Tag Archives: The Wolfhounds

May 2018 – two rare London showings for Chinese punks Birdstriking (20th & 22nd May) with Radar Men From The Moon, One Unique Signal and The Wolfhounds

16 May

I hate punk. No, scratch that. I hate what punk too often turns into – the institution of punk, the ossification of what ought to be immediate, the sense of discovery and an armful of bright options that stales and turns into an array of choking conservative forms; the way it all ages too quickly and turns into the faded favourite shirt you wear out of stubbornness.

It’s not supposed to be that way: it should always feel like a shot of energy into the moment, or a flare of wising up. I sometimes feel that it should only be a transient thing, but a transformative transient thing – a kind of liberating wind-tunnel which you hurtle through en route to finding who you are, so that you can be someone whom you’d never otherwise have had the imagination and purpose to become. Stretching out that moment, that process, somehow seems to stop the result. I get bored by most punk, energy or no energy. When it does get a grip on me, it’s when it drags me in to witness that firing of possibilities. I always wonder why, and how, it should last any longer.


 
Chinese punks Birdstriking have been together since 2009; some way off the sixteen active years of Fugazi, let alone the forty-two of UK Subs, but a span which, in terms of the early punk waves, would have practically rendered them elder statesmen. Despite this, they still sound as fresh as if they were in their first flush – a glorious, splintery, shimmery noise like an rotary engine made from flying gobbets of molten silver, topped with a stormtossed thrill of Sino-Anglo vocal. On their rare trips over here they’re the subject of documentaries, or are fêted in word-of-mouth samizdat as if they were princes from the East: their shows immediately garlanded as must-see events. It’s tempting, I guess, to treat them as something exotic – different from the Western malcontents we’re used to – and whenever you hear a thrilling echo of Chinese folk melody ringing through the smog of guitar bash or shaping a vocal line, it’s even more tempting to pursue that angle.

It’s also tempting to try to cast them as rebels against the suffocating monocultural paternalism of the latterday Chinese state, but that’s not easy to make stick. Having had their debut record banned due to a single, fairly unspecifically political song, Birdstriking have shrugged their shoulders, said a few things about anger being for people’s younger days, and are now opting for more innocent-sounding themes – sports enthusiasm, the thrill of personal energy, the mixed soothings and pain of family. You could, if you squinted, cast them as apologists for a kind of positive Chinese conformism. I’m guessing that that’s not true either. I suspect that a kind of subtlety is at work amongst the noise – discussions in the timbre of arguments, and in the implications of personal joy within a collective . They want to keep on doing what they do, to become something more. It’s not in the rhetoric, it’s in the sound.


 
Regardless, in each of the two London gigs they’re playing over the coming week, Birdstriking will be interfacing with a different Western counter-cultural mindset. At the Sebright show (where they’ll be at the bottom of the bill), the tone’s definitely leaning towards the psychedelic, the noise-surfy and the shaggy rebel-academic. Gnod-affiliated Dutch avant-garde music collective Radar Men From The Moon will be deconstructing psychedelia and acid house: part of the group curating the Eindhoven Psych Lab, they’re currently touring and touting ‘Subversive II’ (the last in a triple-run of themed albums). London psychedelic droners One Unique Signal (who also moonlight as the instrumental backing for The Telescopes) will also be joining in, continuing their sixteen-year voyage into noisy minimalist repetition with added layered impulses from space rock, post-rock and kosmische.


 
At the Windmill – where Birdstriking are headlining – expect a dip into the more stripped, loquacious end of post-punk smarts, since they’re being supported by The Wolfhounds. Post-punk veterans from the mid-’80s, currently thirteen years into a resurrection, the Wolfhounds are now grizzled smartarses in their early fifties. Smart enough to embrace their middle-agedness without succumbing to it (meaning that they’re in a place where they can sing about self-parody rather than just becoming one), they’re also armed with a lean, laser-guided wit and a deceptively sophisticated perspective. Although they’d hate the comparison, they’re proof positive of that old bastard P.J O’Rourke’s adage about age and guile beating youth, innocence and a bad haircut.


