Saturday, May 31, 2014

Black Bombaim

Black Bombaim are a Portugese heavy psych rock power trio. Driving hard rhythms, and sex-faced squalling guitar solos. They rock with some serious heavy-osity, tree chopping rhythms and kaleidoscope guitaring. Good beer chugging music.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Gnod are a brain melting post-industrial psych unit, whose principal musical interest is in deleting your IQ through tracks of throbbing, numbing, stun-trance stupor. Witness.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shit & Shine - Madame JoJo's, London, 27 December 2011

“How many you drummers have you got?” Someone asks a member of Shit & Shine before their set.

This is always the most important question for a Shit & Shine gig. It can be anyway from none to fifteen. Tonight the answer is three. The same number again are on some combination of keyboards, samplers, and vocals.

Tonight’s set is built around what sounds like a two stroke guitar note and mechanised sample beat. The three drummers lock into a groove on top of that.

The beat is surprisingly danceable. For a Shit & Shine gig it’s a floor filler. The vocals are processed to hell. They’re more textural than anything else. Cutting through the live sonic mixing that those who aren’t manufacturing the heavy rhythms are engaged in.

It’s one long continuous piece. The electronic washes evolve sinuously. Subtly shifting through the course of the set.

Those drums though forge onwards. Always forwards, always onwards. The act of repetition becoming a powerfully creative force.

Your mind deadens. But at the same time that liberates it. Your thoughts drift away. Replaced with mental blankness.

Finally the piece collapses inwards. Slowly toppling in on itself. It’s a gentle reintroduction back to the normal world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bill Orcutt | Jessica Rylan | The Cian Nugent Band - Cafe Oto, London, 14 October 2011

I feel like death warmed up. I've been struck down by a virus. But I head to the gig anyway.

The Cian Nugent Band open the night. Well I think they open it. I thought there was another band. If they played it must have been brutally early. Before they start to play Nugent makes a series of unconnected remarks to the audience. He can tell we're not engaged and he seems unsettled. If you're going to talk to the audience either make sense or do it after you've earnt some good will by playing something we like.

Anyway, the Cian Nugent Band are a three piece. Guitar, drums, and violin. It's built around Cian Nugent's complex guitar playing. The violin mostly adds texture while the drumming asserts itself into the pieces. The opening song is six or seven minutes long. The rest of the set is one extended instrumental folk raga. It begins very slowly with chasms of silence inbetween the solitary sounds of the different instruments. The piece slowly builds and Nugent's playing becomes more fluent. The violin lays down nice chordal blocks of sound while the drummer scrapes his kit with bric-a-brac coaxing a range of sounds from it.

Jessica Rylan starts her set by recounting a very dull tale about her last gig in London. I'm beginning to think I've come to a gig of the world's worst anecdote artists. But she gets down to tweaking her table of effects gear soon enough. There's a smooth ECG reading repeated beep with deep sub bass underneath it. The sounds and tones are delicate and the set is well constructed. Some of this type of music borders on random twiddling, but a strong authorial sounds comes through clearly in her set.

Bill Orcutt, assuming you know who Harry Pussy are, needs no introduction. He plays malfunctioning blues on an out of tune guitar. Dense clusters of notes fly from the simple wooden guitar. Imagine a spider scrabbling over the strings and frets and you might get an idea of the sound. It reminds me of Paste, an alias of Dennis Callaci who used to run the Shrimper label. Orcutt hums and moans seemingly in pain, punctuating his playing with random yelps. The twangs, rattles and unconventional tunings and repeated bursts of notes create an air of spontaneity which really sucks you in. It’s as if you’re hearing music created for the first time. It’s for moments like that which it make it worth dragging my virus riddled carcass out.

Preferred drink: Kernel's Porter

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm Being Good | Bad Orb | Liberez - Power Lunches, London 24 September 2011

Arrive. Buy beer. Wait. Grinding out the time. Flying solo. Nothing to do. Sit. Drink beer. Wait.

A man comes round. He says the first band are on. Downstairs. Rehearsal room doubling as a gig venue. Liberez at the front. A four piece. Violin, guitar, vocals, drums. There use samples too.

Thuddy rhythms, repetitive riff patterns, eerie bowing, and mumbled, haunted vocals. One tracks reminds me of early Pram. The rest are like I don’t know who. They’re unexpected. They’re good.

Back upstairs. Buy beer. Hit the merch table. Wait. Time grinds. Back downstairs. Bad Orb is a lone woman. Table of wires and gizmos. You know the drill. Droney bland soundscapes. Indecipherable murmur whisper. Adds nothing. Piano and accordion come into the mix. Yeah, definitely better. The rooms hot. The set ends. Upstairs. Cool off. Buy one last beer.

I’m Being Good. Saw their fourth ever gig in 1992. Maybe 1993. Oil Seed Rape also played. Think it was the Beachcomber. The pubs long gone. But I’m Being Good still play gigs. I still go to them.

Noisy, mathy, knotty, rock. Simultaneously primitive and complex. The sound they’ve had for awhile. Fan will love it. Antagonists will loathe it. Newcomers could go either way.

They finish. Upstairs. Out into the night.

Preferred drink: Budvar

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shit & Shine - Madame JoJo's, London 26 July 2011

I always expect a confrontational performance from Shit & Shine. My previous sightings of had seen them in percussion orchestra mode, albeit one you’d more likely find in a steel factory than a concert hall.

Tonight the line up features only two drummers. There’s three on effects, pedals, and gadgets. And someone wearing a black hood doing something I can’t see.

