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November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Society Of Imaginary Friends’ ‘Time Saturated Soiree’ with The Astronauts, Taktylos, Beth Jones, Marius French and Nighmar Ascousky (4th); Revere, Alasdair Maclean and Colm Mac Con Iomair play Daylight Music (5th)

30 Oct

Those frowning former commercial and light industrial blocks in Wood Green have been enjoying a change of function in recent years as the area gradually, awkwardly morphs into a London art hub (while rents and avaricious developments continue to push the city artists and shoestring events out of the near-east-and-centre). I’m guessing that this will only accelerate, with the artier spaces around the backstreets near the library and the old gasometers acquiring glossier licks of gentrification as the money follows. At the moment, it’s hovering in the grey area between pop-up and plush: for now, slightly outré things can still happen.

One such thing has been happening for a few years now, with the astonishingly assured art-pop quartet Society Of Imaginary Friends running musical soirees at the high-rep vegan eaterie Karamel Café (as they do in other venues dotted around London – Soho, Clerkenwell, Kingston – and occasionally in the Orkney Islands). It’s taken me a while to catch up with them.

Time Saturated Soif Soiree, 4th November 2016

Society Of Imaginary Friends presents:
‘Time Saturated Soiree’: The Astronauts + Taktylos + Society Of Imaginary Friends + Beth Jones + Marius French + Nighmar Ascousky + Onjdrew DJ set
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 4th November 2016, 8.00pm – free entry – information

Frequently tinged with some degree of rebel rhetoric and counterculture spirit (albeit dappled, in turn, by outright theatricality), on this occasion the Soiree makes a tongue-in-cheek grab for the occult aspects of British daylight saving. “As the clocks go back, we celebrate together the extraordinary gift of an extra hour of life from the God Chronos. Of course this means that not only do we have an extra hour in bed on Sunday but an extra hour is also available to enjoy our Time Saturated Soiree on 4th November. We will feature artists abundant in time and time signatures of the non linear variety.”

Society Of Imaginary Friends are curating from somewhere in the middle of the bill. I’m surprised that I haven’t found out about them before, since they’re right up my alley – dramatic song stories and glam-chanson-prog-folk operas which can be as smooth as mountain lakes or tossed around like cartoon galleons (that is, when they’ve not turned inwards and intimate, for creepy journeys into the shadowy nooks of the house or the cupboard under the stairs).

Orkney-born singer Louise Kleboe, (who recently wowed an audience at Organ Reframed in a teamup with William D. Drake) serves as powerful female voice and figurehead. The music (drawing on Orcadian lays and Balkan jags as much as it does English art pop and psychedelic folk) is underpinned by a constantly flexible electro-acoustic palette of piano, accordion, guitar and violin; plus sundry keyboard samplers which cough up sleight-of-eardrum aural tricks and tinkles to take us deeper into the band’s conceptual toybox. Kate Bush would be an obvious comparison; so, too, would a braver Goldfrapp; you could also stir in the Gothic intimations of Danielle Dax (if not so much of the thorny racket) and add shades of the overt theatrical danger which Holly Penfield has brought to both her singer-songwriter work and her cabaret shows.

Below are two Society songs – the smoothly rhapsodic The Moors (something to draw in and caress the New Agers) and The Easy Way (to grab them by the lapels and flip them over for a shakedown). The fact that the latter can slip into a video cut from footage of Elem Klimov’s harrowing war film ‘Come and See’ – and thrive there – speaks volumes about its own strident power.



 
In line with the soiree theme, the Society will be presenting a miniature new temporal project of their own. “The briefest of rock operas – ‘On The Third Stroke’, based on the life and times of Ethel Jane Cain, the very first speaking clock, (‘glamorous and exact, the living embodiment of precision… she sat between the tick and the tock… swinging in the hammock strung between the Sun and the Moon…’, as ‘The Idler Magazine’ put it.” No preview samples are available, unfortunately, but here’s that original clock with that original voice…


 
Society guitarist Brian O’Lenehan puts in double duty on this concert, since he also plays in skeletal-spacey instrumental fusion band Taktylos. The Society hail them as “live from the event horizon”: a little more helpfully, the ‘Guardian’ describes them as “Philip Glass meets Soft Machine”.