 
If The Wolfhounds are garage rock, theirs is an omnivorous man-cave of a garage. It’ll be rammed with books and time-tested music, and inside it they’ve honed a pitch-perfect blend of sarcasm and hidden sincerity, and a way of loading their snarling guitar chassis with bursts of soul, a capella political folk and digressions into the digital sound palette which frontman David Callahan mastered during his interim years with Moonshake. Though the songs on their current album ‘Untied Kingdom’ (one of 2016’s finest, sharpest records at the punkier end – perhaps a ‘Sandanista!’ without the sprawl) echo, and probably intentionally, Brecht, Blake and Shelley they’re never pompous or swotty. An equal template, at least in terms of directed smarts, are the wise, rowdy Mekons, whose own forty-one year career evolution is an example of how punk doesn’t have to tumble into the pickling jar; proof positive, as The Wolfhounds continue to prove, that those punky impulses don’t have to turn into flab and complacency.


 
One more thing – in case you thought the psychedelic-noise side of things had been left behind at the Sebright Arms, the interim DJ sets at the Windmill come from Sterling “Rosco” Rothwell, the onetime Spacemen 3 and Darkside drummer who’s sometimes resurfaced as himself (for 2004’s The Psychedelic Ubik) or as a guest performer with various acts from Sky Saxon to Geraint Watkins and Martin Belmont.

Dates:

  • Radar Men From The Moon + One Unique Signal + Birdstriking, The Sebright Arms, 33-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9AG, England, Sunday 20th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Birdstriking + The Wolfhounds + DJ Rosco, The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London, SW2 5BZ, England, Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here

 

April 2018 – upcoming London gigs – the BABY clubnight launches in Walthamstow with Warm Brains, David Callahan and ex-Evans The Death member’s Clingfilm project (18th April); 3Peace, Gentle Stranger, Great Dad and Suitman Jungle at DIY Space (26th April)

14 Apr

Warm Brains + David Callahan + Clingfilm  @ BABY #01. 16th April 2018

Eleanor Payne used to run the ‘Candyskin’ art/indie zine and its corresponding music night in Walthamstow – she’s now taken both of them away, shaken them out and restored them with a new name. This coming week’s debut BABY music night will also launch the brand-new ‘BABY’ zine (“featuring writing and art on culture from all kinds of cool people”) and carry old ‘Candyskin’ issues for those who want to catch up on the past. Eleanor and others – including Liberty Hodes from ‘A Comedy Night That Passes the Bechdel Test’ – will be DJ-ing with an inclination toward “the best of indie pop, disco, post-punk, pop and girl groups (and) the best songs for dancing”. The live acts, meanwhile, have a pleasing feel of reviving that envelope-pushing Too Pure ethos from the more wide-thinking end of 1990s British indie: the samplers, the wrenched guitars, the sharp non-conforming anti-complacent lyrics and the broad bench of snatched and recombined elements.

Top of the bill is the urban-psychedelic post-punk of Warm Brains, a.k.a. Rory Atwell from Test Icicles, KASMs and Die! Die! Die! We hadn’t heard much from the Brains since 2015’s ‘Big Wow’ album, but last month’s new Circles Of The Scythe single (Rory’s first Brains material for several years, following his relocation to current London creative hotspot South Tottenham) – really ups their game. It’s a sardonic study of cultural and personal immolation: Rory whistling as he walks into the darkness, kicking a sardonic rolling can across a pile of gasping, trash-spawning consumerism and asocial/dysfunctional personality disorders, while marshalling a washing-machine judder of half-hinged guitars and rhythm pulses.


 
Although indie pop heroes Evans The Death called it a day last autumn, former guitarist Dan Moss has quickly whirred back into action with Clingfilm, who make their live debut here. Over the course of their three albums, his old band weren’t short of ambition and seemed increasingly eager to evolve and to unglue themselves; but they could never quite wriggle more than an arm and a shoulder out of the indie straitjacket. That said, the increasingly belligerent, beautiful, noisy gesturing they managed with that one free limb suggest that anything which sprouts from an ex-Evans will be worth paying attention to.

Dan isn’t the first to surface – that’d be his brother Olly, who started his work as Smiling Disease while still in the band – but the debut Clingfilm EP (which popped up at the beginning of the month on Bandcamp) is a fascinating thing. Collisions of Motown, pitchbend My Bloody Valentine wail and experimental noise planecrash; industrial broadsides and glocktinkles, electro-noise shotgun pop and dry sneers. At points a pocket Foetus dancing with Pere Ubu, at other times sounding like a more meticulous-aimed junior PiL, Dan’s subject matter includes nightmares, secrets, and friends with misogyny problems.


