called Make You Die. Subsequent work hasn’t travelled too far from those initial emotional roots, although they’ve toyed with spooky progressive rock keyboards, acid rock shadings and lingering dark-country embellishments (the latter suiting both the paired vocals of Tyra Örnberg and Karin Grönkvist and their admiration for Emma Ruth Rundle and Chelsea Wolfe).

More recently Junodef have been feeding in noirish elements from trip-hop and droning electronica, citing inspiration by Portishead and Young Fathers. At the same time, they’ve upped their Bad Seeds clang and their clarity and put greater emphasis on their visual work, resulting in their most vividly fleshed-out songs and atmospheres yet. Don’t expect floppy Goth ragdolls: this band has a tough core, and a storytelling streak that’s just beginning to come into its own.



 

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Gum Takes Tooth + Hyperstition Duo, 18th October 2019In the same week, on the following day, relentless psychedelic noise-fosterers Baba Yaga’s Hut are putting on a Bethnal Green gig for block-party-inspired thunder-twosome Gum Takes Tooth. Singer/electronic bombardier Jussi Brightmore and wired-up drummer Thomas Fuglesang have been at this for a decade now, producing a music that’s
grinding and urgent, slow yet filled with unnerving impetus.

As with plenty of British acts on the weird/occult cusp, Gum Takes Tooth are fascinated by ritual (attempting to initiate it in both their recorded output and, more significantly, in their live performances) and with the jarring subconscious impact on the human animal from the mechanisms of technology, hierarchy and blunt cultural forces which surround us. Their last record, ‘Arrow‘, focussed on London gentrification from the perspective of those squashed under or flicked aside by its well-heeled, well-polished bespoke shoes; and on the savage simultaneous pressures from above to indulge the inner beast in competition, in nationalism, in a fracturing of common responsibility and empathy. While writing ‘Arrow’, Jussi saw all of this as a kind of cultural intoxication with the emphasis on toxic: it gave the duo a musical and moral focus which they’ve pursued ever since.



 
A couple of years ago, open-minded Sheffield Afrobeat/noise/dance-pop combiners Blood Sport called it a day. Two-thirds of them – drummer Sam Parkin and guitarist/Octatracker Alex Keegan – have since resurfaced as Hyperstition Duo, a blistering stew of kit-rattles and synth noise smudging and battering the line between live gig and avant-garde DJ electronica. They’ll be supporting Gum Takes Tooth on this occasion: but where the headliners favour slower pace and a ritual weight, the Hyperstitioneers prefer a break-neck-speed informational barrage.

At the end of this past summer, Hyperstition Duo released their debut EP ‘Virotechnics‘. There’s the usual jargonated hype to go with it – “summoning egregors of the Anthropocene, (they) plunge deep to deliver a maximalist collective immersion into their own lysergic phonosphere. Lurching, polyrhythmic pathways crumble and re-assemble; elastic dynamics snap; propulsion sparks from the nerve-centre of machine and corporeal entanglement… templexing, möbius loops and cybernetic subjectivities abound in an attempt to conjure escape vectors in a world of ubiquitous sound.” For once, the texture of the press release – a plunge into lathering, urgent verbalisation – actually fits the texture of the music.



 
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Overlapping the Gum Takes Tooth/Hyperstition Duo concert, Ben Vince’s south-east London clubnight Ellipsis (blending strands and clumps of experimental dance and experimental pop) ventures up north to Dalston on the same night for an evening of seamless switching between stage and DJ deck. I’ve not encountered Ellipsis before, but I’m impressed with what I’m finding out now.

Bunny Hoova + Gribs + J.B. Glaser + Halfs, 18th October 2019

To headline this time, Ben’s enticed the perplexing Dutch-born Mancunian Bunny Hoova down for her full-band London debut. Her work is simultaneously delightful and frustrating. At its simplest, it’s a kind of fall-apart dream pop – intermittent rhythms, addled guitar chording and bass thumbing, a cloudwork of woven-in samples, and a constant tripping over unvoiced questions, obscured conclusions and the track-loops of the thought-train. But while most dream-pop sinks into a narcotized structural conservatism (strumming away in the same key while admiring the whorls of sound coming through the pedalboard), Bunny’s material seems constantly uncomfortable, actively intelligent, and hovering at the midpoint between insight and misdirection. She’s been yoked in with experimental pop deconstructors/faux-idiot savants like Tirzah and Micachu, and I can see why. There’s that classical conservatoire training: coyly hinted at in the PR, for extra credit, but in practise forced off into the distance like a spurned aunt (even as it’s being used as the counterweight to punkish anti-technique). There’s the idea that the usual rules of pop song and riff culture are being scorned in a meticulous matter-of-fact way via an admixture of free play and cerebral manifesto.

Plenty of the songs on Bunny’s debut album, ‘Longing’, have the sensual drag-and-tug rhythm of slow jams; but rather than focussing a mood or a regular pace, they wander off at instinctive mental tangents or hiccup into a different arrangement; the instruments and samples entwining in a scratchy, bewildered, irregular intimacy. At times she seems to be taking up an erratic desert map scrawled by Captain Beefheart and attempting to apply it to close urban living. At other times, she seems to be spontaneously transposing into song experimental short stories about offbeat relationships, jolting encounters or small moments which change the course of a life; rich in detail and significance, short on conclusion. Plot and flavour are stretched out and split into gobbets, like odd-shaped beads necklaced on a guitar string. Her most-talked-about song, Lazy_Easy, is a scrubbing, slurred, pointed dissection-tract covering both the implicit and explicit links between consumerist culture and animal cruelty: more of a wall-collage with blended-in musical notes than an actual song. The world she flits through feels as rickety as a condemned flat; one that she’s too good for and shouldn’t have to live with, but which she has to accommodate and fit her voice to.




 
Also playing are a mixed bag of London and Manchester electronic experimentalists with bedroom studios. Gribs is a creative DJ and electronic musician, a label co-boss (Tobago Tracks) who in her own music weaving connections between straight-up dance music (trap, jungle, bass culture) and lo-fi DIY sound-and-voice experiments. There’s a distinct edge of discomfort to her work: not so much or so often that it repels, but her found vocals and implied song characters seem uneasy, morbidly eccentric or disassociated from the music’s rhythmic propulsion or sensual salve.

More DJ-ing and deckmixing comes from J.B. Glazer, another London-based creator of peculiar counter-intuitive dance music: for him, a kind of relentlessly alienated mirror-image R&B, all of its comfort and slickness rusted away into disassociative ennui. In the work of both Glazer and Gribs, there’s an echo of chopped-and-screwed culture: the slowing, the altered-state disconnections and new connections, the sense that they’re using alienation as a kind of gatekeeper (if you like dance but are prepared to discard much of its qualities of release or of socializing, then perhaps you can squeeze through this door).

Rounding things out (or upsetting any remaining unspilled applecarts) there’s the mysterious and performative Halfs – from what I can work out, a try-anything beat-making romper on Manchester’s queer arts scene. I’ve found a very fruity synthdance EP of his/theirs from 2017, so there are a few slurps of its whooping dayglo industrial tones below. There have also been percussion-favouring mixtapes and albums which have been whipped capriciously on and off Soundcloud, but are gone now: other than that, there seems to be involvement with scratch theatre, video and so on. In order to properly keep up with Halfs, you need to subscribe (both literally, and in terms of consistent loyalty) so just consider this vague, semi-accurate plug of mine to be a jumping-on point and take it from there.


 
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Dates:

Onomatopoeia Records presents:
Hurtling + Stephen Evens + Junodef
The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, Islington, London, N1 0XT, England
Thursday 17th October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Gum Takes Tooth + Hyperstition Duo
The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9AG, England
Friday 18th October 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Ellipsis presents:
Bunny Hoova + Gribs + J.B. Glaser + Halfs
SET (Dalston Lane), 27a Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England
Friday 18th October 2019, 9.00pm
– information here and here
 

October 2018 – upcoming rock/experimental/dance gigs in England – The Evil Usses on tour in Liverpool, Salford and Derby (4th, 6th, 7th October) with shows also featuring Unstoppable Sweeties Show, The Age Of Glass, Mal, Night Stage, Shunya and Unicursal

30 Sep

This coming week, The Evil Usses take their witty, post-Beefheart/No Wave skronk-rock out of Bristol to travel in a brief arc across the Midlands and the North.



 
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In Liverpool, they’ll be playing a saxophone-heavy Postmusic night with three Merseyside acts.

Jazz-punk absurdists Unstoppable Sweeties Show will be celebrating the release of their second album “Bring Kath her Breamcatcher [the musical]”. Styling themselves as “post-pronk” or as “passive-aggressive progressive prog” they come across as prime nonsensical Scouse upsetters: singer Yashaswi Sharma sounds like a young PJ Harvey yelping nonsequiturs, drug babble and occasional obscenities against an omnidirectional springy racket of guitars, saxophone and drums (while a bassline rushes across the gaps like a spider on a slender bridge, under fire). Incorporating “free improvisation, spoken word, avant-garde, noise, and comedy” as blunt objects in their armoury, USS are part of the scattered North-West English rock weirdness which includes a.P.a.t.t., White Blacula and Poisoned Electrick Head. (They’ve got members of the first two on board, plus people from the LAZE and from Elmo & The Styx, making them something of a Mersey anti-supergroup).



 
Rounding out the Liverpool bill, Mal provide ritualistic occult-industrial ambient noise (employing synth pads and doubled saxophones for “brutal sermons” and “chilling sideways sweeps at things”), while Unicursal bring cut-up acoustic noise via guitar and tape loop.

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For Salford’s Space Cassette night, Evil Usses will be playing with delightfully spindly Manchester band The Age Of Glass, who employ skinny acoustic guitar skank, rolling jazz bass and crisp percussion to create their own yelping electronic dance/dub/funk combination.