It’s a fair description of a band in which a collection of London musicians – the others being journeying drummer Tom Cambata, wind-synther Rod Arran, German keyboard player Chris Bihlmaier and bass guitarist David Rees – seem to gingerly and painstakingly align their ingredients (squishy late-‘70s fusion tootles, pared-back guitar shapes, mathematical percussion arrangements) into place as if they were jellied blocks of unstable explosive, rather than chunks of musical conversation. I’m not sure whether the resulting minimalist leanings are the results of being tentative or of attempting to dab a tune into shape with the fewest and most economical strokes (like a Japanese ink drawing). Still, assuming that Taktylos don’t go roaring off down more standard bulked-up jazz-fusion lines in the future, they’ve got themselves a potentially interesting niche.



 
Topping the bill (I think) are the most recent iteration of The Astronauts – longstanding post-punk absurdists spun off from onetime new town Welwyn. Formed in 1981 (and, despite langours, never quite gone since then), they’ve sometimes had to singlehandedly hold up the town’s early ‘80s anarcho-punk reputation, standing defiant and crooked to the “affluent deadzone” qualities into which the place has sleepwalked. It’s kind of de rigeur to include ‘Rock & Reel’s description of front man/last man standing Mark Astronaut as “the post-punk Dylan of Welwyn Garden City” and add that certain people also risk a Prestwich verbal maiming by mentioning him in the same breath as Mark E. Smith.

He’s actually much more straightforward than either (perhaps “a kitchen-sink Robert Calvert” might be a better description). As for the band, while they never quite match the driving, morphing truculence of The Fall they’re accomplished post-punk chameleons – flicking between West Coast punks or hippies within the same few bars, suddenly huddling in dank subways with the young Paul Weller, or morphing into a studiously awkward Zombies as they back Mark’s singular satellite-town vision.



 
This particular evening may be bolstered with actor, autism ambassador and mordant performance poet Cian Binchy dropping by for a return appearance; meanwhile, Nighmar Ascousky (hyperactive polymath, Soiree evening regular, fantasy geek and friendly Laveyan Satanist) will be taking time out from his acting, modelling, painting, film-making and singing work in order to deliver some “shock and awe” poetry (and perhaps just take the opportunity to sit down for a while). Beyond that the evening starts to rampage further into the astrological and mystical, with returning “fabulously, beautiful, talented, rising star singer/songwriter Beth Jones representing the sun, and “supremely talented multi-instrumentalist Marius French covering the same task for the moon. There’s a chance of further off-the-list performers; and there’s a DJ set until the early morning.

Regarding Beth and Marius – they might be gigantic talents, or even catalysts for sympathetic magic; but I can’t find more information on either of them anywhere. Those glowing references could all be hype, or the Society could be lining up a genuinely impressive bill. The chances are that it’ll be the latter, since the roll-call of previous Soiree performers is a delightful array of present-and-correct, past-blasts and future shinings. Just to give a partial picture, past shows have included music contributions from William D. Drake (the endearing grand-and-gawky ex-Cardiac keyboard wizard); harpsinger Sheila Moyan; Virginia Plain (a.k.a Nick Watkinson, cross-dressing ex-frontman of late-’70s power-pop heroes The Jags); psychedelic keyboards warrior Kosmic Troubadour; Kirsten Morrison (rising folk-baroque queen and Lene Lovich ally); and woodwind player William Summers (who’s had Circulus, The Loki Broken Consort and Princes In The Tower in his bagful of bands). The same run of shows have had recitation, chats and rants from (among others) Camden rapper Lid Lid, poets Keleigh Wolf, Ernie Burns and Gabriel Moreno, and ‘New Internationalist’ artivist/activist/commentator Jamie Kelsey Fry.

Best to enjoy this kind of thing while it lasts. Who knows – it might not be long before occasions like this are pushed out by encroaching cash and a tidal wave of karaoke salsa; but even if that turns out to be so, I don’t think the Society will take it lying down. They’re irrepressible. We’d see them pop up somewhere else, soiree in tow; somewhere where they were least expected.

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Meanwhile, showing no signs of slowing down (and still in residence in long-gentrified central Islington), Daylight Music returns after its half-term break.

