Tag Archives: David Callahan

Upcoming London gigs this weekend – Daylight Music on Saturday (with Lucy Claire & Imogen Bland/HART/Thomas Stone/Laish); Hangover Lounge on Sunday (David Callahan/The Left Outsides)

25 Jun

Two good-looking free gigs from Daylight Music and The Hangover Lounge are happening in London over the weekend. Details below.

Daylight Music 195: Lucy Claire & Imogen Bland + HART + Thomas Stone, with Laish (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 27th June, 12pm to 2pm) 

A Daylight Music exclusive, with the premier performance of musician Lucy Claire and dancer/choreographer Imogen Bland’s ‘Moon/Yew‘. The pair present a stark and beautiful music-and-movement exploration of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’. The music is a mix of classical ambience, field recordings and glitchy electronics. An ethereal atmospheric sound, warm and comforting yet strange and haunting with choreography telling a tale of isolation, ritualistic acts and unclear paths ahead. It’s the first time that Daylight has welcomed a dancer to the stage, making this an even more special occasion.*

HART is the ethereal shoe-gazing dream-pop/folk project of singer/songwriter Daniel Pattison. His debut EP is out in May 2015 and features string arrangements from the acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly.

Thomas Stone creates his immersive music using contrabassoon, samplers and activated percussion, exploring themes of ritual and presence while blurring the boundaries of electronic and acoustic sound production. An enforced simplicity runs throughout the compositions – long tones underpinning slowly evolving motifs punctuated by cyclic rhythms, and gentle dissonances breaking to moments of fragile beauty.

In between the main performances this week will be shorter ones from Daniel Green, a.k.a. Laish.  A member of Brighton-based acoustic revivalists The Willkommen Collective, he’s made a name for himself as a writer and deliverer of captivating stories in song: on this occasion, however, he’ll be treating us to improvised guitar sets.

There’s a Soundcloud preview here.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

Up-to-date information on the event is here.

* Actually, it’s not the first time – they had a flamenco dancer onstage last year with Ida y Vuelta. It says a lot about just how much happens at Daylight Music that they can actually forget things like that while writing their own blurb.

******

In spite of fairly frequent visits to Daylight Music, so far I’ve not made it down the road to visit the affiliated Hangover Lounge (part distant cousin, part slightly-more-rumpled neighbour). If they’re going to put on more free bills like the one on this Sunday, I’ll have to make more of an effort.

David Callahan + The Left-Outsides @ The Hangover Lounge, 28th June 2015

David Callahan + The Left Outsides (The Hangover Lounge @ The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JB, Sunday 28th June 2015, 3.00pm – free)

David Callahan is best known as the frontman – or co-frontman – of two bands. The first of these, The Wolfhounds, was a mid-’80s post-punk band associated (for good or ill) with NME’s infamous C86 cassette to which they contributed alongside The Wedding Present, a young Primal Scream, The Pastels and others. While C86 set up and juxtaposed what were to become British indie archetypes (on the one side a parochial pop of jangling guitars and under-achievement, on the other an abrasive noisiness and surreal tendencies), The Wolfhounds were always a cut above, aided by a jagged garage-noisy way with a melody and their broader conceptual focus, plus David’ smart pointed way with a lyric and his arresting vocal (a precise, razoring punk sneer a few shades away from bitter blues – imagine a less theatrical Matt Johnson, if that helps). ‘If You Know What I Mean’ has described them as “the Stooges tempered by Big Star poetics” – read some more about that here.

Much of this carried over into David’s next project, Moonshake: one of a number of diverse but loosely-affiliated East London post-rock and indietronica bands (also including Stereolab, Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and A.R. Kane) who, for a few years, vigorously stripped out and rebooted pop and rock forms with experimental techniques. For the first few Moonshake albums (an exciting mangle of dub bass, guitar-noise and sample barrages owing equal amounts to hip hop and musique concrete), David worked in an exciting, two-headed arrangement with an equally distinctive singer-songwriter, Margaret Fiedler. When this ended in acrimony (and after Margaret wheeled away with half of the band to form Laika), David led Moonshake on his own for two further albums, adopting an increasingly cinematic and introspective approach (I’ve got a review of the last one here).