 
Age Of Glass’ samplehead Alan Keary will also be performing as his own multi-instrumental, multi-genre project Shunya, using his mastery of guitar, programming, jazz double bass and other strings to create a rattled, skittish combination of post-classical, jazz and electronic dance ideas. Firing live beats across live instrumentation that can vary from duo performances to a twelve-piece band, he’s already made a name for himself by remixing the work of latterday choral composer Eric Whitacre, and drawn collaborative interest from members of GoGo Penguin: his future’s looking bright and intriguing.




 
In addition, Talos 4000 (specialist in “acid rave/cosmic dross”) and Burnibus (curator of eclectic electronica show Non Dualism Podcast) will be providing the DJ sets. Here’s an example of some previous Space Cassette-ing…

 
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In Derby, Evil Usses’ support comes from Night Stages: the brainchild of Dubrek Studio owner and Derby music stalwart Jay, who’s put together his own “psychedelic noise-rock super group” featuring members of assorted Derby strivers Them Are They, Twinkie and YouNoGoDie. They’re still so underground and emergent that they’ve got no web presence yet, so all we’ve got to go on is an account from Derby arts-blog ‘Storge’, from a previous Dubrek all-dayer – “they are loud, shimmering sludge, and at one point the rhythm section sounds like pure, glorious metal. The guitar sounds Jay provides at times sound like shattering glass and if he hits that red pedal of doom you know it means trouble for your hearing.”

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Full dates:

  • Postmusic @ DROP The Dumbulls Gallery, Dublin Street, Liverpool, L3 7DT, England, Thursday 4th October 2018, 7.30pm (with Unstoppable Sweeties Show + Mal + Unicursal) – information here
  • Space Cassette @ Siren Asylum, 24 Missouri Avenue, Salford, M50 2NP, England, Saturday 6th October 2018, 10.00pm (with The Age of Glass + Shunya) – information here and here
  • Dubrek Studio, 6 Becket Street, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 1HT, England, Sunday 7th October 2018, 6.30pm (with Night Stages) – information here and here

 

July/September 2018 – upcoming electronic gigs – Jim Thirlwell’s Xordox goes out in New York, London and Dublin with The The, Teeth of the Sea and Faten Kanaan (variously 2nd, 5th, 7th July and 17th September). Plus an awkward Foetus reminiscence from my past….

29 Jun

Jim Thirlwell, 2018

Jim Thirlwell (either that, or it’s Quentin Crisp’s dark twin…)

Long ago in 1988 (during my gawky teenaged years) I helpless, hopelessly, stupidly loved a girl. One of her responses was to play a trio of Foetus tracks at me an hour or two past midnight, in a room tinged with other people’s dope smoke – first Asbestos, then English Faggot and finally Hauss-On-Fah. I think she was trying to prove a point about her own wildess and non-conformity as compared with my teenaged uptightness: a point seasoned with an extra tint of sadism.

Filtered through unrequited sexual longing and sleep deprivation (plus some secondary stonedness) the music took on even more of a nightmarish aspect. First the screeching, ravening wall of post-Penderecki horror-strings; then a crawling, banging, hate-crime narrative rising to a lustfully murderous snarl; finally the compulsive dance track, enough to have you ricocheting round a warehouse in the dark before realising that you’re slam-dancing to a gonzo tale of racist murders, cocaine-fuelled gang-rape and of lighting out for the outlaw territories.

Given my increasing interest in out-there music, it was a kind of awakening for me, but at the time it was more a kind of uninvited acidic baptism. I’d never heard anything like it; certainly nothing so apparently malignant and evil. I could barely move from my chair. Overlaid on the music, in real time (like an extra overdub, or a cruel remix) was delighted, spiteful female laughter. I’d never managed to make her laugh so much by my own efforts – so there was me told. Perhaps, in a way, it was a slightly twisted message of friendship-but-no-further.

Anyway, it made for a pretty disorientating walk home at half-past-two in the morning. Hornsey Vale’s one of the more peaceful and genteel London neighbourhoods, but that night it felt like hastening through the Haddonfield of ‘Halloween’. Boing, boing, boing…


 
That was a long time ago. The girl’s grown up into a woman and moved to Hove, and we’re not even remotely in touch. I’ve no idea what she listens to now or what she thinks of it; or whether Foetus, for her, is just a memory of a few twisted tracks on a cousin’s long-lost compilation tape which happened to come in handy for baiting an unwanted suitor one bloody-minded teenage evening. As for me – I’ve learnt to appreciate transgressive art a little more, and am less likely to take dysfunctional nights and dysfunctional relationships so personally. I’ve also learnt about the background behind the noise; and have even flippantly bought the odd Foetus record myself, to tease a flatmate with.

Meanwhile, if Foetus’ boiling black humour and theatre of cruelty has lost a little of its edge for me, Jim Thirwell – the man behind it – hasn’t lost any of his. Back then he was already a cutting-edge industrial rock godfather. Now, he’s a long-established sonic progenitor for Nine Inch Nails, Gorilla Black and anyone else who’s picked up an orchestral sampler, a vicious horn section and a junkyard batter-beat with the aim of making mordantly joyous music for a world scripted by the darker angels of our nature.

Over the three decades since his music reduced me to nervy paralysis in Crouch End, Jim’s worked with Lydia Lunch, Electronicat, Nick Cave, Marc Almond and Cop Shoot Cop’s Jim Coleman; and he’s branched his extreme musical satire out across the slow crushing misanthropy journals of Wiseblood (his collaboration with’ Swans Roli Mosimann), the transfer of those flourishing post-Asbestos Foetus instrumentals to the Steroid Maximus project (where they can rant, jazz and gibber in full orchestra majesty without being pinned down by a song) and with SM’s freeform cousin Manorexia. At the height of his performance-art immersion, he wore fake personalities and conceptual skin-suits like all-over psychological scars (Clint Ruin, Frank Want) but since then he’s come to the party as just Jim – behind the music, a sweet kind guy in person and an unashamed music store geek who happens to be drawn to extreme subjects (and into reflecting Western society’s callousness and license for dysfunction back onto itself). For the past twenty years he’s also been part of New York City’s contemporary classical talent pool, writing for the likes of the Kronos Quartet and Bang On A Can, and has also soundtracked cartoon music for ‘The Venture Bros.’ and ‘Archer’ – two parallel endeavours which he takes equally seriously.

Jim’s latest project is Xordox, featuring a new instrumental direction to set alongside Steroid Maximus and Manorexia. Primarily synthesizer-based, it merges his existing electronic production expertise with extended use of the lateral thinker’s dream modular synths by Buchla and Serge. The results were unveiled last summer on the project’s debut album ‘Neospection’, revealing a Thirlwellisation of modular techno. While the hurtling disruptive Alto Velocidad is more remniscent of previous Thirlwell methodology, the only currently embeddable example of Xordox out there is the cosmo-Germanic rush of Diamond. See the video below (it tickles me how different the NASA CGI footage is from the cyberpunk/”Nazoviet”-inspired designs Jim used for the Foetus records).

 
Xordox have secured July and September support slots in Dublin and New York on the comeback tour for The The (with whom Jim was a collaborator and contributor, in particular on 1983’s ‘Soul Mining’). Also arranged are fairly short notice headline dates in New York and London for the first week of July (the latter hosted by top psych/noise curators Baba Yaga’s Hut. For the live sets, Jim’s being joined by an additional keyboard player (long-time collaborator Simon Hanes of Tredici Bacci) and will be playing in front of a visual backdrop by Swedish artist Sten Backman of Great Big Container.

 
At the headliner gigs, New York support comes from synth artist Faten Kanaan who’s “inspired by cinematic forms: from sweeping landscapes & quiet romances, to the patterned tension of 1970s film scores… focuses on bringing a human touch to electronic music.” Her Germanic romantic/horror textural blends are created by “live-looping them, sans sequencers or arpeggiators. In symbiosis with technology is an appreciation for the vulnerability of human limitations, imperfections, and simple gestures.” London support comes from roof-raising underground heroes Teeth Of The Sea who merge extended brass-laden psych-rock voyages with techno and rave methodology, updated for twenty-first century urban impulses.


 
Dates:

June 2018 – upcoming London rock gigs – H0nkies, TomZack, Aeddan and Stal Kingsley (14th June)

11 Jun

H0nkies + Tomzack + Aeddan + Stal Kingsley, 14th June 2018
If you’re in London on 14th June (and not already heading for the Lost Crowns show in Dalston), you might consider this free event.

Friends Serene presents:
H0nkies + TomZack + Aeddan + Stal Kingsley
The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 8AJ, England
Thursday 14th June 2018, 7.30pm
– free entry – information here and here

As you might have noticed in previous posts, I’ve got an ambivalent relationship with Americana: but while H0nkies dabble in it (the official line is that their work is “Americana, bluesy, post-punk country cuts”) they don’t pay it much undue respect. They pick it up, drop it on the floor, and then drunkenly gum it back together with added noise and clatter and hooty keyboards.

Here’s ‘Pagans’, their half of a recent split single. It’s a punky-tonk, a little as if The Libertines, Tom Waits, Jim White and Madness had collaborated in a round of happy mutual arse-kicking. Their singer keeps peering out of the racket (and out from beneath his own looning bawl) as if to wink at us, as if we were in on the gag. I think I like him.

 
In the space of a year, Tottenham art-rock/post-punk quintet TomZack have travelled from the industrial dance feelers of their debut single Too Much To Love to the theatrical flair of their current incarnation, delivering peculiar badlands singalongs and rumblesongs on record. A band with at least one parallel life, they’re also working on a live soundtrack to the upcoming theatre version of ‘The Forbidden Zone’ (Oingo Boingo’s cult 1980 film showcasing the early work of Danny Elfman amid a riot of transgressive cartoonish imagery, as if John Waters had transformed ‘Alice In Wonderland’ into American burlesque). Expect the latter, plus the debut TomZack album, in the autumn.

Meanwhile, here’s current single Caroline (Still In Love With You): a mordantly downbeat piece of grinding melancholy (again with that Waitsian tone) unmoored to fly on a strange junk/space-opera background narrative of starship troopers, gender wars and time-travelling bereavements. Either they’re writing their own bit of long-form twisted steampunk, or they just like bamboozling people with their press releases.