Daylight Music 237, 5th November 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 237: Revere + Alasdair Maclean + Colm Mac Con Iomaire
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 5th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Slightly tweaked press release:

“When it comes to influences, Revere has had a firmly open-door policy over their fifteen years of existence, incorporating chamber pop, dance music, post rock and progressive elements into their trademark wall of sound, garnering a great live reputation for their multi-layered wall of sound. After fifteen years, two albums, nine EPs and a clutch of singles (and with around fifty musicians having passed through the band), they’re amicably calling it quits, with the current and final six-piece choosing to play their last British show at Daylight Music.

(For fans of occasion, the actual last ever Revere show is a Dutch farewell at Vessel 11 in Rotterdam on 3rd December).



 
“In the middle of the bill is a set by Alasdair Maclean, singer, songwriter and guitarist for legendary band The Clientele, who formed a long time ago in the backwoods of suburban Hampshire (initially playing together as kids at school, later rehearsing in a thatched cottage remote from any kind of music scene but hypnotized by the magical strangeness of Galaxie 500 and Felt and the psych pop of Love and the Zombies). Alasdair still recalls a pub conversation where the band collectively voted that it was OK to be influenced by surrealist poetry but not OK to have any shouting or blues guitar solos. From that moment on, they put their stamp on a kind of eerie, distanced pure pop, stripped to its essentials and recorded quickly to four-track analogue tape.

Instantly identifiable, The Clientele sound like no one else, although they are cited as an influence by bands as diverse as Spoon, Panda Bear, The War on Drugs and the Fleet Foxes. It’s been said that the greatest bands always create their own individual sound; The Clientele have gone one further and created their own world.


 
“In a crowded field of outstanding Irish fiddle players and interpreters of traditional music Colm Mac Con Iomaire is unique. From school trad band Kila and street busking to wildly popular days playing fiddle with The Frames, his voice is unmistakably his own and his music bears distinctive creative hallmarks which have as much to do with his personality and character as with his impressive technical mastery, musical authority and exquisitely expressive playing. Almost twenty years ago Colm struggled to describe his early attempts at composition and made a distinction between
‘tunes’ and ‘music’. With his father’s people coming from the Irish-speaking Conamara Gaeltacht, Colm learned ‘tunes’ (the dance music which makes up much of the instrumental repertoire in Irish traditional music) and sean nós unaccompanied singing; on his mother’s side there was classical instrumental ‘music’ on the violin and piano. The creative tension between these two notions produced a player, composer and film score arranger who seems always to have been aware and inspired by the dualities in his musical and cultural world.


 
“During the late nineties Irish broadcaster TG4 offered Colm opportunities to write scores for film, allowing him to allowed him to progress and mature as an orchestrator of his own compositions. The compositions Colm made for these productions came from an interior place whose deep roots lay in traditional Irish music but also in an older way of life and thought, consciously mediated through his personal life lived out in the contemporary space. The title for Colm’s first solo album ‘The Hare’s Corner/Cúinne an Ghiorria’ signified not only an acknowledgement of the importance of that old culture but also an urgent plea for
‘the hare’s corner’ in contemporary culture… a still place where space and time are set aside for something beautiful for its own sake. The title of his second, ‘And Now the Weather’, refers to the introduction to the final item on radio and tv news bulletins, viewed as a means of keeping the distress of reality at bay: it is a title riven with irony.”

 

July 2016 – upcoming and ongoing gigs – some pickings from the Frome Festival, west of England (1st-10th)

2 Jul

While I missed the chance to plug the Sin Eater Festival a few weeks ago, I’m just about in time for the modest fireworks which herald the Frome Festival in Wiltshire.

I’m too late to plug the opening party (in which Frome’s own electro-poppers Sweet Machine shared a bill with psychedelic synth-cabarettier, rock biographer and all-round performance character Alan Clayson); I don’t have much to say about the festival’s big-draw act Reef (currently enjoying a new revival of their original ‘90s revival of 70s blues-rock); and I feel sorry that the free gig by “ukular fusion” band The Mother Ukers doesn’t involve furious Mahavishnukulele jazz shredding (instead of being a variation on banjo-happy rockgrass covers). But there’s plenty more on offer, so here are a few other things picked out from the billing.