They start the set quiet. Funereal rhythms from the two drummers whose synchronised drumming is performed with ritualistically large motions. There’s haunted house door creak and methodical thud slow mo menace like a John Carpenter score.

The set builds. Sounds are added. There’s modem screech dysfunction. Someone repeatedly slams a car door. On and on the thud continues, relentless, unceasing. Until there is just the absolute darkness of the monotheistic pursuit of noise.

Preferred drink: San Miguel

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Raw Power Festival - Corsica Studios, 10 July 2011

I wasn’t looking forward to the Raw Power festival. Eleven hours of noisy bands in the concrete prison of Corsica Studios seemed like it would be a test of stamina.

Yes, I could have turned up halfway through, but I’m an all or nothing kind of person. So with heavy heart I found myself amongst the first people filing into the venue.

Opening the festival were The Cult of Dom Keller. And I was immediately glad of my decision to tough out the festival. The Cult cooked up a heady, thudding, woozy, 60s psych rock, reminding me a bit of Methadrone era Brian Jonestown Massacre. The acrid smell of the dry pumped into the venue only heightened the experience.

Domestic Blitz followed playing a routine kind of punk rock that I never particularly liked. The cover of George Harrison’s Got My Mind Set On You was a slightly surreal moment.

The special, semi-secret, guests for the festival were Clinic. One of those bands I’ve always known of but without ever hearing. I can’t say their seemingly bog standard indie rock converted me.

I decide to bail on Clinic and have a look at The Light Shines who have got the bum slot of the day by playing on the other stage opposite the special guests. Unfortunately they’re another band who owe a debt to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, however, they’re rather uninspired. They’re not bad, they’re just not good.

I held out quiet hopes for Snapped Ankles based solely on their name. They played a kind of punk funk with spacey electronic noises whilst dressed in bear suits. Something they probably regretted in the warm, unventilated confines of the venue.

As they’re not doing a lot for me I head next door to have a look at Race Horses. Something about Race Horses reminds me of a band I might have seen on Top of the Pops in 1985. The singer wears stone washed jeans which make me start thinking of Limahl.

I recharge physically and psychically by buying a burger and a Dom Keller EP. Next up are Hold Kiss Kill who rescue the festival from a half way slump. At first I worry that their set is going to be ruined by a murky sound, as the guitar and vocals are barely audible. Either someone adjusts the mix or I tune in as I really start to enjoy their set, even if they are massive My Bloody Valentine copyists.

It’s back to the main stage for The Koolaid Electric Company who I‘ve never come across before. Within a few minutes of their first song I realise they’re yet another Brian Jonestown Massacre sound-a-like. Was there a job lot going when they booked this festival? But hey, sometimes originality is overrated. And the Koolaid crew lay down some good hazey, spacey, psych-rock.

Prog revivalists Teeth of the Sea are next, blasting off into the deepest reaches of space rock.

Bo Ningen are a band I’ve always had a problem with. They’re hi-energy rock in Stooges, Acid Mothers Temple kind of way, but they always leave me feeling they should be better than they actually are. I’ve seen them four or five times, and they have their moments, but for me they never achieve lift off.

And then we come to Part Chimp who are currently on a valedictory lap of honour as they move towards their final disbandment. I am not sure that I’ve really got anything left to say about these guys. If you like noise, if you like rock, then you will like Part Chimp. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen them live and they are always, always, excellent.

Trans Am are due on in a little while. But the best part of half a day in the Corsica has taken a psychic toll on me. I can take no more of it’s barren, stark, concrete walls. The power of the rawness has beaten me. I leave.

Preferred drink: San Miguel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Part Chimp | Hey Colossus | Palehorse - The Lexington, London, 24 June 2011

I never miss an opportunity to see Part Chimp. But the recent news that the Chimp were calling it a day after 10 years meant I was going make the most of what will be one of the last chances to see this unfailing excellent band.

As part of their valedictory lap of honour, Palehorse had been lined up to open the show with their grinding, down-tuned, rock thuggery. The twin bass guitar attack emit bowel disrupting frequencies whilst the dual scream vox provide an aural syringe. The crawling song tempos make listening to the band like taking a slow beating - in a good way naturally.

I’ve seen Hey Colossus a fair few times over the years, and one of two things has happened. Either they’ve got better or my tastes have changed. Actually maybe both things have happened. Anyway, you get the point. So for the first time I can unequivocally state that Hey Colossus were great.

Their set is like drowning in a molten sludge tar pit. The triple guitar attacks lays down a wall of noise, reinforced by bass and unidentifiable noise producing gear, plus drums of course. Despite the cacophony everything can be heard. They deliver a set of utter, bludgeoning pulverisation.

And so to Part Chimp. I did, stupidly, wonder if they were going to be able to follow two such heavy sets. Fortunately I make no claim to good judgement. The Chimp set about crushing the rest of the bill with imperious overkill. They’re a perfect balance of heavy rhythmic sludge, noise, and catchy riffage. They are once again triumphant.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Skullflower | Werewolf Jerusalem | Helm | Hal Hutchinson - The Grosvenor, London, 15 April 2011

The noise freaks are out in force for this gig. The Grosvenor isn’t quite packed, but it’s an impressive turn out for an entire evening of noise.

First to the stage is Hal Hutchinson. He sounds like he’s trying to tune a radio broadcasting only the sound of rusty hinges. The highlight of the set is the sound when he squashes his gear with a piece of foam.

Helm follow. He always brings a scientific precision to his oscillating drones. As his set evolves he shifts from drone to found-sound and then to noise howl. At one point he becomes distracted by a errant vibration. He springs from his chair and immediately zeroes in on a mic’d up snare drum behind him. A quick adjustment and it’s eliminated from the mix.