 

Wrapping up the bill are a couple of solo songwriters. Aeddan Williams (or just “Aeddan”) fits firmly into that line of singing multi-instrumental play-and-record-everything craftsmen: the one which includes Roy Wood, Karl Wallinger and other blokes who’ve either shaped, or paid glorious expansive tribute to, British pop. His debut album has shades of The Move, World Party, Kinks, Small Faces and the usual jaunty suspects. The album and EP he’s popped out so far have been filled with songs of kooky chicks and small adventures, indie protest songs about racists, and (just under the bonnet) subtle little twists which reveal that craft doesn’t blind him to ironies and changes in perspective.


 
Stal Kingsley, on the other hand, is already well embedded into that skewed-perspective zone. A lo-fi pop aficionado with an ear for the grand gesture, he enjoys but can’t quite stay slouched in his tape rumble; and chooses instead to bring his eccentricities out into the light of the mainstream. Comparisons to Ariel Pink and Cleaners From Venus abound; his live gigs apparently stretch out into performance art (with “live drawing countdowns”, filmed ad breaks and the backing band on an old tape cassette); but I think that what he really wants is to bring his music into your sitting room, even if it’s not quite the right size to fit through the door, or keeps sliding off your sofa.


 

June 2018 – upcoming gigs – üF-Beat spontaneous experimental night in Crouch End, London on 14th June – walk up and join in…

9 Jun

A passing note that this is happening in Crouch End this coming Thursday, and that if you’re a listener or player of a progressive/experimental instrumental tinge in or around London that night who isn’t already headed to the Lost Crowns or Friends Serene events, this might be for you.

üF-Beat, 14th June 2018“An open mic with a difference. We are inviting musicians (and sound sculptors) to play but not the usual blues and classics you get in pubs but to experiment and explore. It’s a journey. Without judgement. All styles – jazz, prog-rock, fusion, folk, classical, avant-garde, electronic, sounds, welcome.

“üF-Beat is inspired by the German underground clubs that gave birth to the Krautrock music scene (Kraftwerk, Faust, Can, Tangerine Dream and inspired many British bands like Van Der Graaf Generator, Henry Cow, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, etc). As part of the Crouch End Festival Fringe (the more experimental part of the Festival), we are setting up an interesting musical adventure in the Committee Room in the Hornsey Town Hall with grand piano plus PA, mics, amps and psychedelic lighting. And a bar. It’s free too.

“Bring your instrument and an open mind.”

And that’s it. All else will depend on what you yourself bring to it either as audient or player, and on who else turns up…

üF-Beat
Hornsey Town Hall, The Broadway, Crouch End, London, N8 9JJ, England
Thursday 14th June 2018, 8.30pm
– information here
 

March 2018 – a psych/noise cavalcade in London for Rocket Recordings’ 20th anniversary (9th to 11th March)

28 Feb

There are still some tickets left for the rollicking, rampaging twentieth-anniversary concerts for venerable yet vital psychedelic noise label Rocket Recordings. These will be packing out the Garage and its sister venue Thousand Island in north London for three consecutive days over an early March weekend.

It’s not the first time that Highbury Corner’s been rammed with psychoactive weirdness and well-plumbing musical explorations. In its earlier incarnation as Upstairs at the Garage, the smaller Thousand Island saw hundreds of strange and wonderful leftfield acts pass through; to pick just one example, twenty years ago the building hosted occult ensemble Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels and their ‘Highbury Working’ “beat seance” in which Alan Moore and David J explored and mined the hidden histories of the Holloway Road from the horse goddess Epona to the rapidly poisoned utopianism of the Black House, from the schemata of Aleister Crowley to the madness of Joe Meek. So the Corner’s no stranger to strangeness… but it’s good, for a full weekend, to see strangeness rise so outrightly overground amongst the traffic fumes, creeping gentrification and salsa nights.

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The Rocket days kick off on Friday 9th. Fluxus-inspired Italian garage groove-band Julie’s Haircut mingle smearing, chuckling Ash Ra Tempel guitars and flutes with a Georgio Moroder wobble, while from Sweden there’s creamy-toned garage darlings Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation (whose more recent recordings pulse along on a fluting, closed-eyed Can patter) and the detailed anticipations of Flowers Must Die, who burst shining locked disco grooves through hanging tapestries of improvised “oriental-influenced” psychedelia (like an unexpected frug in a Tibetan temple). A couple of spinoff acts from Salford industrial/sociological alchemists Gnod are playing– the fleshy beats, brutual mechanisms and cellar drones of Chris Haslam’s electronica project Dwellings and the “slow burning vocal loops (and) devotional mindscapes” of A.P Macarte’s AHRKH. Also on the bill is the spontaneous, impulse/emotion-driven semi-improvised “dirty techno” of Coldnose, swilling in acid house, industrial, electro, drum and bass and distorted vocal snarls. For the after-show winddown, there’s DJ-ing from assorted Teeth Of The Sea members, but more on them later…







 
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Sorry, but it’s returns only for Saturday 10th. Although Hills (with their gruff and deafening meditational rock, like Joy Division trapped inside a raga) have had to pull out, their Swedish compatriots Goat (costumed acid/world fusioneers who’ve already made a big splash at Glastonbury) are still in play. So are Italian “kosmitronic” rockers Mamuthones – a delightful confection of slippery tinkling rhythms, chatterbox riffage explosions of lateral noise and sing-song babble, they’re what Dutch Uncles might have sounded like if they had less of a taste for arch Roxy-isms and had taken more of a liking to Pere Ubu. There are also slots for the onetime heavy doom-psych of Hey Colossus (who, like their spiritual forebears The Birthday Party, are evolving steadily out of the chaotic London murk they began in and starting to tell stories) and the bellowing, unreconstructed Tyneside sludge-acid of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Minimalist Malmö trance-rockers Ved preview their imminent Rocket EP ‘DDTT’, and there are sets from amelodic No Wave revisitors Housewives, block-partying noise duo Gum Takes Tooth and the elasticated buzzing Russian “stargaze” band Gnoomes.









 
In addition, there’ll be a rare solo appearance by Teeth Of The Sea’s modular analogue synth guy Mike Bourne who – in parallel to his band work – has recently put out a couple of odds and ends on Bandcamp including the gradually-evolving ‘pætʃ’ album of electronic experiments (including black-and-white vampire music and harmonium/Harmonium-esque sketches with a dash of Geiger-counter, and the vast shadow-steeped minimalism of his soundtrack to Ben Lister’s horror short ‘Wine Dark Sea’). Opening the evening, the blipping electronics, kettle-banging, forceful ranting and rises to aggressive crescendos of Temple Ov BBV (a collaboration between Gnod and Dutch experimental psychedelicists Radar Men From The Moon) resemble a more spacious meeting between early Swans and cultural rhythmatist John Chernoff). DJ-ing for the evening comes from a four-strong squad of Cherrystones, Jamie Paton, Mike Keeling and Chris Reeder.



 
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The highlight of the Sunday show – at least as far as Rocket themselves are concerned – has been their success in securing the British live debut for the duo project by Polish reeds/keyboard player Wacław Zimpel and his compatriot, the “magic brutalistStara Rzeka guitarist/singer Kuba Ziołek, as Zimpel/Ziołek. They’ll be showcasing the psychoactive-minimalist jazz-folk stew of last year’s eponymous album.



 
That said, there’ll be pretty strong competition from trumpet-toting electronic rock partisans Teeth Of The Sea. Having DJ-ed on the first night, they’re returning at full band strength for what will presumably provide another exhilarating set and another chance for us all to slither around in a puddle of non-stick definitions (are they noise? are they rave? are they dream-metal? are they what you might’ve had if Miles Davis had rashly agreed to a Foetus production job?). Also returning are Gnod – this time in person, playing a “greatest hits” set, which you can vote for here).



 
There’s further Gnodness via yet another pair of spin-offs: Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof and Marlene Ribeiro’s work as Negra Branca (around which circulates various splutters including “squashy analogue”, “temple goddess” and “dreamscape”). Veteran psych bass player Gareth Turner is making two appearance – one as a third of the Anthroprophh trio (in which he’s joined by Heads guitarist Paul Allen and drummer Jesse Webb to blend “garage-bound filth (with) wayward, abstract artistry”), and the other as half of Kuro (in which he grabs a double bass and joins forces with violinist Agathe Max for electrically-enhanced string-drones). Finally, there’s also space for Liverpudlian heavy-psychedelic noise-rockers Bonnacons Of Doom and shamanic ritual trio H.U.M. (Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Uiutna) whom I last described as “a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity.”







 
* * * * * * * *

Further details and ticket/info links below… if you’re reading about this for the first time, you’re already stragglers, so get going…

Rocket Recordings 20, 9th-11th March 2018

Baba Yaga’s Hut & DHP present:
‘Rocket Recordings Twenty’
The Garage/Thousand Island, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury, London, N5 1RD, England
Friday 9th March 2018, 7.30pm
Saturday 10th March 2018, 3.30pm
Sunday 11th March 2018, 7.30pm

– information here and here
 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – odds and ends – Dennis bring North-Eastern mining-town pop to London (19th); noisy psychedelic rackets cooked up by Three Dimensional Tanx in Lancaster (20th) and by the Rocket Recordings All Dayer in London (20th – with Teeth of the Sea, Gum Takes Tooth, Necro Deathmort, Housewives, Anthroprophh, H.U.M, Kuro, Coldnose)

17 Aug

I’m not even going to pretend that there’s a connecting thread within this post – it’s just a roundup of Friday and Saturday gigs while I try to fit some more updates into what’s going to be a busy August outside of the blog.