It’s by no means everything on offer (the festival’s full of visual art, talks and theatre; there’s plenty more jazz and classical; and there’s a show by Billy Bragg which will probably take care of itself) but these represent the bits-between-the-bits which are closest to ‘Misfit City’s natural constituency (if such a thing exists).

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The Magical Folk Garden @ The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, BA11 1BH, England
Tuesday 5th-Friday 8th July 2016, 7.30pm each night
– information: Tuesday 5th / Wednesday 6th / Thursday 7th / Friday 8th

At the upstairs room at the Archangel pub, The Magical Folk Garden continues to turn itself into an annual institution with a series of cushion-strewn/standing-room-only unplugged gigs, creating a “euphonious forest of folk and contemporary acoustic music from some of the UK’s finest talents.” It’s all pretty well-scrubbed and tasteful – there’s nothing to scare the horses here. That said, a few of the performers might own horses, and some might whisper them; while a few might go all ‘Poldark’ and ride off on one, bareback and bare-chested, a honey-coloured guitar bouncing up and down on the withers (it all probably depends on the state of the booze and the pollen count).

The Tuesday show features two Bath acts – lit-pop cello-and-guitar duo The Bookshop Band and romantic solo-balladeer Tom Corneill – plus the sunny pure-pop/psychedelic fizz of Trowbridge’s The Pigeons.


The Wednesday show has a band-backed performance from Frome’s Al O’Kane (a gravel-and-honey country-blues-folker who, with his mix of rolling American roots guitar and British mysticism, can come across as a one-man ‘Led Zeppelin III’). Also playing are Alex Taylor (bouncy, jazz-and-funk-tinged, broadening his sound and filling out his pockets with pedals and loops) and young songwriter Emma Shoosmith, whose output has ranged from thoughtful folkified Taylor Swift covers to the lilting ska-tinted song shown below.




 

The Thursday show has a chamber-folk air. Bookshop Band multi-instrumentalist Beth Porter returns with her own augmented-string quartet band The Availables and her own clutch of intricate literary songs. Also on board are the strings, percussion rustles and detailed guitar of Rivers Of England (fronted by Rob Spaulding) who, although they take on some pretty familiar modern folk tropes, land them in an interesting marginal territory in which the early-’70s John Martyn and the early-’80s Julian Cope sit down to exchange lines and tips. The bill’s completed by the lost-boy charm of Avebury singer-songwriter (and Nick Harper protégé) George Wilding with his warm, abstracted songs of distraction and heartbreak (simultaneously soothing and haunting).




 

The Friday folk-final involves wayward Bristol-and-Bath folk septet The Cedar. Beth Porter makes her third Magical Folk Garden appearance of the week as the band’s cellist, alongside five other musicians. Playing a variety of instruments and implements (from guitar, glockenspiel, viola, organ and ukulele to calculator, screwdriver, musical and tri-square) they weave Neil Gay’s slightly distracted songs into a musical fabric that’s sometimes Belle-&-Sebastian communal, sometimes music-school precise, and sometimes as frayed as a scrap-basket oddment.

The rest of the evening gently mixes Western with Western. Accompanying herself on guitar, baritone ukulele, harmonium or shruti box, Bradford-on-Avon’s Jess Vincent delivers a set of original country-folk songs with a sound and demeanour that’s seen her compared to both Iris DeMent and Kate Bush. Evening openers Ali George and Ruby Brown do their own take on Gram-and-Emmylou duets, filtered through Ali’s trunkful of original English folk/clawhammer guitar songs.




 

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The town’s Rook Lane Chapel arts centre is hosting plenty of events. These two in particular caught my ear:

Snowapple
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Thursday 7th July 2016, 7:30pm
information

Snowapple is an outstanding female harmony trio from Amsterdam who draw on folk, classical and chanson influences, in unique, charming and beautiful arrangements of original songs. Having sold out the Granary for the last two years, Snowapple have earned a reputation all over Europe and the US, and this year appear in the perfect setting of Rook Lane Arts.”