 
At points, Clingfilm sound like nothing so much as the early ‘Eva Luna’-period Moonshake; so it’s appropriate that Moonshake’s own David Callahan is also on hand, representing the older guard and providing a link with the original Too Pure attitude. Coming fresh from a support slot with The Mekons last week, David’s historically a ludicrously undersung hero of that brief phase when British post-rock meant more than endless, blanked-out repetitions of FX aurorae and crashing guitar cadences; when it focussed instead on powerful welds of motivating force, a revolving palette of jabbing noise, and lyrics which locked and engaged with complicated inner and outer worlds. Not that he sits and mopes about that. While he may be gradually incubating a fresh batch of post-Moonshake sampler-churn on the quiet, David’s solo sets are currently acoustic or near-as-dammit; focussing more on the bristlingly intelligent, if more conventional, breed of art-pop which he continues to hone with his other band, the revived Wolfhounds.

Here are some songs from a Callahan appearance at The Hangover Lounge a few years back. They’re brisk acoustic skeletons compared to his bandwork and his past recordings, but they reveal an artist who’s not hung up on either style or reputation, and who still steers his exploring curiosity through whichever mood and influence inspires him. In this case, the piquant satire of Thanks; the surprising journey into ancient-sounding dronefolk on She Passes Through The Night.



 
Whatever David’s got in mind for the BABY evening, he’s promising plenty of new material… plus appearances by assorted and unspecified special guests. One advantage for people with impeccable work behind them, who were active at pivotal times, is that they tend to have interesting contacts lists. Start speculating now.

If you want an even fuller evening, Eleanor and co. have timed the BABY gig to fit around Walthamstow Rock n Roll Book Club’s event, earlier on the same evening at the Walthamstow Waterstone’s. Journalist and cultural commentator Jeff Evans will be reading from and discussing his book ‘The Story Of Rock & Pop On British TV’, a study of the blossoming and withering of pop music programmes which offers “some warm memories and some surprises” from a time when culture was about deferred anticipation and the thrill of events fixed in time, rather than a vast body of instant downloadables. Jeff starts at six, the BABY live sets at nine.

BABY presents:
BABY #01 – Warm Brains + David Callahan + Clingfilm
The Victoria, 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH, England
Wednesday 18th April 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here
 

* * * * * * * *

3Peace + Gentle Stranger + Great Dad + Suitman Jungle, 26th April 2018Assuming that you don’t already have a date with the industrial dub techno world of Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin by treating yourself to the Zonal and Moor Mother gig in Elephant and Castle on 26th April, it might well be worth your while casting a little further south-east to the Bermondsey/Peckham borders and the DIY Space. Two sets of promoters (Parallel Lines and GLOWS) are pooling gig resources on the same night: the first of two “Middle of the Room” shows blending all manner of musicians and art sparks…

Saxophonist Nat Phillips, drummer Pike Ogilvy and synthman Sam Bates make up the jazztronic trio 3Peace, merging semi-minimal pop electronica and jungle/techno/ambient club beats with jazz ideas. So far they’re just scratching in the sandbox of their potential talent: on their demos, they sometimes sound like bedroom dreamers on grey English days, dreaming of sunswept bay beaches and trying to conjure them up by making downtempo grooves on a phone.

Live – when they have space and time to work their way out of the cramping effects of budget recording – it’s a different story. Perhaps it takes a while to build (and perhaps there’s still a little too much chill-station reticence to their current chemistry), but whenever Nat’s saxophone kicks in with its cryptic Wayne Shorter commentaries, 3Peace take a step towards becoming a squat-scene Weather Report, with rolling grooves in the vein of a MIDI-ed-up ‘Sweetnighter’. Someone needs to tell them to cut loose from the easiness: to start scaring a few horses, start jousting each other, allow themselves to burn a little. There’s the option for so much more here.

 
Enigmatic, extrovert and deep underground, Dada jam band Gentle Stranger don’t give out much in terms of information bar their gig dates, their deliberately ludicrous attempts to tag themselves as “post clown”, and a succession of bungled, enigmatic, absurdist haikus about television, teething or caterpillars. I’ve not seen any of their gigs yet, but ‘Subculture‘ webzine – quicker off the mark than me, or just, with its Fred Perry tie-ins, better connected) tells me they’re dressed all in white… the Gods’ jam group, the Mount Olympus house band. Sprawling prog riffs meet footloose brass motifs and contrapuntal vocals from each heavily made-up member. A spectacle, to say the least”, while UCL’s ‘Savage’ reports back with “brash brass shenanigans coupled with shout-pop spleen“, and ‘Gigsoup‘ has them down as a performance-art blend of megaphone chanting, furious singing, folkiness, free jazz, no wave and funky noise”.