It seems that my rant about ersatz brass bands and the appropriation of Northern British folk forms earlier in the month has borne some fruit, or at least generated some kind of knock-on effect. I’ve just been emailed about Dennis, an eight-piece “folk pit-pop & colliery brass band” from Hetton-le-Hole in the minelands of County Durham, who claim heirdom to “a working class cultural heritage and community spirit.” and who are playing a free gig in London on Friday. In many ways they’re a sugared-tea version of ascerbic ‘80s Hullensians The Housemartins – a soul-touched ‘60s guitar pop, with the soul horn section transmogrified into the distinctively mournful, dusty sound of a pit head brass ensemble.

While some of that comparison’s on point – they’ve certainly got the tunes, and spring even more directly from the culture, with even the guitarists learning pit brass back in primary school prior to an apprenticeship in indie – Dennis do lack the Housemartins’ explicit political bite. There’s little of the gadfly lyrical attacks, or an equivalent to Paul Heaton’s upfront socialism and targeting of privilege and exploitation. Instead, much of their ethos is expressed via their visual identity. Artwork and videos are festooned with mining and trade union banners and footage of workers’ marches, while some clips make use of elderly retirees in mining town social clubs (notably, the latter are invited to join in with the singing, instead of being treated either as craggy scenery or as crushing embarrassments).


 
Outwardly, Dennis seem to deal in softer topics – more personal, adolescent or universal, or more diffuse folky sing-alongs – but a quick closer look reveals an undercurrent of glowingly nostalgic communalism (the band are veterans of fundraisers and community support events), and lyrics which hanker back, obliquely, to community spirit and mutual help. Perhaps more will be revealed on their debut album ‘Open Your Eyes’, due at the start of September when they’ll be playing on home turf at Northumberland’s Coquetfest.

Dennis, and Sapien Records Ltd. present:
Dennis
Mau Mau Bar, 265 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 1LR, England
Friday 19th August 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – information


 

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Over in the North-West, Lancaster psych-punk five piece Three Dimensional Tanx are playing a hometown gig on Saturday. With Stooges, Can and Velvet Underground comparisons in the bag, they’re following a pretty clear lineage: personally, I’m also hearing Question Mark and the Mysterians plus the garage rock end of the Sy Barrett Floyd; while other songs beat relentlessly at the forehead like Suicide or embark on long, stewed musical journeys.


 
What I like about this band is the dogged way in which they conduct themselves, and the way in which they seem to have colonised this particular Lancaster pub – circling around in its schedule like a persistently returning comet and playing several sets each time, as if pushing themselves through an arts lab. Turning the show into a five-decker lysergic sandwich, North-Western vinyl archivist Sie Norfolk (Sunstone Records/Psych Fest) will take slots before and after the band as well as during a break between sets, playing a “psychedelic dance party” from his record collection. If they’re going to continue to make this thing a regular event, I hope that they succeed in turning it into a psychedelic node, feeding more mindstretcher bands into and through Lancaster and beyond.


 

Three Dimensional Tanx + DJ Sie Norfolk
The Golden Lion, 33 Moor Lane, Lancaster, LA1 1QD, England
Saturday 20th August 2016, 9.00pm
information
 

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Staying in choppy psychedelic waters, the Rocket Recordings label has an eight-band concert back down in London, hosted (inevitably) by those persistent stewards of noise at Baba Yaga’s Hut. Many of the names are familiar – certainly to the dedicated noisies who follow the Hut and swing hard with ‘The Quietus’ – but for those who might not know them so well, here’s a quick primer.

As Baba Yaga favourites, Teeth Of The Sea keep popping up in here: a craggy yet celebratory electro-psychedelic throb from a full-band rock lineup embracing techno, polytextured brass, analogue synthwarp, tough corners of metal, and dance imperatives that span Chicago clubs and mud-sodden English field parties. Meanwhile, Necro Deathmort were among the electro-industrialists running rampant at at Cafe Oto last October: an all-out banger project which swings like a macabre wrecking ball across the borders of hard techno, blootered industrial electronica and doom metal. This year’s album ‘The Capsule’ takes a step into the scuzzy pack-ice of dark ambience: glowering, and majestically dour.



 

An explicitly magickal Anglo-French-Swiss trio of Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Olmo Uiutna, the spiritually/psi-ritually-inclined H.U.M. played at April’s Gnod Weekender. Back then I described them as a “psychic cross-cultural art coven”, creating consciousness-expanding installation-cum-ritual sound performances via chants, drones and drums, with both the music and Mark’s improvised narratives drawing on cybernetics, the occult, sound visualisations, and ancient alchemical ideas. They also like Rimbaud, Artaud, Colombian shamans and the Gallic pop of Francois Hardy, which makes for one hell of an art-sprawl.


 

Both Housewives and Anthroprophh showed up in ‘Misfit City’ only the other day, as participants in the current Sax Ruins/Massicot tours – the former an amelodic No Wave-inspired noise quartet, the latter a trio led by a sludge-guitar hero balancing “fifty years of psychedelic culture and esoteric art” on his shoulders.



 

That leaves Gum Takes Tooth, Kuro and Coldnose. Two of these, at least, are two-person teamings. Gum Takes Tooth are drummer Thomas Fuglesang and singer/synth-player/electronoise generator Jussi Brightmore, who pursue a rhythmic communion with their audiences inspired by psychedelic rituals and sound-system block parties (their recent single, Bone Weapon, sounds like a choral mass conducted inside a floor polisher). Kuro is a new project uniting bass guitarist Gareth Turner (an Anthroprophh contributor and half of Big Naturals) with French amplified violinist Agathe Max (a classical music escapee who’s been making improvised sonic textural music for two decades). As for who Coldnose are, nobody seems to know. Perhaps they’re just an idea to fill up the poster. Perhaps they’ll simply coalesce on the day.



 
Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Rocket Recordings All Dayer (featuring Teeth Of The Sea + Gum Takes Tooth + Necro Deathmort + Housewives + Anthroprophh + H.U.M + Kuro + Coldnose)
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 20th August 2016
information

There’ll also be barbeques and beer, the latter an Intergalactic Pale Ale devised by Rocket label people in collaboration with London hopsmasters Brewage à Trois. Yep, there’s a signature beer for psych-happy London heads now…
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – street-level shamanism and more at the Gnod weekender in London, April 9th & 10th

7 Apr

In some respects Gnod – who are curating, and playing at, an extended gig in London this weekend – are a dubby Salfordian reflection of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They share certain working methods – a collective, leaderless initiative springing from communal warehouse living; a passionate ethos of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian feeling expressed in vast, cavernous and primarily instrumental musicscapes; an atmosphere sourced from circulating cultural-economic ghosts of deprivation and stagnation.

As regards the music itself, the parallels shift a little. Though both bands use drones and scattered, marginal snippets of speech, Gnod’s approach is a good deal broader and looser than Godspeed’s blend of classical/minimal string austerity and wind-tunnel punk rage, seeding itself from a variety of persistently underground forms. In the stew are industrial dance music, noise rock and anarchic dub; mystical hippy staples of overtone chanting and psychedelic ritual music (stripped of their frivolous navel-gazing associations and brought back to their mind-opening sources); free jazz; and a swathe of aural art-punk collagery (the latter of which, in Gnod form, recalls apocalyptic Godspeedian end-of-days graffiti, an approving response to Linder Sterling’s sharp visual comments on consumerism, and diary notes from besieged squats and hermit bedsits).

Other information is there if you choose to dig it up. We know that Gnod are from the other Islington – that liminal corner of Salford in the elbow of the River Irwell between the rails, the university and the skeletons of light industry, where the Islington Mill Arts Centre (in which the band live and work) has flourished since the mid-‘90s. We know that multi-instrumentalists and producer-theorists Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine have been in the band from the start: we know that the other two current members happen to be Marlene Ribeiro and Alex Macarte. We know that what seems to be dozens of others (but might be the same six people in a constant shuffle of personae) phase in and out of the band according to need, whim and inspiration; and that these include Manchester improv saxophonist David McLean, journeyman keyboard player John Paul Moran and drummer Chris Morley (once of Welsh experimental rockers Klaus Kinski, now propelling no-wave’d punk-funkers target=”_blank”>Queer’d Science).

We also know that the hybrid steam of subcultural influences and spirit of resistance that boils off from all of these ingredients is winning Gnod awestruck acclaim. ‘The Quietus’ (increasingly the British tastemaker as regards bands negotiating that slippery margin between absolute chthonic obscurity and cultural penetration) has not only sung their praises but been seduced into actually recording with them; while digging into Gnod’s web of ongoing connections and activities shakes up all kinds of other possibilities. The Gnod network of fellowship stretches across Europe and encompasses ever-roving Can singer Damo Suzuki, billowing gonzoid sample-psych from the late ‘80s (revived arsequake veterans Terminal Cheesecake sport former Gnoddist Neil Francis as their current frontman), classic British post-punk (via The Monochrome Set and The Blue Orchids), Louise Woodcock’s multi-media feminist art and a Catalonian psychedelic scene which gives a new meaning to Spanish castle magic (a few years ago, Gnod teamed up with Barcelona’s Black Bombaim as “Black Gnod”).

Having been casting out recordings since 2009, Gnod came up to speed with the beefy-but-spectral ecclesiastic dubgrind of 2011’s ‘INGNODWETRUST’ (following up with 2012’s ‘Science & Industry’, a sort of post-industrial ‘Sketches of Spain’ for trumpet, drones, ironscrape guitar haze and indistinct female declamations). They’re currently best known for 2014’s mammoth 110-minute ‘Infinity Machines’, in which their instincts for mood and social challenge came into focus. For that album, Gnod returned to (scorched) earth and conjured up a classic post-war Mancunian landscape of bones, threat and concrete; marrying a bleak Joy Division grind and deadzone chimes with knell-beating Rhodes piano, distorted boomings like rusting gasholders being beaten into dub drums, and aghast chemtrails of free sax which sounded like black-sailed galleons creeping up the Ship Canal and advancing into the Irwell. Amidst the grindings and slithering drones and the pollutant-smeared sleet, vocal samples of resistance and disquiet gave shape to a dawning and outspoken atmosphere of scepticism; in Breaking The Hex, they finally unleashed an eleventh-hour blast of dub/punk/sax/noise rebellion, while the title track was a harmonium keen over dark sonic bubbles.