Praying For The Rain
Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
information

From the blurb: “Known for their dynamic and compelling live performances, Praying For The Rain blend contemporary folk, Celtic and world music with irresistible rhythms, memorable melodies, beautifully crafted vocals and inspired musicianship. Their music brings to mind a modern blend of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Robert Plant, to Fleet Foxes and the Dave Matthews Band, creating a truly uplifting experience. Following last year’s sell out concert, Praying for the Rain return to Rook Lane for Frome Festival 2016. Expect an exhilarating night of high energy, movement and wonderfully engaging songs.“

I’m sure I remember Praying For The Rain from when I was a regular at Martyn Swain’s wonderful Dreamhouse acoustic nights, a refuge of warm bohemian chic and unplugged music alongside the Splash Club in scuzzy mid-’90s Kings Cross. These were the same shows at which I was delighted by up-close performances from Marcy Detroit, Simons Warner and Whitaker and many more… there’s a little bit about Dreamhouse here, since someone’s been writing a crowdfunded book about the Splash years (and you can still pitch in to help it). Dreamhouse was the kind of night where you could expect table candles and belly dancing interludes most weeks; but during their own slot, Praying For The Rain completely overflowed the little Water Rats stage with finger-cymbals, accordions, cellos, cirrus-band harmonies and what seemed like about ten people on whispering percussion, temporarily transforming the place to a full-on New Age folk temple.

Although they seem rather more bluesy and straightforward-rootsy than I remember through the gauzes of memory, it’s good to see that they’ve lasted the twenty-year distance and garnered themselves a new up-to-date list of comparisons.


 
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Over at the Granary, there’s a semi-unplugged triple bill and a visit from a ‘Misfit City’ favourite.

Three Is The Magic Number presents:
Three Corners + Molly Ross + Gum Girl
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Friday 8th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like

Regular Frome-and-Wiltshire unplugged night Acoustic Plus takes on a new identity for this three-act bill of “original songs, haunting vocals, mesmeric music” celebrating a diversity of approach via three different acts. Molly Ross offers fledgling piano pop touches on folk and R&B; Three Corners (with their roots in 1980s new-wavers The Impossible Dreamers, and featuring ex-Dreamers Nick Waterhouse and Caroline Radcliffe) play sparse, questing songs around more of a loose blues-and-jazz-informed tip; but the one I find most interesting is the dreamy beat’n’texture pop of Gum Girl.




 
Arch Garrison
The Granary @ The George Hotel, 4 Market Place, Frome, BA11 1AF, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554307

As Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra mastermind Craig Fortnam and Stars In Battledress‘ James Larcombe explore gentle, intricate psychedelic folk: partly gentle clean chapel tones, partly kosmische textures, partly chalk-ridge geomancy. A duo of Craig’s nylon-strung acoustic guitar and James’ assorted keyboards (organ, monosynth, harmonium and piano), their two albums’ worth of songs have enabled Craig to bring the smaller and more personal songs he writes to life, when they don’t fit the grander feel of NSRO. Their ‘Will Be A Pilgrim‘ album was one of my favourites of 2014 – an unexpected gem of small voice and thinking space. Support comes from local favourites Dexter’s Extra Breakfast, playing Dave Clark’s soft-petalled and “Weltschmerzian” songs of middle-aged reflection.

 

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John D Revelator
The Griffin, 25 Milk Street, Frome, BA11 3DB, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.00pm
– free event

At the Griffin, John D Revelator will be bringing along their dark-tinged acoustic swamp-pop for a free show. Even if there’s not actually such a thing as the “Somerset Levels delta”, they’ll lie to their last tooth and their last busted guitar string trying to persuade you that it does exist.


 

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Towards the end of the festival, the second of Frome’s two substantial concert halls is offering two very different performances on the same day. One is a post-lunchtime concert of vividly Catalonian Spanish classical music from the twentieth century; the other is an evening show of polymusical fusion from an all-star collective trio.

Elena Riu & Clara Sanabras: ’A Taste Of Spain’
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 1.00pm
information

Pianist Elena Riu and singing multi-instrumentalist Clara Sanabras (the latter on voice, harp, oud, charango and guitar) perform selections from the ‘Songs & Dances’ of Catalan impressionist/miniaturist composer Federico Mompou and the ‘Spanish Dances’ of his compatriot Enrique Granados, interspersed with Clara’s performances of the original Catalan folk songs on which Mompou drew.