Since reuniting with a reinvigorated Wolfhounds in 2005 (a belated reunion album, ‘Middle Aged Freaks’, arrived nine years later), David has reverted to a more guitar-based sound but continued to write and record, with his broad and trenchant perspective intact. This Sunday’s solo appearance looks as if it’s going to be a rare acoustic set from him – featuring “all-new songs, sometimes in funny tunings” – but as he recently dug out his old Moonshake sampler for work with Manyfingers, he might surprise us with something a little more torrential and noisy.

I know less about the opening act, The Left Outsides, so the following is stolen straight from their Facebook page:

The Left Outsides are Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton, a duo from Walthamstow, London who have been playing together since the winter of 2003. Both are former members of The Eighteenth Day of May and Mark is a former member of acid expressionists Of Arrowe Hill. Alison’s considerable viola skills have been put to good use in numerous bands including Saloon and Mathew Sawyer & The Ghosts. Their debut EP ‘Leaving The Frozen Butterflies Behind’ was released on the I Wish I Was Unpopular label in January 2006 and their album (titled ‘And Colours In Between’) was released in May 2007 on Transistor Records. A live album titled ‘Live At The Drop Out’ was self-released in January 2008. A 7″ single ‘The Third Light’ was released on the Hi-Beat Records label in July 2008. The Left Outsides are currently awaiting the release of their most recent album.

Up-to-date information on the Hangover Lounge gig is here.

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’ album (“like ghost trains – whistling and rattling across the room”)

10 Oct
Moonshake: 'Dirty And Divine'

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’

Even as a small chunk of mid-’90s London rediscovered how to swing and posed for Time Magazine, life carried on as usual for most of the rest of us. The weeks of quiet desperation, the litter in the corners, the urges and the grinds that don’t match up. While the Britpop scene whooped it up in the happening neighbourhoods, Moonshake were sitting up late with whitened knuckles in rented high-rise rooms, or prowling the mean streets spitting out stories.

Moonshake’s intensely visual songwriting and soundcraft always seemed born of hard-boiled cinematic overload. On 1994’s stunning ‘The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow’, lead ‘Shake Dave Callahan rubbed the unsparing urban soul-mining of The The up against The Young Gods’ overpowering walls of sampled sound, and beat both of them for sheer grit and presence. Determinedly guitar-free, taking their cornered-rat savagery from Callahan’s paint-stripping sneer and Raymond Dickaty’s ferocious arsenal of treated saxes and flutes, Moonshake’s harrowing street-literature songs were heavily sample-textured: but they travelled light and fast, drawing on tooth-rattling, uptight, Can-inflected dub grooves. They were twenty-first-century urban blues, as tough and unyielding as steel wire. Most importantly, sound was everywhere: cramming into the ears, surrounding the head with a blurred, terrifying out-of-scale world.

For some, the methodology of post-rock has served as an excuse to get lost, to unshackle yourself from precision, swallow your own guitar, womb yourself up in universal sonic tissue and drop out of language altogether. For Moonshake, it goes the other way. Callahan’s bitter, precise, dramatic language – shading his harsh sorties into hard-times lives with a poetic flair reminiscent of a punk Dickens, or of Brecht and Weill – is central. It’s just that rock instrumentation is too imprecise, too blunt to do it justice. Post-rock possibilities, and the overwhelming landscapes regurgitated by samplers is the only sensible framework for the way this band captures the world. Moonshake songs are like ghost trains – whistling and rattling across the room on forbidding, chilling loops of warped and mangled sampled sound, whirling you through a clatter of noise; dropping you into the thick of things; fucking with your sense of placement and angles, and thrusting gritty reality into your face.

‘Dirty And Divine’ is – at first hearing, anyway – more modest in its scope than ‘The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow’, That album lunged out of the speakers and went for your throat, both the epic stinking script and score for a vast, hideous film about the downside of the London experience. In comparison, ‘Dirty And Divine’ is more Mike Leigh to its predecessor’s Terry Gilliam. The ram-raided orchestra samples are pared back in favour of metallic whooshes and industrial-sump bubbling; Dickaty’s been given a free rein to mutate himself into an ensemble of mangled brass and breath. Centrally, Callahan’s songwriting emphasis has narrowed down. The clank and snap of Cranes sets the agenda, capturing the ebb and flow of a locked-down, clock-watching workforce in widescreen: “the builders are earning their daily bread / and they make sure they eat it every day at one o’clock… / The housewife’s dreams evaporate / as her husband’s nightshift ends at eight.”