Billed like this, they could be a jazz-rock Fischerspooner, a post-Gentle Giant/Zappa/Zorn cataclysm, or a London take on – say – the art-prankery of a.P.a.T.t. I’ve seen photos of them gallivanting about in white burnouses and giant dunce caps; they’ve sometimes been part of the wave of cunning bacchanalian art-gigs hosted by the shapeshifting HMLTD… and here’s the video evidence. A trio (or trio-plus – it’s difficult to tell who’s in the band simply from who’s onstage) with a Jesus-robed drummer and a pair of ADHD multi-instrumentalists continually swapping between saxophones, trombone, flutes, guitar and bass. One of them regularly grabs an accordion, to wander the venue like an amnesiac busker. There are frocks and yelps and tinkling bells; there’s what looks like a stage invasion by a Riverdancer; and the music itself follows a curving, crazed path like a growing flood in a gutter, catching up little singalongs, burst of death metal and Balkan folk, nursery ditties and hornpipes along the way. They may well do everything differently next month.


 

Two-thirds of promising genderqueer alt.punk band Worm Hears also operate as Great Dad. It’s an excuse for drummer Gabriel Manzi and singing guitarist Charlie Loane (both currently broadening their horizons on the Popular Music course at Goldsmith’s) to set guitar-rock approaches aside in order to investigate a subtly disorientating slew of experimental pop. They played support to Charles Hayward last year; this year ought to see them getting recognition in their own right.

For my money, their electronic bricolage and sparse bleat-burrs of guitar make for a far more interesting, far more transformative project than does Worm Hears. It frees up Charlie, in particular, to apply those plaintive epicene Belfast-punk tones (a transitioning choirboy enraged by a broader world) across a variety of pedal-assisted pitches and registers including R&B queen, lonely Autotuned cyborg and cynical grouch-rock baritone. The songs, meanwhile, phase through walls and frameworks in a series of weird, wide-awake narrative arabesques – the glitchdream of Spanish pop in Wasp Honey; the seasick blippery, ringing organ shadows and voice-tweaking of Walk Around are free-associating mashups of love, political paranoia, consumer anomie, salty language and an ever-strange out-of-step physicality half-trapped between distress and wonder.



 
Suitman Jungle’s particular schtick is that he’s a humble financial-sector worker consumed by a rabid love of jungle/drum and bass beats. In character, decorously sheathed in formal jacket and tie, he’s meek and sweet-natured; eager to make a connection with his audience but just as eager to let rip on a set of stand-up drums and a sampling pad. Suitman sets are semi-theatrical performance pieces, crossing gently satirical spoken word with hammertastic live-beat mash-ups and a rave aesthetic. Through all of this, he threads sound pictures of London life – the rituals and private rebellions of commuting, the bearpit bellicosity of the Houses of Parliament, and so on.

He’s an oddly-positioned character: a kind of pre-escape, post-millennial Peter Pan, musing quietly on the absurdity of adult life and office etiquette, one ear constantly cocked to the utopian call to fly away into the heart of the drumming. I’m not sure how far all of this develops, or if (like 3Peace) Suitman’s being held back by format; but on spec he’s worth checking out to see how far he’ll go, and to see just how those frictions are going to play out.




 
As with the BABY night, there’s more here to make it more of an event – an in-the-round setting, DJ sets from organisers GLOWS and from electronic musician Lucaufer, plus presence of various kinds from zine/radio/gigzone gender-egalitarians The Femme Collective, haunted electronicist GG Skips, design company Spit Tease and Slow Dance, Autre Half and Grandma (the last three of whom operate in the blurred imprint area between, and encompassing, gigwork and record release). There’ll also be “a continuous circulation” of art – films, objects and images – curated by Felix Bayley-Higgins and finding room for material by Luis Jacobs, playful designer/repurposer Harry Grundy, irreverent sculptor/former ‘Spitting Image’ headbuilder Wilfrid Wood, and theatrical designer Willa Hilditch among others. And if you like the sound of all of this, it seems as if they’re repeating it a month later on 24th May; but for now, see below…

Parallel Lines & GLOWS presents
3Peace + Gentle Stranger + Great Dad + Suitman Jungle
DIY Space For London, 96-108 Ormside Street, South Bermondsey, London, SE15 1TF, England
Thursday 26th April 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

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.

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