While it didn’t wear its manifesto in the shape of a set of placardable lyrics, ‘Infinity Machines’ was a work of Salford shamanism, spitting the city’s ongoing gentrification back into its own face. Since then, Gnod have refused to simply rework it – instead they’ve allowed the feelings that inspired it to lead them naturally into new forms. Last year’s ‘Mirror’ album was written on tour in a slew of traveller’s energy and impacted by destructive mental turbulence within the Gnod circle: inspired in part by rage at government austerity programs which apparently declared war on the poor) propelled the band away from grand studioscapes and into a raw, live feel. It’s more personalised, its anger and alienation borne on pendulous and discombobulated noise-punk anti-grooves. Hands slam onto instruments and slip beats; the music flares into outright rage rather than stern painterly stews. Amidst the overtone vocals and chants, there’s persistent raw yelling; while the soundscapes have shifted towards slowed sirens, and a dragging, coshing pace: a clear early Swans influence.

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Gnod Weekender, part 1: Gnod + Blood Sport
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Saturday 9th April 2016, 8.00pm
more informationtickets
Gnod Weekender part 2: Locean + Water + Futuro de Hierro + H.U.M + Dwellings + Negra Branca + Arkh Wagner + Ayn Sof
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 10th April 2016, 3.00pm to 11.00pm
more informationtickets

Gnod Weekender, 9th-10th April 2016Much of all of the above is going to come together over the course of this weekend, in which Gnod and a host of like-minded friends bring their collective approach to the current homestead of quirky London rock.

Saturday sees a full Gnod performance, supported by Sheffield trio Blood Sport, whose spindly and aggressive style is a ghostly, glassy-toned, black-sun approximation of Afrobeat and soukous. As for what Gnod themselves might be doing, the grind and gnarl of ‘Mirror’ might be their current output but they have a history of changing state and presenting an expectant audience with something unexpected: so be prepared for anything which reflects their history and their potentials (up to and including party blowers, possibly).

Sunday’s afternoon-to-late-night show features Gnod side projects and assorted friends in an eight-hour orgy. Some feature current Gnod members. Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof will be opening the show; Dwellings is founder and bass player Chris Haslam doing hard-beat industrial electronica – dull-thud compulsive flesh beats, like the woody rattle of an early S&M loom, played in tandem with dank gothic synth drones. Negra Branca is a Marlene Ribeiro project, expanding on the “melodic and tonal dreamscapes” which she plays as part of the main band, full of squashy analogue synth shapes and temple-goddess vocals.



In Arkh Wagner, Alex Macarte (one of the more directly mystical Gnod members, if his online talk is anything to go by) teams up with Mark Wagner, a London-based multi-disciplinary artist and cybernetic mysticist, whose working practices are steeped in “cymagick” (a visualization of sound which takes in invisible and occult connections and “the vibratory nature of all things”). Their track Turn Off Your Mind (a narrative backed by a deepening pulse-chime in a confusion of noise surf) is a meditation on staring into the void, and on going too far out.


 

Mark Wagner’s also taking the stage as one-third of H.U.M. (or “Hypnotic Ultrasonic Magick”), a merging with two similarly shamanic noisemakers from Bristol’s ZamZam Records (these being the enigmatic surnameless H, or “Heloise”, who slipped into Bristol six years ago from a French fine arts background and has since been bewitching audiences with gigs that fall somewhere between installation and ritual and take place in caves, swimming pools and sundry found space, and fellow émigré and ambient droner Uiutna, originally from Switzerland but making her own way in the Bristolian avant-garde). H and Uiutna relocated to France recently but return to England for this event. H.U.M. present themselves as a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity… although “French variété” is also on the list, so either a showbiz tinge or a sliver of hidden humour has been worked deep into the atmospheres. Here’s a clip of them in action:


 

Over in Barcelona, multi-instrumentalist, producer and happeneer Víctor Hurtado is the core of a “magic-inspired” scene of ritual psychedelic music. First coming to notice as the man behind acid-assemblage unit Qa’a (a richly detailed stew of lysergic rock and Nurse With Wound noise-and-texture garnishing), he’d soon diversify into a greater spontaneity with Huan (a project which he describes as “animalistic pulsations… almost like a living organism, that is at times sick, dying or excited”). Having collaborated with Jochen Arbeit, Steven Stapleton and more recently with Chris Haslam in the “monolithic, rhythmic, repetitive” Ordre Etern, Victor is bringing his Futuro de Hierro project to London for the Gnod Weekender. His latest musical pathway, it’s an outgrowth of his interest in more extreme and violent forms of electronic dance (such as speedcore and gabba) fused with techno, music concrete and a heightened psychedelic sensibility, featuring “disjointed rhythms” and “destroyed sounds, sonic detritus and live sound manipulation.”


All-female “art-carnage” troupe Water are another part of the Venn diagram which Gnod inhabit. Specifically, they represent the circles which intersect Manchester’s visual arts and multimedia, and the Devi Collective which coalesced around the Mill to commemorate and interpret last year’s William Burroughs centenary. Citing Throbbing Gristle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza and “well-witch horror scores” as creative spurs, they’re currently a five piece of multi-media “queen bee” Louise Woodcock, spoken-word poet/noise-guitarist Laura Bolger, visual artists Amy Horgan and Rachel Goodyear, and Emma Thompson (usually encountered as a DIY/punk/experimental gig promoter).

Soundcloud clips reveal something sounding like post-industrial Maenads: eerie threadlike female choruses and Laura’s dub-echo declamations seeping through a freeform background of womb-bass, malfunctioning engine drones, clanks and whistles, piston hisses, machine scrapes and tekiah blasts. The involvement of at least three women from a visual arts background – plus some striking photos – suggests that there’s a spectacle involved. Evidence of lengthy Water performances inspired by Aleister Crowley, by séances and by water rituals suggest that they’re fascinated with rite, summoning and form in a way which spans primordiality, Greek legend and map-fixes on esoterica ranging from Renaissance art to the present day. All of it slips through the fingers if seized on second-hand: it seems as if Water are an experience best soaked up live.


 

Laura Bolger reappears to add smeared, dreamlike vocals and narrations to the final act on the bill, Locean – another full-on Irwellian music collective in the Gnod and Devi orbit (sharing both Louse Woodcock and sometime Gnod tapesman/ranter Neil Francis). Offering another queasy grinding ride of driving punk-psych, noise improvisations and punk wail, their mantric sound binds The Velvet Underground, Mother Gong, Bauhaus and an abrasive Fall-esque groove in with bass-echo and wheel-rim guitar. As with Gnod and Water, they’re technically minimal but build up to a grand scale with their scratching, multiplying sonic detail: Laura’s words and musings, floating on the sound-wash like scraps of diaries and manifestos, ranges from odd and oblique polemics to numinous childhood memories.




 

As I post this, tickets are still available. If you’re spending most of your time trapped in London’s gravity well, this might be your best chance for a while to get something of that Islington Mill atmosphere and inspiration, and to beat along with Gnod’s dark-toned, troubled yet committed heart.
 

October 2015 – upcoming London gigs – electro-industrial (Necro Deathmort, DeadFader and Cementimental), intercontinental at Café Oto (Maurice Louca, John Bence and Sam Shalabi), fringe jazz (The Geordie Approach and A Sweet Niche), noise-rock (Hey Colossus, Lower Slaughter and Kogumaza), acoustic/alt.country at Daylight Music (Applewood Road, Holly Macve, Arborist) and the Fidelio Trio with Beethoven, Ravel and a Benjamin Dwyer premiere

4 Oct

More gigs for the coming week…

Firstly, Baba Yaga’s Hut are running an evening at Corsica Studios, which takes in the London date of an electro-industrial tour.

Necro Deathmort/DeadFader/Cementimental @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 5th October 2015Necro Deathmort + Deadfader + Cementimental (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB, UK, Monday 5th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £6.00

As if Necro Deathmort‘s name didn’t tell you enough about them, over an eight year career they’ve released albums called ‘This Beat Is Necrotronic’ and ‘Music Of Bleak Origin’ (although more recent albums have seen a shift towards a less morbid and more science-fictional outlook. Dark electronica festival veterans with a drone, doom and noise approach, the project entangles electronic instrumentalist AJ Cookson (The Montauk Project, Medes, Sol Invicto) with Matthew Rozeik (guitarist from post-metal/post-prog band Astrohenge). Their music rises from gurgling boneyard beats, medical-equipment breakdowns, squishy miasmas and faux-sax drones towards something ruined and regal – a grand deathbed vision.

Sharing Necro Deathmort’s current tour is Berlin-based dubstep/noise/electro fusilladeer DeadFader – memorably described as “chainsaw-step” by Baked Goods Distribution (who went on to rave about how the project coughs up “the most seismic grooves imaginable” and that the music “sinks its teeth into your arm and refuses to let go”). I can’t top that as a description right now – have a listen below and see if you agree with it.

Joining Necro Deathmort and DeadFader for the London date are CementimentalEverything I can dig up about these guys is a barking blur of ludicrous disinformation: almost the only lucid facts coughed up from their promotional flotsam is that they’re led by a “noisician” called Dr. Age (or Tim Drage, who may or may not have a daytime/surface job in cute Lego animations) and have been doing “harsh noise, circuit-bending, rough music since 2000AD”. The Dr. is supported by a cast of obscure and possibly imaginary characters – a guitarist called Toru, a part-time turntablist, a man called Mrs Columbo (who handles the incoherent screaming), and “additionalists” called Murray the Eel and Sir Concord Discount (the latter’s a “rock goblin”). Maybe this makes Centimental sound like the joke band on the bill, and there’s plenty of humour in what they do (a couple of early tracks were called Too Long and Merzbow It Ain’t, while a more recent one’s called Commendable Amputation Of An Excessive Gargoyle), but the fact remains that they’ve been going for nearly half again as long as their gigmates. Draw your own conclusions.