Birdworld
Cooper Hall @ Selwood Manor, Jacks Lane, Frome, BA11 3NL, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 8.30pm
– information http://cheeseandgrain.ticketsolve.com/shows/873554308

“Birdworld is made up of musicians Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion), Gregor Riddell (cello/electronics); and Alex Stuart (guitar). The project came about when Gregor and Adam met during self-directed Banff Creative Residencies where they discovered a shared interest in blending electronic and acoustic sounds. Since Adam moved to the UK in 2014 they have continued to develop BirdWorld, adding Alex along the way. Combining their artistic voices as both instrumentalists and composers, the trio will showcase each members original compositions arranged specifically for this unique musical exchange. Creating a unified sound that blends the inspirations of modern jazz, world music, contemporary classical, rock and electronic music in a rare concert setting.”

Here’s a video of the original two-piece in action, to give you two-thirds of an idea of what might be on offer.

 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – London murk and sarcasm – an industry-baiting evening of 30-second songs by the Pocket Gods and mystery buddies; plus noise rock from Arabrot, Shitwife and Godzilla Black at Corsica Studios

15 Mar

Two London gigs for Thursday…

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Pocket Gods @ Zigfrid von Underbelly, 17th March 2016

The Pocket Gods (’30 Second Song Set’) + tbc
Zigfrid von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London, N1 6NU, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 7.00pm
– free event – more information

Here’s the chirp – ”London lo-fi indie popsters The Pocket Gods play a free St Patrick’s Day gig in Hoxton, London to promote their groundbreaking album ‘100×30’ – which features one hundred songs, all of which are thirty seconds long and some of which will be featured. Free entry and some great support bands!“

Sweet, isn’t it?

Here’s the rest of the story.

‘100×30’ was released last December. It’s a sharp, timely yet self-mocking broadside aimed at the music industry as a whole, and also at the amorphous greed’n’gratification culture that’s gulping down what remains of it. Masterminding this collection of half-minute jabs are The Pocket Gods – shabby knowing masters of multiple styles, mix’n’matching shreds of chart pop, punk, synth-blurb, soggy psych and outright pisstakes (including Blur, and Dappy from N-Dubz). Sometimes they sound like a back-bedroom Zappa Band operating on cheapjack equipment from a small-town branch of Argos, and sometimes like a more eclectic Half Man Half Biscuit aiming more of their jokes at the towers of power.

Threaded through the whole album is a sense of indignation at the implosion of music as a workable career (“my royalty statement is a thing of wonder, and keeps me in a state of permanent hunger”) and the dismissal of artists who can no longer be counted as fresh and malleable meat. One lyric points out, with sardonic but righteous indignation, “I can write songs about anything, because I’ve lived a little longer”; and there’s quite a bit of moping about the prospect of a future which involves little more than making unwanted music on a laptop. Across the tracks, the subject matter paints a scathing, resolutely unimpressed picture of vulgarity and short-termisms. Songs attack the rent hikes which force music venue closures; lampoon the encroachment of multinational corporate interests into independent business (the entwinement of Orchard and Sony takes a pounding, which – since Orchard is releasing the album – is a particularly fanged move); and pour sarcasm onto side topics like the sorry parade of boss-pleasing reality-TV contestants, the cluelessness of A&R men and the ludicrous table prices at the Brits (apparent sideshows which point towards the bigger problem). The Gods even slag off laptop music and mount a harpsichord-driven assault on the memory of Steve Jobs. So much for the individual being independently empowered by technology.

With the proven flexibility of the Pocket Gods, it’s tempting to assume that the brace of performers elsewhere on the album are just pseudonyms. Not a bit of it. Some – including oddball pop mutterer Michael Panasuk and fuzz-guitar flourisher Brian Heywood – appear to be rogue film, television and library music composers. Two more are former chart stars (Owen Paul and Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset, each damn near unrecognisable).Some veer towards cabaret (the semi-genteel, character-vocalled acoustipop of The Low Countries) or sarky contrarian Scottish dolour (Bill Aitken). Others even sound like glossy successes in waiting, including power-popper Katy Thorn, gobby R&B-er Tricey R, immaculate faux-Californian rockers Dead Crow Road, countrified Elvis-alike Osborne Jones, twinkling white-boy hip hoppers Foxgrease and full-bore electropop drama queens Hands Of Industry. The burnished countrified chart-pop of Heywood Moore even sounds as if it could make a killing in the American Bible Belt (sweeping out of the same CCM radio playlists as the likes of Lexi Elisha – not bad for a band that’s actually from Dunstable). None of this seems to stop any of them from joining in. Some of them may be taking a long-delayed, heartfelt chomp at the hand that feeds so grudgingly, or refuses to feed at all; or which they see starving others, from audience to artist, both fiscally and spiritually.