Werewolf Jerusalem rolls out some tidal ebbs of raw noise. The people in front of me are without ear plugs. They must be mental. Wolfy starts with a deceptively restrained howl. It’s the calm before the storm though as soon Werewolf Jerusalem is creating the sound of a blackhole ripping asunder the fabric of space.

During the set I start to wonder why people barge to the front of noise gigs. It’s only ever a man hunched over a table of effects pedals not moving very much. Invariably these same people barge back out to the bar five minutes later when they realise there isn’t that much to see.

But I digress. Skullflower take the stage and swiftly provide time stretched howls of torture. Over a steady beat Matthew Bower’s guitar careens all over the steady bedrock. The second of the two pieces they play is faster. The drums are locked at black metal speed with that flat, relentless, momentum.

At first the track doesn’t sound like it’s working. The rhythm seems completely disjointed from the guitars. Maybe that’s the point, but the fact is it isn’t working. Bower’s guitar is constantly questing for new ways of expressing itself, and somehow later in the piece rhythm section and leads coalesce.

There are calls for an encore. The moment teatters on the brink. Skullflower hesitate. The soundman hesitates. The audience hesitate. But then the moment is lost. The soundman puts a CD on and the evening is at an end.

Preferred drink: Young's Special

A Year Of No Light | Aluk Todolo - The Borderline, London, 13 April 2011

Who runs the Borderline? It’s a question I ask myself as I arrive. I don’t consider myself late but I’ve completely missed Menace Ruine who apparently came onstage at 7:30. What time of night is that to start a gig?

Unfortunately, Aluk Todolo have already started their set. Irritating as I’ve waited a long-time for them to play a UK date. Maybe it’s that same anticipation which interferes with my enjoyment of their set.

My near obsessive listening to their Finsternis LP has moulded my preconceptions. It’s an unfair benchmark as it’s probably impossible to reproduce the balance and dynamics of that studio recording.

The drummer is laying down immense, intense slabs of rhythms while the guitarists open metronomic kraut meets black metal riffage.

A Year Of No Light are fully six people strong. Two drummers, keyboards, the rest on guitars and bass. They play an amalgam of metal styles - an alloy if you will - and meld them to post-rock dynamics. It’s good, but somehow never transcends its influences. It leaves me feeling under whelmed. It’s good but I can’t help feeling it’s a bit anaemic, neutered or restrained. For me they need to convey something more. An atmosphere or feeling. Music should soar, disorientate, entrance, excite, relax, hypnotise, or overwhelm you with it’s beauty. It should do more than just ‘exist’.

When they finish it’s only a few minutes after 10. Bizarre.

Preferred drink: Water

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dead Meadow - The Drop, London, 14 April 2011

The Drop won’t allow you to take drinks from the main bar downstairs. I have to crash a pint of Harvey’s Sussex just to get to see the bands. The bar in the basement only serves Red Stripe.

I remain teetotal for the rest of the night. But apart from the abysmal bar arrangements The Drop is the perfect venue to see Dead Meadow. It’s a small shoebox of a basement and everyone’s crammed in.

Apparently Dead Meadow are playing with their original drummer on this tour and only playing material from their first two LPs. It kind of makes sense as I’m only familiar with their albums from Shivering King... onwards.

But the restriction is actually a blessing as their earlier records are definitely my favourites. Channelling more strongly that vibe of Sabbath obsessed Hells Angels who’ve just pulled off the highway to set up and blast out their cosmic rock to the stars.

Their set is unhurried, kick-backed and relaxed riffage where there’s always time for a lengthily warped blues solo. The low end riffing, hypnotises, inducing eyes shut, head-nodding reveries. Time seems to stand still whilst their playing. Partly it’s hypnotising low, repeating riffs, but also it’s the fact that Dead Meadow are fine exponents of a now ancient rock sub-genre. They are worthy of their forefathers, and will no doubt begat an inheritance which others will duly honour.

Preferred drink: Sussex Best Bitter

Monday, February 28, 2011

Neil Campbell & Michael Flower | Morgen Und Nite - Cafe Oto, London, 25 February 2011

It’s nearly two months since I’ve been to a gig. It falls to Morgen Und Nite to end the drought.

A duo, he plays guitar. She plays, I don’t know what you want to call it, a box - all leads and knobs. They play a slowly decaying psych guitar noodle. Embellished with electronic flutterings and tonal sustains.

The guitarist plays through a total of 13 effects pedals. Barefoot, he operates them with disturbingly prehensile toes. It’s like watching Christy Brown play guitar.

Morgen Und Nite then play a second piece of undulating oscillation and the open drone of traffic speeding through a tunnel. This piece doesn’t coalesce into a whole. It feels disjointed and uneven.

The evening climaxes with two legends - Neil Campbell and Michael Flower. Admittedly legends in a micro genre, but legends nevertheless. They launch straight into a force 9 psychedelic rock tumult, playing over cheap keyboard looped beats.

Deeper into the set Campbell moves to keyboards. They hit a trance inducing groove, playing within a blank primal raw Stooges like repetitive riff. The mothership had definitely achieved lift-off.
Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Koreisch - This Decaying Schizophrenic Christ Complex

Apart from eulogies on a few metal blogs you can’t find much information about Koreisch on the internet.

They released their sole LP in 1999 on Screams of Salvation. And subsequently re-released on Calculated Risk Records in 2004. Neither pressing gained much attention.