 

Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

* * * * * * * *

On the Thursday, there’s a Cafe Oto convening of music from Cairo, Bristol and Montreal, running in parallel to events in Egypt and Lebanon and covering a broad variety of influences and outcomes.

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi, October 8th 2015

Maurice Louca + John Bence + Sam Shalabi (Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK, October 8th 2015, 8.00pm) – £12.00/£14.00

Cafe Oto, in collaboration with Thirtythree Thirtythree   and Nawa Recordings, bring you the second edition of the five-part event series entitled ‘Labyrinths’ (or ‘Mātāhāt’ in Arabic) and based in London, Cairo and Beirut over October and November.

Maurice Louca is an Egyptian musician and composer born in Cairo where he lives and works. As well as being the co-founder of the bands Bikya, Alif and Dwarves Of East Agouza, he lends his sound to numerous projects, composing for theatre, film and contemporary art. Inspired by many influences, from psychedelic to Egyptian shaabi, his second album ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot)’, released on Nawa Recordings in November 2014, shattered the confines of musical and cultural labelling and was dubbed by many as a game-changer for the region’s bustling independent music scene. Amidst his collaborations and inconspicuous touring across Europe and the Arab world in the last few years, Louca has sought a richer and much more complex sound. ‘Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan’, the fruit of such intense reinvention and a departure from his first solo album ‘Garraya’, is a work that leaves ample space for fluidity and improvisation, paving the way for unique live renderings.

From a family background rich in classical pedigree and firmly embedded in Bristol’s forward-facing electronic music culture, John Bence has pooled a breadth of influence scarcely credible for a composer only entering his second decade, and now he is starting to put his inspiration into live and recorded motion. As a producer he is already thinking ten steps ahead, often incorporating voice or home recorded percussion into his cyclical technique of scoring, recording, manipulating, re-scoring and re-recording in waves, creating heady, intoxicating ripples of harmony and noise. An obscure snippet of dub-plate drone under a previous moniker was enough for Nicolas Jaar, who instantly approached him about a release on his Other People label. Six months on, ‘Disquiet’ was released – a masterful hybrid of classical and electronic clocking in at a tantalising ten minutes. More, much more, is coming. Mercurial, elusive and of seemingly limitless imagination, John Bence is rising to the surface.

Sam Shalabi is an Egyptian-Canadian composer and improviser living between Montreal, Quebec and Cairo, Egypt. Beginning in punk rock in the late 70s, his work has evolved into a fusion of experimental, modern Arabic music that incorporates traditional Arabic, shaabi, noise, classical, text, free improvisation and jazz. He has released five solo albums (including ‘On Hashish’- a musical mediation on German writer Walter Benjamin; ‘Osama’, an audio collage on Arabophobia in the wake of 9/11; and his most recent ‘Music for Arabs’), five albums with Shalabi Effect (a free improvisation quartet that bridges western psychedelic music and Arabic Maqam scales) and three albums with Land Of Kush (an experimental 30-member orchestra for which he composes). He has appeared on over sixty albums and toured Europe, North America and North Africa. Recent projects include the release of the sixth Shalabi Effect album, a duo album with Stefan Christoff, two albums on the Italian label Sagittarius with Beirut, Turkish and Egyptian musicians and a tour in the eastern U.S with Alvarius B (playing solo oud). He is also releasing ‘Isis and Osiris’ (a new composition for oud and electronics) on Nashazphone as well as releasing an album with The Dwarves Of East Agouza (a Cairo based trio with Maurice Louca and Alan Bishop) while currently working on his sixth solo album.

Tickets and up-to-date information are here and here.

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“More accomplished musicians have a loud argument about what ‘jazz’ even is these days,” say Chaos Theory Promotions. Their Jazz Market evenings continue to provide space for such arguments, and here’s another one…

Jazz Market - The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche, 9th October 2015

The Geordie Approach + A Sweet Niche (Chaos Theory Promotions present The Jazz Market @ The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, London, E2 9AG, UK, Friday 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £5.00/£7.00

The Geordie Approach is possibly the oldest secret from three internationally renowned musicians who’ve been working together for over ten years. It features acclaimed Leeds guitarist and producer Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland/Shiver/TrioVD), and Norwegian musicians Petter Frost Fadnes and Ståle Birkeland, best known for playing sax and bass respectively in Stavanger Kitchen Orchestra. This uncompromising and experimental trio pursues music within loose improvisational structures, adding a surprisingly broad range of flavours to their overall sound world. The trio has a reputation for adapting and utilizing their performance space in an extremely effective and engaging manner. Birkeland, Frost Fadnes and Sharkey produce musical elements that often are contradictory in shape, moving between melody and noise, ambient grooves and abstract textures. They have performed across Europe, Japan and the UK in churches, art galleries, improvisation clubs, squats, abandoned tobacco houses, jazz festivals, concert halls and flamenco clubs. Each performance is a unique experience.

We hail the return of jazz punk trio A Sweet Niche to The Jazz Market after a seriously impressive performance in 2013. Band composers Keir Cooper and Oliver Sellwood (on guitar and saxophone respectively) explore an aesthetic of intricate rhythms & song-structures within a punchy energetic rock band format. The nature of their collaboration is unique; Keir is an award-winning non-academy artist and Oliver is an award-winning PhD composer and academic. Despite their two tangential angles of experience, they have a shared musical vocabulary honed over nearly two decades. With new album ‘EJECT’ on the way in 2016 (and the recent addition of Big Beat Manifesto drummer Tim Doyle to the band), it’s high time we pulled these performers out of the murky underworld they reside in.

Tickets are available from here, and up-to-date information is here.

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There’s another Baba Yaga’s Hut evening on the same night as the Oto gig, this time concentrating on various noise-rock angles (from the reformatting of classic rock to the restructuring of sound to the straightforward joy of a gibbering hardcore racket.) See below.

Hey Colossus/Lower Slaughter/Kogumaza @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 9th October 2015Hey Colossus + Lower Slaughter + Kogumaza (Baba Yaga’s Hut @ Electrowerkz, The Islington Metal Works, 7 Torrens Street, Angel, Islington, London, EC1V 1NQ, UK, 9th October 2015, 8.00pm) – £9.00

Variously from Somerset, Watford and London, six-piece Hey Colossus https://www.facebook.com/heycolossus have spent a decade gradually becoming alt.rock darlings thanks to their   journey through assorted doomy noise rock avenues. Their current recipe involves slowing down and narcotising their alleged classic rock influences (Fleetwood Mac is one of those cited) via psychedelic echo and a certain post-rock dourness. It works well too – much of the time they sound like a guttering Led Zeppelin on strong cough mixture, or feed crunching brass-riff processionals and Stoogesque whomps through an amber-toned ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ filter.

I suspect that the concept of supergroups doesn’t fit into noiserock and post-hardcore. Nonetheless, Brighton’s Lower Slaughter  does sort of fit into that category, uniting people better known for other bands (bass player Barney Wakefield for Shudder Pulps, guitarist Jon Wood for “harsh party music” outfit Fat Bicth, Max Levy for vertiginously nervy singing in King Of Cats) and welding them together into a noisy, queasy-confident, raw-scream whole.

Creating hypnotic drones and grooves via two guitars and tom-centric drumming, Nottingham quartet Kogumaza have their feet in sludge metal and in post-rock; but while the latter’s become an increasing predictable and conservative genre Kogumaza have set out to reclaim some of its earlier, more inventive ideas (such as the lapping sonics of Seefeel) via their fourth member, live sound mixer Mark Spivey, who brings in dub-inspired approaches and old tape-looping techology to further manipulate and displace the band’s sound both live and on record. Fond of collaborations and split releases, they’ve also been known to bring in an unexpected banjo (although they probably won’t tonight).


 
Up-to-date info here, tickets here.

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And finally, from all of this noise to something acoustic for a Saturday noontime…

Daylight Music 202

Daylight Music 202: Applewood Road, Holly Macve + Arborist (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, UK – Saturday 10th October 2015, 12.00pm-2.00pm) – free entry, suggested donation £5.00

An early afternoon of songwriter-folk, America and alternative country from one of ‘Misfit City’s favourite free/pay-what-you-like events:

Applewood Road is an Australian/American alliance of three solo songwriters – Amy Speace, Amber Rubarth  (also known as one half of The Paper Raincoat) and Emily Barker (also known for her work with the-low-country and The Red Clay Halo). In September 2014, they all met for the first time in a cafe in East Nashville. Two hours later they had written the song they called Applewood Road. They booked studio time at Nashville’s super-cool analogue studio Welcome To 1979, and the following week recorded the song live to tape, with just double bass as accompaniment. So excited were they by the song, they decided to expand the idea in to a whole album. Six months later they reconvened in Nashville to write, rehearse and record songs to make up a full album, with the project and album all called ‘Applewood Road’. This is their first show in the UK, with the debut Applewood Road album due for an early 2016 release on Gearbox Records.

Bella Union label boss Simon Raymonde says, of Holly Macve“little is known of Holly other than she is a 20 year old from Yorkshire who appeared out of nowhere in Brighton late last year. I had a tip-off to go to a basement bar where she was playing. In a room full of beery boys chatting across all the music beforehand, the minute Holly opened her mouth the room fell silent. Hers is a rare gift.” Simon signed her shortly afterwards. The label has yet to release anything formally, but Holly herself has posted a demo track onto Soundcloud (see below), and she’s already won support slots with Ben Howard and Mercury Rev on the strength of what she’s offering.

Having previously worked as a songwriter around France, London and Dublin, Mark McCambridge played his first show as Arborist in February 2013, opening for James Yorkston in Belfast. A solo tour of Ireland followed before impressive performances led to notable support slots alongside Low, Cat Power, Echo & The Bunnymen and Alasdair Roberts. In May 2015 Arborist released the country-tinged ‘Twisted Arrow’. Recorded during dark winter nights in Belfast and in Dayton, Ohio (and featuring vocal harmonies by Kim Deal). A debut album is due this coming winter.