Despite all of this justifiable resentment, it could all turn precious and self-righteous were it not for the jabs of anti-pomposity which the Gods and their friends turn in on themselves (the musician-skewering of ‘Small Town Musos’ and ‘Mac Book Ho’ made me laugh out loud, as did a song about the natural progression from ambitious Radio 1 listener to experienced Radio 2 couch-fogey). There are also the other moments – the flip side to the flipness – in which the half-minute song limit becomes a lesson in how much can be achieved in a short time. John Rowland’s plunderphonics and piano instrumentals; upROAR’s quick echo-laden harp passage, Orb collaborator Another Fine Day’s gorgeous burst of echo-soused kalimba; or when writer and narrator Michael Hingston (who’s already spent two tracks guesting with the Pocket Gods, bidding goodbye to the swelling ranks of closed-down London music venues in a hardbitten wise-barfly drawl) gently blows thirty seconds of tentative, unaccompanied saxophone.

Finally, there’s the persistent realist-absurdist wit of The Pocket Gods themselves – party hosts, project backbone and the only act formally confirmed as performing at the Hoxton gig on Thursday (yes, I was going to get back to that…) Come along to see who else makes it. Meanwhile, you can play through the whole album below; and even buy it (if you feel that that won’t somehow spoil either the joke or the protest).

 

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Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Arabrot + Shitwife + Godzilla Black
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Thursday 17th March 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Arabrot + Shitwife +Godzilla Black @ Baba Yaga's Hut, 17th March 2016Norwegian noise-rockers Arabrot have spent a decade and a half feeding classical, Biblical, existential and surreal tropes through a grand and gothic avant-rock mangle. As you can imagine from this, both their gigs and records have had an immediate raw-lifed, raw-liver feel to them, despite what ‘The Quietus’ describes as the band’s “velveteen grace”. More recently, group leader Kjetil Nernes spent two years recovering from throat cancer, during which he’s fought off and defeated encroaching death not just via hospital treatment and homestay but by hurling himself back into Arabrot recording and touring. Having admitted that the experience was “as close to real physical and psychological hell as you can go”, Kjetil has spun his reactions into Arabrot’s latest album, ‘The Gospel’, which is suffused with spectres of death, illness and his own defiance.

Shitwife have possibly the most discouraging band name in history – an evil grunt of a handle, a surly trucker’s growl of a monicker. We last encountered them in the listings for a Christmas gig, in which they were described as an “astonishingly brutal drums/laptop/electronics juggernaut fusing rave, death metal, noise and post-hardcore.” As far as I know, they’ve had no reason to mess with that formula in the intervening three months. Here’s a clip of them in action at a different gig last September (just a short walk away from ‘Misfit City’ HQ, not that I knew it) plus a more recent video showing laptop/keyscruncher Wayne Adams engaged in a painting session (and looking far sweeter than he ought to, given that his other band’s called Ladyscraper).


As I’ve said before, Godzilla Black seem to have made themselves into London noise-rock favourites while not actually having much to do with noise-rock at all. Most of the latter’s in the brawling muscle which they apply to their John-Barry-writes-for-Ruins-or-King-Crimson tunes; and in the garnish of hiss and fry lying on top of that muscle, adding a pitch and pinch of disintegration to their drums-and-horns pimp-roll. Otherwise what I’m hearing is spy-movie glamour all the way, albeit gone slightly weird: extra panicky descends and clangings, sax stranglebursts and sampler squeals. Brand new single ‘First Class Flesh’ sounds as if its about some kind of disassociative disorder: singer John McKenzie boggling, all glazed and juicy, about body parts but not actually about bodies (ending up neither sexy nor creepy, but away in a skewed and disfocussed branch-off of both).


 

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More March gig previews shortly…
 

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