Which is a criminal shame as This Decaying Schizophrenic Christ Complex is as an inventive and extreme record that the metal world has yet vomited forth.

Grind, doom, samples and sounds capes are thrown together allowed to rot down and then sprayed at the listener like a sonic slurry.

Piercing guitar riffs, ominous rumbling bass, dirge crawl and grind spazz outs are interspersed with jarring, alienating sounds capes. Consistently painful and unpleasant, this is music as torture. And yet it is oddly compelling drawing you back into its dark, smothering, suffocating embrace.

I consider this one of the most extreme records I have ever heard. Bands have played faster and harder, but the continued dislocating shifts in tempo, pitch and tone mess with your expectations. And that is something very rare and precious.

Preferred drink: Water

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Concern | Pascal Nichols | Tuluum Shimmering - Cafe Oto, London, 14 December 2010

I arrive just in time for the start of Tuluum Shimmering’s set.

One man and a table with the usual tangle of wires and leads, and assorted electronic gadgetry. He’s also got a chunky wooden flute and a tom tom. The set begins with heady, heavy kosmiche hymnals. We’re deep into the dreamy spiritualism of Popol Vuh or Ash-Ra Temple.

The melange of hare Krishna bell rattle, organ tone float and looped flute summon the atmosphere of spirit worship and ritual. Imagine whirling round in a tropical forest, sun light flickering through the tree canopy, colour, motion, blur, undefined, yet fully engaging your senses.

Pascal Nichols is a drummer who plays in lots of different groupings, but most commonly in Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides. Tonight he’s playing a solo set using drums and samples.

It starts well with Nichols darting round the sound samples. However, I lose my way with the set. Nichols seems to have a microphone strapped round his neck. This allows him to add low, throat yodelling satellite signals as sonar ping over drumming which sounds like rain on a tin roof. It’s more a set of moments than something that works as a whole.

Concern are the headliners. They’re Gordon Ashworth, one half of noise-nikers Oscillating Innards. In this guise he’s operating in drone mode. A micro sample of a violinist laments faintly in the background while the tonal sound waves quiver gently. But again I’m not engaged by the sounds. Suddenly the music stops. Ashworth waves choppily at the audience and departs. It’s almost as if he was as tired of it as I was.

Preferred drink: Kernel's IPA

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trumans Water | One Unique Signal | Die Munch Machine | Slushy Guts - Half Moon, London, 10 December 2010

There are legends, legendary legends, and then there is Trumans Water.

Great bands can enter your life at any age. But somehow the bonds I formed with bands as a teenage are the strongest. They’re the ones which mean the most.

This is the Water’s only UK date on their current tour. It’s years since they last played in this country. I always count their occasional appearances on these shores as a minor miracle. There’s rarely been more than 100 people at any of their gigs that I’ve been to.

Trumans Water play with more energy then I ever previously seen, bouncing around like men half their age. The serrated guitar, the compositional angularity of their songs remains imperiously intact. Twisted, knotty, jerky, yet in ways which are synaptic-ly addictive.

Boredom is Trumans Water's enemy. Their songs are always creating or relieving tension. Everything else has been eliminated. It’s this that creates the odd jarring shifts of gear that take place within their songs. Why bother transitioning to the next section. Let’s just crash into it.

Old favourites are quickly aired. Rations is rapturously received. There are constant shouts for The Aroma of Gina Arnold. There might not be many of us here, but everyone’s a passionate fan of the band. It is a triumphant night for Trumans Water and for the audience for whom the band remain an article of faith.

Support on the night came from One Unique Signal who provide a psych guitar maelstrom of dizzying swirling wig outs.

Part Chimp alumni perform as Die Munch Machine a drums and keyboard duo. Their heavy synth and rhythm churn is like something created by Giorgio Moroder malevolent twin brother.

Slushy Guts bleeds, via the medium of guitar strummery, pit of the stomach emotional wrench over the floor of the Half Moon.
Preferred drink: Adnams

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rottrevore: Copulation of the Virtuous and Vicious EP

Rottrevore were a minor name in the death metal underground of the early 90s. They recorded a clutch of 7”s and an album before disappearing.

Their Copulation of the Virtuous and Vicious EP is marked by a full throated raw brutality like having your ear pressed against a Harley Davidson exhaust pipe. High pitched guitar solos emerge like angry, castrated bumble bees from the murky, filthy, bludgeoning, chug.

An album called Iniquitous later emerged which collected together their EP’s and some live tracks. A proper LP of newly recorded material subsequently emerged a few years later. You can read a good interview with the band here where they tell their own story.

A lot of records I used to like from this era have fallen out of favour with me. But nearly 20 years on this is one that‘s never lost its appeal.

Prefered drink: Chivas Regal

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Dead C - The Garage, London, 1 December 2010

I can’t believe that I’m actually about to watch The Dead C.

If you’d asked me 15 years ago if they’d be playing The Garage I would have found the idea inconceivable. But here they are in a warm-up show for the coming ATP appearance.

The begin with Bruce Russell and Michael Morley manipulating squalls of noise from their guitars. After about 10 minutes Robbie Yeats joins them on stage, adding his breathtakingly simple drum beats.

Just as I’m expecting the performance to take off it falls flat. Whole sections meander, twisting aimlessly, into musical cul de sacs. They occasionally flicker, and I’m momentarily expectant, awaiting the dysfunctional magic they able to conjure. Only the spell is just as quickly broken. And, dare I say it, the tedium returns. The set sounds like a rehearsal where something isn’t working.

It’s too easy to suggest I’d built The Dead C up too much in my own mind. Set expectations they could never meet. If anything my critical judgement was temporarily suspended. I was ready to love them. They wouldn’t have had to offer me much.