 

* * * * * * * *
Not finally, in fact – there’s a chance to squeeze in a last-minute classical addition, since it’s always a shame to miss a premiere.

The Fidelio Trio, 2015

The Fidelio Trio @ The London Chamber Music Series (Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, UK, Sunday 11th October 2015, 6.30pm) – £9.50 to £29.50

The celebrated Fidelio Trio – Mary Dullea (piano), Adi Tal (cello), Darragh Morgan (violin) – perform Beethoven’s hugely popular ‘Ghost Trio’, with its iconic eerie slow movement, and also Ravel’s remarkably imaginative and colourful ‘Piano Trio’, premiered 100 years ago this year in Paris in 1915.

In between comes the premiere of Irish composer Benjamin Dwyer‘s ‘Nocturnal’, inspired by Benjamin Britten’s famous own ‘Nocturnal after John Dowland (for solo guitar)’, and drawing upon a theme from Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’, as well as a madrigal by English early seventeenth-century composer Thomas Wilbye. There will be a free pre-concert talk at 5.15pm in the St Pancras Room at Kings Place, in which composer and LCM Series director Peter Fribbins interviews Benjamin Dwyer about his new work and his interest in the music of Benjamin Britten.

More information here and tickets here.

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More October gig previews coming up shortly…

August 2002 – live reviews – Prong + Needleye + Foe @ The Underworld, London, 22nd August 2002 (“pin-sharp vintage thrash, bridge-girder hardcore tunes and even a couple of sandpaper-throated singalongs”)

24 Aug

Watching from a sparsely attended moshpit, it strikes me that Foe are an uncommonly serene rock band, especially for a metalfest like this one. It’s partly the demeanour. Stage right, Jason Carty with guitar, looking like a slightly-built Viking who’s opted for books and meditation instead of battleaxe. Stage left, the looming ox-powerful figure of bassist Crawford Blair, with the blank, heavy-lidded poise of the expert craftsman at work on his five-hundredth perfect replica. Only Paul Westwood – lashing at the drums with pop-eyed concentration – seems to have read the metal-frenzy rulebook, expressing enough frantic urgency to cover for all of his bandmates’ apparent dispassion.

To be fair, it’s a dispassion that’s illusory. Foe care profoundly about what they do, sending long clean jags of rippling twelve-tone math-metal out into the air. Each Foe piece seems to have been built out of a spasming DNA helix, infallibly convulsing and tearing off in a new direction every fifteen seconds. Time signatures and pitches leap about like fleas. In half a minute alone, King Crimson, Naked City, Henry Cow and Dillinger Escape Plan appear in the music, tip a hat, and disappear again. The overall impression, though, is of the passionate serenity (that word again) and protracted seriousness of a Frank Zappa guitar solo, mapped out on graph paper and rearranged for post-punk power-metal trio. Crawford reluctantly delivers comments between songs, as if his arm’s being lightly twisted by an offstage manager. One song’s apparently called Pick On God for a Good Laugh.

Dolled up to the nines, the London metal crowd line the Underground’s upper terrace and look on. Black clothing which creaks; carefully-selected offensive t-shirts. Cleavage and translucence for the girls, studs and sculptured hair for almost everyone; black-and-white goth paint here and there. Puzzled looks almost everywhere, as Foe continue their intricate, tone-carving wranglings. All of the metal regalia, though, is outshone by a single Foe fan in a homemade melange of furry lite-pastel artificial fabrics, a choker made of luminous toys, trousers made from railwaymen’s safety vests, and (the crowning glory) a Hello Kitty rucksack. It’s as boldly twisted as any of Foe’s shape-shattering melodies. A couple of new converts scuttle into the moshpit, as the numbers click into place and joyful grins break across faces. It’s tough getting this kind of rocket science across to an audience.. but there are always more free agents to pick up.

Click. Next.

“All right, fuckers, we’re Needleye!” bawls a hefty bloke with mascara, a shoulder-length sweep of black Silkience hair and a mysteriously off-white jutting broom of Catweazle beard. Unlike Foe, Needleye have no intention of letting the music do all the talking. Four stretched-out men do their best to look roof-scrapingly tall while decked out in swarms of tattoos, PVC, scalplocks, leather and the kind of satanic Pharoah beards you suspect they’ve swiped from Slayer’s make-up cupboard. Plus there’s one wraith-thin possible-ladyboy in black-metal corset, pancake and black lippy, scowling down at a stack of technology while jabbing and tweaking it with the sadistic, nipping fingers of a bully at a girl’s school.

The boxes respond with a counter-barrage of ripping samples, clamorous plane-crash textures, and Uzi drumbeats. There’s no actual drummer. Drummers just aren’t lean and scary enough any more. There are some green “alien” lights, though. And some angular guitars that have to be played with a convulsive whole-body flick, like grain bending in the wind while in the throes of an epileptic fit.

The music? Fear Factory-style cyber-thrash, if you hadn’t guessed already. Head Needler Duncan Wilkinson vomits up phlegm-wads of incomprehensible words from his pancreas, presumably before Cannibal Corpse can go in after them with their nice new bonesaw. Two guitarists make noises like sheet-metal presses on nasty speed, while a space station goes berserk in the background. There is much lunging up and down.

The next half-hour is filled by relentless music that hogs the air like a swarm of flies. As yet another identical piece lifts off from the stage and barrel-rolls over the bouncing audience, I suddenly realise what’s been nagging me about the unvarying tempos, the constant machine-gun beat spray, the static web of guitar thunder. Those frozen and unyielding dynamics, the way nothing whatsoever changes throughout Needleye’s set… For all of the tortured rage and costume drama being acted out in the electro-terrorism onstage, this is actually about reassurance. This is ambient music for headbangers.

(At some point during Needleye’s ranting, I get introduced to a woman who makes sculptures of toilets out of chocolate. Somehow this makes sense. It’s that kind of an evening.)

After the theatrics, watching returning metal veterans Prong is almost like watching B.B. King. Actually, that’s not too far off. Underneath their muscular, knowing thrash assault is more healthy hot space than you’d expect. I keep having R’n’B flashbacks: like Aerosmith before them, Prong have a healthy sprinkling of the other black music to them. There’s swing and swagger behind their raucous noise (more than a few moments are closer to Cameo than to Metallica), which leaves some healthy breathing room in the music between their crushing riffs.

And compared to Needleye’s painstaking obsession with image, this band pay no more than basic-black, sufficiently shaggy attention to the metal uniform. With sixteen years of changes behind him, singer/guitarist Tommy Victor is the only remaining original Prong member: and with the band’s links to darker musicians like Killing Joke and Swans now consigned to the past (guitarist Monte Pittman’s most recent gig was with Madonna), they’re able to bathe a little more in mainstream American metal. If it rocks, don’t glitz it.

If there’s a little more compromise to Prong’s music than there was back in the days when they were thrash-metal spearheads, it’s a compromise made entirely with their fans and no-one else. As the atmosphere of the now-packed Underworld begins to build up to New-Year’s-Party level, Tommy makes no attempt to conceal how much he’s enjoying himself. He’s the first man I’ve ever seen deliver those crypt-rattling hardcore/death metal vocals with a broad grin (instead of gurning in agony as if undergoing brutal rectal surgery), and he revels in bringing his Cockneyfied punk singing-accent back to its hometown.

Sweeping through a long set that draws on pin-sharp vintage thrash, bridge-girder hardcore tunes and even a couple of sandpaper-throated singalongs, Prong are as comfortable as they are tight. A band with enough history, and enough of a grasp of history, to relax into the flow and enjoy their snug place in the pulse of tradition. There’s more than one route to serenity.

Prong online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Spotify Tidal Instagram Amazon Music

Needleye online:
Homepage MySpace Soundcloud Last FM Spotify

Foe online:
Facebook MySpace Bandcamp Last FM Amazon Music
 

July 1997 – album reviews – Sadhappy’s ‘Good Day Bad Dream’ (“a contemporary progressive group that’s unafraid to mingle technique, horror, street-smarts and a mordant, lethal wit”)

4 Jul

Sadhappy: 'Good Day Bad Dream'

Sadhappy: ‘Good Day Bad Dream’

The voice on the telephone chuckles. “Sure, it all made sense to me. You just burn it out, past the pain. / Sure it’s all toxin: you just work it out of your system.” Somewhere between a Berklee College education, an Olympia punk statement and the world of woodshed ravings you’ll find this – rolling down a quiet highway like a fatal fog-wall.

For their fourth album, the alliance of drummer/sample mangler Evan Schiller and bassist/spoken-word freak Paul Hinklin has convulsed yet again to install a new Sadhappy lineup. Out goes eccentric Critters Buggin/Tuatara sax player Skerik. In comes Michael Manring, ’90s bass guitar genius, for a very different approach to the power trio. Two basses might sound like a recipe for disaster – ‘Jazz Odyssey’ doubled up, or cheesy slap-funk duels. Sadhappy get around this by realising the implicit power in the timbre of the bass guitar: the added resonance, the volcanic rumble it’s impossible to ignore, the sheer booty-shaking body. And they go for it full-bloodedly. In the resulting low-end carnage, saxes and guitars are not missed.


 
A lot of this is to do with Manring, who’s rivalled only by Tony Levin, Victor Wooten and Doug Wimbish as a contemporary redefiner of bass guitar. Not content with just a jaw-droppingly dextrous technique (whether grooving fingerstyle, slapping, tapping, or picking), he’s as liable to mutate melodies by abrading them with an EBow and/or in-flight retuning. And, as you’d expect, ‘Good Day Bad Dream’ is a treasure box of bass sounds – the levitational noises on Lost in Bass; the chainsaw punk rumble on Maintenance Pissed and Chronic Subsonic Tonic; the multitracked interplay of worming harmonics, chunky strums, and wolf-wails on The Kitchen Sink. But it’s no mere technique-fest.


