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.
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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.
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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…