I can feel a similar restlessness in the audience. The muted applause at the end of their set seems to convey the same message.
Preferred drink: Bishop's Finger

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Rita | Voltigeurs | Filthy Turd | Vomir - The Grosvenor, London, 19 November 2010

As I come into the back room of The Grosvenor I’m handed a black bin bag. Vomir has just started. He stands perfectly still with his back to the audience. He’s got a bin bag over his head. An abrasive white noise blasts across the room.

I look about the room. Around a dozen or so people are standing with the bags over their heads. I’m not sure what the inspiration is. Perhaps the idea is to make it a sense deprivation experience. Forcing you to concentrate on what you’re listening to. It makes me think of interrogation techniques where people are hooded and exposed to white noise.

I prefer to go without my hood. I can’t drink my beer otherwise. However, with so many faceless people in the audience there is a peculiar, unsettling, ambience in the room.

Filthy Turd pushes a small, metal table out onto the floor. He lays two microphones on the table before scraping the table across the floor. The vibrations are picked up by the microphones and translated into low howls. Branches and stones are scattered across the table. The clash, clatter and thud are all become part of the sound.

Filthy removes his shoes and then his socks, theatrically smelling each one. He pulls the socks over the microphones, before beginning to beat the tables with them. He then wanders off and shoves some of the branches down the front of his trousers before thrusting his hips forward.

The sound cuts out. Filthy pulls a number of small tape recorders from this pockets smelling them as he does. Each has a different tape loop. They overlay on each other in a random way, but somehow it works. He takes off his shirt and picks up a mutilated guitar adding new layers of noise drone.

Filthy then returns to the table, under which is a small plastic tub. He removes the lid and pushes his hands into the thick brown fluid inside. With hands cupped full he smears the brown fluid over his face and chest. I finally come to understand why he’s called Filthy Turd.

A headily pungent incense fills the room and the lights are turned off. Voltigeurs are one of Matthew Bower’s gazillion different recording identities. This one is a duo with Samantha Davies who’s otherwise employed in Skullflower.

Voltigeurs unleash a guitar noise Gotterdammerung of psychedelic guitar noise. Once you’re over the volume you can tune into the subtleties of their sound. The playing is seriously intense.

They abort their set after 20 minutes. It’s like being suddenly woken up from a deep sleep. Unpleasant, dislocating, and with the same sense of frustration that something really enjoyable has been violently wrenched away from you.

The Rita are headlining. One man and some gear. I go to enough of these gigs. I really should know more about they’re using.

I will profess ignorance of The Rita. A confession which should disqualify me from writing for such an august website as this. The sandblasting wall of noise is all consuming. It’s like being a tiny microbe and suddenly finding yourself flying up the suction pipe of a vacuum.

People start moshing at the front of the audience. He finishes his set. The crowd demand an encore. I’ve never been to a noise gig before where that’s happened. Someone shouts, “Rip my face off.” The Rita does his best.
Preferred drink: Youngs Special

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Monolithic | Kogumaza - Cafe Oto, London, 10 November 2010

This is my third consecutive night at a gig. I feel tired. I look tired. I am tempted to skip the gig. But dedication makes me go.

Dirge rockers Kogumaza are support. I saw them play last month and they seemed worth keeping an eye on. The three piece play a sedate paced down tuned riffage. It sounds like a one-note Sonic Youth wig-out played in slow motion.

There is something really exciting about seeing a band who are totally unexpected. It’s like having electricity plugged straight into your soul. I know nothing about Monolithic. But within the first few moments of their set I know they’re special. My senses sharpen. I want to take in all the details.

The drums and guitar duo play a well honed math metal. They induce an almost ecstatic or euphoric reaction in me. The volume, the simplicity, the harshness of their sound, it’s almost transcendental.

Halfway through their set they mellow things out. They play a desolate tumble weed blues, with bowed guitar and brush scraped cymbals. Then it’s into down-tuned blues and back to the destructive riffage that’s been honed by hours muscularly axing down trees or smashing rocks in a disused quarry.

They finish their set. I make for their merch stand. I need to fill the new yawning chasm in my collection.
Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shit & Shine - ICA, London, 5 November 2010

Shit & Shine are performing as part of the ICA’s Rhythm Section festival.

Shit & Shine begin quietly. Playing some wistful, Americana whimsy. The dreamy tone is counter-pointed by the singer who in an exaggerated English accent recounts an elaborately mundane tale.

I wonder if they’re playing a game of double bluff. I keep expecting them to crank up the tempo. But they maintain their genteel pace. When are they going to cut loose? Perhaps they’re not going to. Maybe they’ve tired of the drum thunder.

Shit & Shine finish teasing us. They shift up a couple of gears. The guitarists switch to keyboards adding electronic swooshes. The five drummers synchronise.

And I am underwhelmed.

It’s not a feeling you expect to have when you go to see such a finely honed rhythm assault unit. The beat feels pedestrian. It lacks the confrontational, clattering, edge when Shit & Shine are at their most visceral.

I find myself slowly numbed by their sound. Bored even.

But that is just a gateway through which I have to travel. I reach some kind of Zen state. The seemingly dull rhythm is now infecting my mind. My perceptions have been transformed. Conscious thoughts have fallen away. There is only the present and the relentless rhythm.

I notice that one of the band is having problems with his keyboard. Suddenly it appears above his head broken into pieces. Nothing it seems will be granted mercy.