 
Yes, for the most part it’s instrumental. And at its most basic (Home Lobotomy Kit, Honeymoon Deathbed) it tugs us through a darker edged and more credible fusion revamp via Hinklin’s brutally precise twanging, growling basslines, Schiller’s clattering, tight as a mantrap drums, and Manring’s distorted, storming, articulate leads. And there’s a strong element of the roaring hybrid of thrash, fusion and left field virtuosics that fuelled Manring’s last album ‘Thonk’, recorded as an attempt to escape his inconvenient reputation as a jazz-leaning New Age muso. But in meeting the streetwise intelligence of Schiller’s drumming and Hinklin’s sardonic New Music/punk’n’sarcasm influences, Manring’s restless and complex musicality has completed its journey away from the New Age racks.


 
‘Good Day Bad Dream’ emerges from this as an album blending multiple strands of modern electric music with surprising success. It’s an overlapping low end approach of eerie smoggy textures, wrapping up art punk, weird funk, jazz, dark ambience, sampledelia, progressive rock, sound massage, and a dash of psychological sewage. The trio nod to Mingus, the smouldering dark star of modern jazz, with a strutting and dextrous cover of his sarcastic II b.s. With the fifteen minutes of deathly textures and world-swallowing bass oceanics on The Death of Webern, they’ve got that scary isolationist-ambient game sown up too.


 
Evan Schiller’s light touch throughout ensures that the band are never bogged down. Within The Kitchen Sink’s light-fingered ostinatos, King Crimson riff choirs and E bow calls, his precise percussion approach rings, swooshes, crashes and drops out to leave perilous canyons in the texture of the music. On SBD, he shines with an array of sparse metallic taps and lethally timed buzz-rolls under a lowering cloud of bass, a dark canopy of wails and murmurs through which Manring winds skeletal insect-trails of overdriven bass, twisting and skirling like cyborg bagpipes.
……………………………………..



 
But the key to Sadhappy’s success in reaching out beyond the fusion ghetto is Paul Hinklin’s acidic humour, which lurks somewhere in the triangle between Tom Waits, Frank Zappa and Bill Hicks. In the recurring, repulsive figure of Oscar (a forty-nine-year-old backwoods Beavis with a voice like a plastics bonfire), he gives Sadhappy their own all-American idiot guide, a lottery sweepstake winner with “money comin’ out of his ass” swaggering over a racket of bellowing grunge-garage art rock riffs. His new rich man’s horizons lead him only as far as the porn racks at the general store, or to the bar; a coarsened American Dreamer content to do nothing more than wallow in his own filth and boast about it (“Yeah, you gotta work for the rest of your life: I own the streets I piss in!”).



 
On False Information – a sort of post-Laswell take on a ‘Remain in Light’ groove, burrowing through post-rock and hip hop en route – Hinkler offers us a lighter look at the aches and absurdities of the modern human condition. “All the guilt, all the shames, all the blames, / all the payments that you pay for crimes you never even committed, / never even thought of – what’s up with that?”. Schiller’s pin-sharp sample-heavy beats jab and dodge like a lethal flyweight boxer as Hinklin’s sardonic voice chuckles at enlightenment: “You see past everything and you say, this is just me plus garbage. Hell, if I couldn’t see the garbage, then I would be the garbage. Thank God I can tell I’m not the garbage. “‘Scuse me, honey. I have to take myself out to the trash. What is truly me will come back to dinner. It’ll just be me minus garbage.””


 
Sometimes though, the humour goes darker. In the harsh fable of Hammering Man, the townsfolk turn out to watch the unveiling of a statue: “a testament to the nameless brave, to the unselfish, the holy slaves. The ones who gave their bodies and minds to the army, the ones that gave themselves to the might of the all powerful industrial machine. The ones that had made America strong, the ones that had made America beautiful. The ones that, through no fault of their own, had turned it into a wasteland.” Small wonder that the statue crumbles, toppling to pin the spectators to the earth.


 
In the brooding dusky groovescape of Oscar Gets Laid, we get to see a younger Oscar, callow and innocent, rubbing up for the first time against the world that’s going to corrupt him. Manring’s mixture of rattling ominous echoes and scritching, coppery industrial harmonics send a shiver down the spine, as Hinklin’s murmured vocals explore paranoia and fascination down the back alleyways of the mean streets – malevolent shadows, and the breath of heroin ghosting out of the skins of hookers. At last: a contemporary progressive group that’s unafraid to mingle technique, horror, street-smarts and a mordant, lethal wit.


 
It’s also one that’s firmly rooted in the present, soaking up the lessons of grunge, dance, and sampler culture, while still playing the arse off all comers. Even if ‘Good Day Bad Dream’ sometimes strains the limits of its excellence by being just a little too diffuse, too dependent on fusion fallback, Sadhappy move through their music with assurance, imagination, presence and a brutal vigour. And that’s an all too rare combination.

The smile on the face of a charming, constructive killer.

Sadhappy: ‘Good Day Bad Dream’
Periscope Recordings, PERISCOPE RECORDINGS CD04 (7 96873 00042 0)
CD/download album
Released: 2nd July 1997

Get it from: (2020 update) Original CD printed in a run of 1,000 – CD and download best obtained from Bandcamp.
Sadhappy online:
Homepage Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo
Google Play Spotify Amazon Music
 

July 1995 – album reviews – Mark Tschanz’s ‘Blue Dog’ (“vast expressionistic tableaus”)

13 Jul

Mark Tschanz: 'Blue Dog'

Mark Tschanz: ‘Blue Dog’

It starts well: a dark slow maelstrom of synth choir nailed down by a harsh hammering drum, then synth double bass adding a steely spring over a tickle of menacing percussion. Pagan synth-brass blares force their way in: finally a brandy-soaked voice like the High Priest of the Temple of Dark Desires roars “this is the life!” and in come slamming techno beats and snarling, snorting metal guitars. Vangelis jams with Nine Inch Nails? Well, there’s a few perceptions busted.

I first heard about Mark Tschanz from a chance encounter on a train, when someone described him to me as a Swiss Peter Gabriel. This was a little misleading. Mark Tschanz is in fact a Swiss Elvis Presley as orchestrated by Carl Orff and directed by Cecil B. De Mille, with words by Jim Morrison and spiritual guidance by Mephistopheles on mescalin. And while Gabriel mostly writes intimate and vulnerable psychological dramas, Tschanz always opts for vast expressionistic tableaus: angels, typhoons, and circuses casting stark shadows against deserts and discoloured skies.


 
His music is correspondingly epic – symphonic synthesized Euro-pomp and harsh Prokofiev pitches melded with steamy drum loops and biting guitars, and topped off with the stony intensity of the itinerant, isolated lone bluesman. He also has an ear for uncanny lyrics – unless it’s just the tricks of translation – with imagery ranging from the sharply poetic (“the white clown who blows great big bubbles full of screams”) to the plain bizarre (“I’ll be the heat inside your dog”). And he’s blessed with the kind of dark, monolithic baritone voice that sounds like the pronouncements of a huge pagan idol. It gives his brooding forays into colossitude an edge that rescues them from the “big-music” cliches they skirt.

Like his obvious antecedents – Dead Can Dance – Mark Tschanz has enough sheer presence to justify the scale of his musical canvas. And it is on a huge scale: his dark meditations on the human spirit are swollen to Wagnerian proportions. The Immortals broods thunderously on stagnation – “I am the church upon the hill, and I am full of infidels / As they are all trying to kill what of me still wants to rebel.” Both Happy and Rattlesnake charge off into darkly-orchestrated funk-metal, sizzling dance loops wound around with metallic sheets of funk-wah guitar and scraping, rasping ba-a-a-d vocals – “the world takes us like a whirling wind, and it would be so good not to be wondering… / Something in you knows, baby, / whatever makes you happy is what will set you free.”

The stark loneliness in Time is illustrated with an epically mournful rush of thunderously weeping cellos and guitars, as Tschanz ties himself together with starving dogs, swollen rivers and weeping women in a net of timeless patience and pain. And the apocalyptic forebodings of Storm are medieval ones – the world, in half-conscious anticipation, slowing to a halt, angels and demons preparing for battle in the skies, and earthbound horses huddling close to fences in nameless dread and desire for human warmth. Tschanz hovers above all this with the sardonic air of someone who knows what sort of bill has to be paid: “one day you will turn around, / maybe only for a second, / and there will be no-one to call, / and there will be nothing at all.”

Yes. All right. At its worst it’s pumped-up goth pomp; and one might question why everything has to be so gigantic. Incubus, in particular, sounds like a cathedral hosting a black mass in full swing: screeching metal guitar, menacing choral stabs and deep belling synths as Tschanz roars and broods on the seductions of immortality (“Look at history unfold. / Are you sure time can’t grow old? / I’ve got something on my mind / that wants you to live forever.”), acknow,edging that such desires are rarely pure – “I hear it howling!”. Mr Crowley, they’re playing your tune.


 
Still, many of these songs somehow knit the existential dreads of Robert Johnson’s blues to the blood-soaked threads of Eastern European history that thrum through the music of Gorecki or Orff; as in Time, the blurred carnival blues of Love Song, or the tear-smudged Rain which takes the striving and drama of human achievements, of wars good or bad, of systems that swallow and actions significant, and reduces them all to washed-away impermanence. And Tschanz knows when to skewer the pomp with humour: as The Life peaks, he snarls “I drink to fiction and monsters and paradise, / I drink to the light, the out of sight – I drink a lot!”

The threatening, showy grandeur of ‘Blue Dog’ might not be for everyone, but if big-bastard stadium paganism is your bag then it’ll stalk you, grab you by the ankle and won’t let go. And if his musical world doesn’t implode under the weight of its own epicness, we can expect great things from Mark Tschanz’s savagely baroque imagination. The Wicker Man probably has this playing on his headphones.

Mark Tschanz: ‘Blue Dog’
Warner Music UK, 0630-10606- 2
CD-only album
Released:
10th July 1995
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand.
Mark Tschanz online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Last FM Spotify Amazon Music
 

SWOONAGE

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