Yet ‘Dirty And Divine’ also provides the backdrop for rebellions against the timeclock and the grind. Most of the album homes in on the stories of individuals. Where previous songs were a pageant of strain, entrapment and stagnation (a whore and her regulars, a protracted divorce) this record deals with what happens when frustration breaks out and escalates into quests for further, greater stimulation. The chance-addict of Gambler’s Blues gropes for a chance to be empowered, to face a challenge he can respect (“sometimes I pluck order out of the form – / I slack for a moment, the moment is gone”) but pays the price anyway: “I’m a gambler, and sometimes I lose, / but the kick’s in the playing, not paying the dues. / Always an offer I cannot refuse, / always a time-bomb I cannot defuse.”

In Exotic Siren Song, a young man hits the wide world for a perilous life of opium-dens, brothels and high stakes, keeping company with gun-runners and fraudsters, dodging pirates and police. Initially rejoicing at the chance to live by his wits, he ends up jaded, complaining “nothing now is really new.” The adrenalin-hooked petty crook on Up For Anything lives by his instincts and his appetites – “I’ll balance on the balcony, twenty-one floors high, / swinging from the vapour trails, ropes in the sky… / I can’t count the conquests and I can’t tell the time.” The buzz is still strong enough for him to dismiss the damage that will come, when “in ten year’s time I’ll be the boy with the mashed potato body. / All this champagne living on beer money, / out among the bumper-car people who never say sorry.” His counterpart, the elusive criminal in House On Fire (think Nine Inch Nails meets ‘Badlands’) has perfected the art of living on the edge. His wife may break under police questioning, his invisibility may evaporate and the law pounce on him, but he’s already working on plans for manipulating his fellow jailbirds.

He’s the exception – in most songs the downslide is never far away. Throughout the album, speed and appetite are portrayed as a drive that becomes a monkey on the back. Yet while it lasts it’s a hell of a ride. Another of Callahan’s savage stress-head characters snarls: “You’re too open, and you’re too easy. / When I’m out, I do as I damn well pleasey… / The only light I need sweeps through the window… / Keeping a monster comes in handy. / Hard candy…” To stop and think in this rolling, callous world is to invite despair.

To do him credit, Callahan unflinchingly represents this as well, offering up a couple of his most intimate songs. The make-or-break musings of Nothing But Time ponder the next step (“now I come to a fork in the road”) and weigh up possibilities: “Shall I cause some destruction that none shall understand, / undyke my finger and flood the whole land?… / I let you go and then you come back. / Shall I pick at your nature until you react?” Ultimately, plans are left perpetually hanging in weary, lonely resignation (“I’ve got my own design for something quite grand… / You can appreciate even if you don’t understand,”) all wrapped in rolling Arabian horns and the gonging sound of empty vessels.

Too late. The Taboo (swathed in flugelhorn and rippling harpstrings) surfaces at the end of the album: the last moment of awful drunken clarity before the final fall. It’s a lament for the loss of honesty – for the lost ability to be vulnerable and unveil the tender truth of yourself. Cards should be on the table, but no-one will make the move. “If I were to be really careful, / and take pride in everything I do, / I would show you what ‘really’ is – / and I can’t, ‘cos it’s taboo.” The seasick backing music swirls: vision flattens. The loved one recedes across the table, behind a wall of well- worn gambling chips and smeared shot-glasses. “If I were to show you how I feel, / would you call me blue? / If we could reach out and touch each other? / But we can’t, ‘cos it’s taboo.” Almost touching, but out of sight. House wins.

This album is a brutally compassionate mausoleum to burnout, made from raw words and cracked sinews. Lay those dusty dreams to rest.

Moonshake: ‘Dirty And Divine’
C/Z Records/World Domination Records, WDOM028CD (5032059002822)
CD-only album
Released: 4th October 1996

Buy it from:
Various suppliers, or second-hand.

Moonshake online:
Facebook MySpace Last FM

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