Deprived of his instrument he switches back to guitar, riffing in time with the drummers. The singer is no longer pretending to be Noel Coward. His hectoring distorted vocals recall PiL. It’s exhilarating. Purifying. I have been pummelled into submission. Shit & Shine have defeated me again.
Preferred drink: Sussex Best Bitter

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Death Strike: Fuckin' Death

Death Strike was a short lived project helmed by death metal legend Paul Speckman. Despite being one of the scenes original movers and still active to this day, he has never really enjoyed any particular success.

In 1985 when death metal was still an underground scene, he recorded a 4 song demo called Fuckin’ Death. After getting a deal for his new project Abomination, Nuclear Blast issued the demo in 1991 as an album bulked out with some new tracks.

These new tracks are awful and for the purposes of this review we‘re going to ignore them. Because for pure visceral excitement there is little that can match those original demo recordings.

There’s a heavy thrash influence to the music, understandable given the time of the original recordings. But that thrash edge gives the filthy, dirty, fire snorting, death metal beast a relentless pummelling velocity.

Every time I listen to Fuckin’ Death it reminds me of the adrenaline rush I felt when I first heard death metal. There’s been better played, better produced death metal, however, just try and stop yourself head banging to Mangled Dehumanisation or Pay To Die. Go on, try.

Preferred drink: Water

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zeni Geva | Ruins Alone | Nought - Corsica Studios, London, 26 October 2010

Free ear plugs are being given away at the bar. That’s always a good ‘bad’ sign.

We don’t need them for Nought. They’re a Guapo side project specialising in unashamed prog rock. Complex, mathy, jazz and rock rhythms are entwined together into a Gordion knot. But it never becomes an intellectual exercise. Their music is run through with tunes and melodies.

Ruins Alone is Yoshida Tatsuya. Drums and a sampler. He plays an eclectic mix of schizophrenic, genre hopping. Jazz, prog, punk, rock are all chewed up and and spat out in tiny, constantly changing chunks. In that way it reminds me of Naked City.

Yoshida doesn’t have long to rest before he’s back behind the kit for Zeni Geva. The previously free ear plugs are now being sold, as someone behind the bar has written 50p on a bit of paper and stuck it to a glass. From the outset Zeni Geva are in sadistically mean noise rock form. They are punishingly heavy. Others bands do that same brutal, serrated, guitar riffage, but Zeni Geva do it with the malevolence of nobody else.

Preferred drink: Water

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Master Musicians of Bukkake | Voice of the Seven Thunders | Barn Owl - Corsica Studios, London, 25 October 2010

There was an unknown name to me on the bill. I’d not heard of Barn Owl before. A quick internet search took me to the website of some twee indie twiddlers. Who in the name of Hades, I wondered, booked this lot?

The answer lay in poor search engine skills. Not all my fault as there are six acts called Barn Owl on Myspace. Fortunately, somebody had booked the psychedelic drone two-piece. The two guitarists blast out cathedral sized drones. They explore different textures within their lengthy pieces. Sunn O))))) style heavy drones but also more psychedelic widdling and slow-motion Morricone style guitar picking.

Tonight was my first experience of Voice of the Seven Thunders. I’d been a fan of Voice of the Seven Woods from which this band morphed. But for some reason I’d never bothered to investigate them. It’s easy to hear the similarities. The psych-blues meanderings and the acid-fried tinged-rock are direct descendents. A couple of tracks lean a little too close leaden Clapton-esque blues, but it’s when guitar lines start questing they really engage.

The venue fills with smoke. Bells ring and the Master Musicians of Bukkake file towards the stage through the audience. They are dressed as Bedouins. Black cowls wrapped around their bodies. Their faces shrouded in blue kufiuya, their eyes hidden by sunglasses. I can smell incense.

A low drone starts up. The singer who is wearing an Inca like face mask throat yodels as he weaves intricate patterns in the air with his hands. Lasers cut through the smoke refracting off mirror balls on the ceiling and illuminated the smokes evolving patterns. Drone, electronics, psychedelic and Eastern influences are fused and cauterised. This is rock as occult ritual.

The guitarists switch to sitar and the violin adding Eastern flavours which are enhanced when they are joined by Khyam Allami who adds oud. He starts slowly repeating simple patterns over the low, metallic, rumbling of huge gong. The oud lines become more complex and duels with the violin. Then everyone falls in as the rhythms become heavier and a heady, murky, and epic. They close with a quieter, more meditative number before the Master Musicians then file in procession from the stage.
Preferred drink: Water

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Lowest Form of Music | Smegma | La Forte Four | Morphogenesis - Beaconsfield, London, 22 October 2010

The Lowest Form Of Music seeks to celebrate the work of the Los Angeles Free Music Society. The 3-day festival includes performances by original artists and those inspired by the experimental ethos espoused by the movements key players.

Morphogenesis open the evening. They’re a UK configuration of four artists including Adam Bohman and Clive Graham. Instrumentation is predictably eclectic. Bohman has a table of rasps, files, assorted ephemera including a pine cone. It looks like someone's emptied the contents of a shed onto a table. Someone on the other side of the stage is amplifying a pump blowing bubbles through a jar filled with water. It’s not so much music as sound constructions. We get the chirps of cyber bird calls over the sound of tape rewind and modem whirl. Despite the disparate elements the sound is cohesive.

The same cannot be said for La Forte Four. Apparently this is their first UK performance for 28 years. Whilst the array of instruments and their invention is admirable their set doesn’t work. If I am honest it is frankly a racket. I appreciate the dedication to the unconventional. Blowing into metal piping, amplifying children’s toys and bowing polystyrene packaging is admirable in it’s quest for discovering new sounds. But if the resultant noise is an incoherent, ungainly, awkward, potpourri then the experiment fails on its own terms.

Smegma headline the night. I saw them some years back in 2006. It was my first encounter with them and I was blown away by their mastery of genre convention and avant-garde experimentalism. Tonight, though, I am utterly under whelmed by their performance. I am at a loss to interpret their set. It’s an indecipherable, uninspiring, turgid murk. They play for barely half an hour. They are reluctantly, and unaccountably, urged back for an encore by the audience. Against my better judgment I stay in the hope that I’ll hear some of the inspiration that I previously heard. I am unfortunately left disappointed.
Preferred drink: Fullers 1845

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Demons | Sick Llama | Helm - The Grosvenor, London, 18.10.10

Helm’s set starts with low oscillator hum. Then flicker and dog whistle twittering. Old computer game fx and the sound of someone crunching an apple. Someone’s left the stage lights turned up. I’m not used to watching artists brightly illuminated.

I like the orderly transitions between artists at noise gigs. They’re already set up and plugged in. All they need to do is carry their table of gear to the front of the stage. Sick Llama sounds like the unending climax to an Argento film. I wonder how he’s going to get out of this musical cul-de-sac. He picks up his mike and lets rip with a scream that ends the set.

Demons play as a three piece. They’ve got some trippy visuals, a line drawn man dissolves into three and then reforms. The sounds are kosmiche. They sound like a malfunctioning Simon Says game with thunder disintegrating thunder crashes.
Preferred drink: Leffe

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Transient Constellations All-Dayer - The Windmill, London, 16 October 2010

The Windmill looks as if it should be derelict. It’s days as a community pub have long gone. It is now a 7 day a week music venue. A characterless 60s building it’s windows have all been boarded over. Inside resides an all pervasive gloom. The walls are inexplicable painted in greens and oranges, as if it had some brief interlude as children’s playgroup. Ancient and current gig poster adorn the walls. It’s a grubby cave of a venue. I love it.

Today’s it’s hosting the Transient Constellation all-dayer. The bill promises noise, gabba, and grindcore.

Kicking things off are Cheapmachines. Standard static ear bleed. The highlight is the bit which sounds like a malfunctioning motorcycle revving.

Pollutive Static are the sound of waking up at 3am on the sofa to a static snowstorm on the TV because they’ve stopped broadcasting programmes.

Next there’s a wall of noise from Digitariat with screamo vocals. It doesn’t work for me.

Deepkiss 720 ups the confrontation ante with an ear wax shattering digital assault. A bright light flashes away at an epilepsy inducing speed. The sounds seem to be created on something that resembles a portable barbecue and a sound board.

There’s more wall of noise antics from Betty. However, again this set doesn’t engage me. Maybe it’s because it’s not loud enough as I don’t need to put my ear plugs.

BBBlood are the sound of amplified aircraft cabin noise. They even manage to get the crowd going. There’s sporadic head banging and several people throw their head back and gurn. I assume this to be in appreciation.

Gland’s set is aborted after 2 minutes due to crowd trouble as a few moshing audience members seem to damage the kit beyond repair.

Gymnastic Decomposition are legends in the invented genres of happy grindcore and haikore. They’re like listening to a cassette copy of ‘Scum’ on fast forward. It’s stupid, insane, and will never be popular. These are probably the very same thoughts which motivated these men to make this music. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

I didn’t watch Skat Injector. I was brutalised by them. Abused, used and discarded with callous disdain. The singer is dressed in a white dress and a blue wig. His face is wearing black plastic mask that looks like it’s been partially melted. The drummer is wearing a skin tight gold body that also obscures his face. He’s wearing a black dress and a top hat. The effects guru looks like a burns victim as something that looks like surgical gauze is pulled over the face. They play a filthy-dirty gabba grind, a scum-zoid sound of neo-bondage torture which they vomit forth for the audience to lap off the floor. Audience mosh insanity ensues.

The aural assault continues with Nwodtlem. Gabba, hardcore, and jungle mash-ups are spliced with surgical precision to video footage which is sometimes incongruous, sometimes harmonious.

Atomck then play a blistering set of grindcore. The sound is superb. Blasting drums, a superb down-tuned guitar sound and the obligatory screamed vocals. They are a possibly the only grindcore band to have recorded a tribute to Columbo.

There are more acts to come but I’ve an appointment elsewhere. I take away happy memories which I know will slowly fade. I hope the tinnitus does likewise.

Bong | Toe Hammer | Sunday Mourning - Buffalo Bar, London, 13 October 2010

Serendipity. I am working late in the office. There are only a few people still here. I decide to listen to some music. A random urge takes me to Bong's Myspace page. As I listen to a couple of songs I notice their upcoming gig dates. They're playing tonight. About 20 minutes away. Work can wait.

I like a weak pun so I'm feeling well disposed towards Sunday Mourning before they even start playing. They're a depressive doom duo and as cheery as they sound. The guitarist is playing an acoustic guitar, but run through some effects pedals to produce a suitably Stygian black sound. The drummer beats a simple tattoo. Low guttural death moans rise and fall out of the mix. The acoustic guitar lends a different tone to their downtuned sound. I close my eyes and focus.

At first I'm underwhelmed by Toe Hammer. They seem to be proficient, uninspired, punk-tinged blues. Their drummer sweats in some unusual places. In two distinct spots I guess where his nipples are, and on the tops of his shoulders. However, as their set wears on they begin to thaw me. ZZ Top may have nailed this genre down 30 years ago, but Toe Hammer have got something about them.

And now I await the narcoleptic majesty of Bong. The congregation are hushed in reverent worship of the drone lords. There's no sitar player tonight, so this set is based on tar thick black guitar sounds. Solid obsidian masses of lava paced riff-age. The sound is like someone has plugged a ley line into an amplifier and the vocals are like the incantations of ancient Druids.

Thick white smoke begins to belch from the guitarists amp. It has expired in the face of the relentless drone. He abandons his guitar and walks off. The rest of Bong drone on to the end of the song and then follow.
Preferred drink: San Miguel

Friday, October 1, 2010

Peter Brotzmann | Full Blast Trio + Ken Vandermark - Cafe Oto, London, 29/30 September 2010

Peter Brotzmann was, until recently, someone I only knew by reputation. I’d never heard any of his work. This two night residency at Café Oto seemed like a good opportunity for a crash course.

Playing as Full Blast with Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmuller, they’re joined for these dates by special guest Ken Vandermark.

A few listens to magnus opus Machine Gun prepped me for the intense free jazz blitzkreig of the first night. From the outset Brotzmann and Vandermark are blasting away on their saxophones. They‘re underpinned by the rhythm section which like listening to rolling thunder.

The second night explores some quieter territory. However, they still find time for tidals waves of full blooded skronking squalls.

As a child I tried to play an instrument. However, my efforts were futile. It seems I have more talent for consuming music than creating it. Consequently, I have no understanding of music theory. So my appreciation of jazz, or any music, is always intuitive, visceral, emotional.

I appreciated the attack, aggression and questing. The conscious decision to experience discomfort and push past convention to some new undefined territory.

I just like it.

Listen to the second night of the Brotzmann's group here. (Courtesy of AJ Dehany)

Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ducktails | Dolphins Into The Future - The Grosvenor, London, 23 September 2010

The grind. It’s what I call all the time I spend standing or sitting around at gigs waiting for bands to play. And there was some hard grinding to do tonight. Somehow I managed to miss Jason Urick's set. That meant grinding it out till 10 to hear some music.

Opening the night, for me at least, were Dolphins Into The Future. It’s just one man. A Belgian ambient sound-sculpter. It’s like bathing in aquatic twinkle. Whilst listening to the sea wash the shore and the beams of erratically creak. The sounds of a forest birds swim from the warm organ drift. Vaguely familiar sounds of animals and everyday life faintly emerge from the mix. If I close my eyes I can feel my hands running through wispy clouds. You can feel something but it isn’t solid. It’s immersive, fleeting, vaporous. Making you concentrate on that ever evolving single moment of ‘now’.

Ducktails plays solo for the first half of his set. It carries on from the same enveloping sound world that Dolphins Into The Future created. This one is more like a fairground. The music of some half remembered carousel ride. For the second half he’s joined by members of Spectrals. The sound changes. It’s more song orientated. Like listening to songs from the 80s played through the floors of upstairs flat. For me the familiar tropes of genre are duller.

Preferred drink: Bishops Finger

Friday, September 17, 2010

Idiot Glee | Future Islands | Moon Unit | Slushy Guts - The Old Blue Last, London, 15 September 2010

Slushy Guts are the sentimental alter ego of noiseniksters Bromancer. It’s a minimal set up. Guitar and an ancient keyboard that looks like it’s on the verge of expiring.

The first song begins with a simple drone created by sellotaping some keys down. Sketchy guitar lines are picked out over the monotonous hum. It reminds me of a lot of the stuff that came out on Shrimper. Or lo-fi guitar minimalists like Paste from way back.

I love the name Slushy Guts. It captures the exposed emotions. Like a scimitar slashed stomach. It’s all hanging out, messily, bloodily, steam slowly rising from the entrails of life’s experiences.

Moon Unit begin with some heavy kosmiche star bliss. Heady keyboard twinkling’s like vintage kraut psychonauts. The guitarist perpetually quests on the outer reaches of the cosmos. Like gazing into a continually morphing Orion’s belt.

Tethering or binding this all together are the drums which aren’t playing rhythm but patterns. Weaving rounds the guitar, keyboards and effects. It’s like Popol Vuh being blasted into deep space with Ashtray Navigations and Rangda as co-pilots.

Future Islands are a late addition to the bill. I coming at them cold. I don’t know what their style is or what they’re trying to do. I do know that having had a record out on Thrill Jockey though.

First take is that they’re trying to resuscitate the corpse of 80s keyboard pop. Only they seem embarrassed by playing an unashamed tune. So songs are always a bit wonky, woozy, and wrong. It’s all thudding beats and murky melodies. A lot of people seem to like it. I could say they’re rubbish. Instead, let’s just say they’re not my thing.

As is unfortunately normal with a gig promoted by Upset the Rhythm the show is running needlessly late. The venue has largely emptied by the time Idiot Glee starts playing.

Unfortunately, I am not a student or a gig promoter. So I have to do boring things like a paid job and get up at 6am. That’s why I tend to get a bit resentful at gigs that don’t finish until midnight. And if I was Idiot Glee playing to a half empty room because people are leaving to get a train home well I might just be a bit pissed off.

Enough griping. Idiot Glee start and it’s a bit like listening to Midnight Marauders and Pet Sounds being played simultaneously through next doors walls. Minimal keyboard and soft harmonious vocals over simple pre-programmed beats. It’s like listening to Women with all the frills removed. There’s a cover of Ain’t No Sunshine. It kind of makes sense and makes me wonder what a cover of Timmy Thomas’s Why Can’t We Live Together would sound like.

Preferred drink: Chivas Regal