Thursday, September 10, 2009

Electric Wizard, JC De Klinker, 06/09/09

The concerts start really on time and as we arrive around 20.30 it appears that we've missed the support act. We order some beers and are surprised by the attendance, I guess perhaps 200 people or something, not bad. I saw Electric Wizard some six years ago (i think) in a small club (Sojo, Leuven) and the turn-out wasn't spectacular. When they start their gig tonight, I get worried, certainly after the second track. The vocals are way too loud in the mix and the drummer is playing too 'rectangular', too 'tight'. Too 'festivaldrum', my brother says. And what's more, the vocals are not good, too melodic, too stereotypical for me. So the band kicks off like some average psychedelic metalband and the lazy bastard in me starts to wonder if I shouldn't have stayed home. Luckily, things gradually get better. The vocal parts just serve like a bridge between the real good parts: the rhythms, the guitarsolo's, the endless riffs. Things get like they're supposed to be: midtempo heavy mastodont rhythms, filthy guitarsolo's full with wahwah, delay and distortioneffects and in general completely lacking any subtlety . The sound of this four piece band (2 guitar/bass/drums) gets thicker, the noise-edge gets heavier and the drummer gets more 'into it'. Nevertheless I have the feeling that all is a bit more structured (intro/riffs/solo-part) than in the past, but I'm not the expert. All in all a descent show. A pity I was sober. My fault.

Preferred drinks: Beer, all sorts, but certainly the 'quick ones' and lots of it. In plastic cups.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Master Musicians of Bukkake / Ignatz, Scheld'apen, 17/07/09

I like the concert venue Scheld'Apen for different reasons. First, concerts start late, gives you time enough to get there on time without stress while you still can order a few drinks and have a talk before the shows start. It's a nice evening and we order some fine beers and enjoy the evening outside. A bit later, seated on the floor, Ignatz kicks off with his very personal 'broken' folk blues. His guitar & vocal work that is sometimes melancholic/nostalgic and often drenched in delay gets from the quiet & introspective to the rawer, distorted edge and back. A nice and ideal support act. After the break smoke fills the nicely filled concert place and 6 people, each dressed in a long red robe and with some sort of a bee-keeper's hood on enter the stage. Master Musicians of Bukkake open the set with a drone/atmospherical instrumental. After that, a hairy thing crawls up the stage. It looks like a Yeti or Bigfoot or perhaps it's the sort of monster that lives in swamps most of the time, feeding itself with water plants, frogs and toads. But look, it learned how to pick up a microphone and it actually knows how to sing (which can't be said of Madonna and Britney Spears, according to their very recent 'concert ' performances - thousands of people pay fortunes to see them playback, find the logic in that). Meanwhile the band gets in a rhythmic mood and with two drummers, two guitar players, a bass/guitar player, one guy on synths and that singing creature, Master Musicians Of Bukkake know how to build long multilayered psychedelic/krautrock-ish jams. The music strongly refers to the psychedelic & kraut stuff from the seventies, but they produce it in some sort of upgraded 21st century form. Perhabs they don't make anything really new or revolutionary but they sure recycle interesting music from the past and they don't confine themselves to simply reproducing the stuff. Combine that with their excellent craftmanship (some of the band members play in Asva, Earth or do production work), a good sound and a sense of putting things in the right perspective and you get a great show! I buy an Ignatz-cd (I already have the two MMOB-cd's, good ones btw) and have to convince the drunk guy from the merch that it actually costs 12 euro in stead of 5.

We drive home and get lost in Hoboken. While we try to find our way out of there Harappian Night Recordings is on. The fascinating, weird south-asian music influenced experimental pieces mix well with the night images of nearly empty streets. We conclude the evening at the bar and try out a Boskeun beer, quite a strong beer (with a ridiculous label on the bottle) but our verdict was unanimously that it didn't appeal to us very much. The La Chouffe (that's the one with the stupid gnome on the label - is it supposed to attract children or what?) afterwards tasted much much better.

Enjoyed the show with different sorts of beer, which is obviously the best sort of booze for this kind of music.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

3 Seconds of Air, Theobaldus Chapel Brecht 20/06/09

So goeStajer arranged us an invitation for the album presentation (The flight of Song, out on Tonefloat) of 3 seconds of air. 3 seconds of air is a side project of Dirk Serries, an ambient/drone musician who's been active since the eighties and has gained quite a reputation worldwide. First as Vidna Obmana and since a couple of years with Fear Falls Burning, switching from (mainly) synths and electronics to (seriously treated) guitar works. With 3 seconds of air he and his guitar team up with Paul Van Den Berg (guitar) and Martina Verhoeven (bass). The album was recorded in a small chapel on the countryside and it's the place where the concert is happening. When we arrive, we're greeted by Serries himself and we quickly order some Oxfam Beer. Goestajer chooses the blond stuff, I try the brown one. A bit sweet perhaps but very smooth and it goes down quite easily. Before the concert there's some sort of speech from a dude, explaining the history of Brecht and the chapel throughout the centuries. He makes a bit of a confusing impression and has some difficulties with structuring his story - maybe he had already a few drinks. Oh well, somebody should bootleg this & release it as some sort of satanic spoken word performance or something.

When the three musicians start their set, things get quiet except for the birds outside who, at this time of hour, are still making a lot of racket. Especially a blackbird is doing his best and manages to interfere nicely with the soft drifting guitar sounds. 3 seconds of air is all about ambient, the dreamy stuff. The two guitar players, each one of them using lots of effects/pedals, produce lovely sounds that whirl and float through the chapel. This nice tapestry of sound is sparsely but effectively supported by the dry bass that carries the soundscapes very slowly through time & space. The first track has some vague melancholic feeling. Some of the Kranky stuff comes to mind (Stars of the Lid, Windy & Carl). The second track is a bit more voluminous with moments but it certainly stays firmly on the ambient side. In the third and last track my mind starts to drift off, maybe it has something to do with the bloody church chairs that just are not comfy to sit in. In the finale I manage to pick up with the music again and when the sounds finally drift away the three musicians are thanked with a warm applause. GoeStajer and I continue our enthusiastic exploration of the Oxfam beer and after lots of silly nonsense talk and half-drunkish laughter we leave the place, piss in the bushes and drive home well saturated.

Preferred drinks for listening to the cd at home: White wine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jaki Liebeziet & Burnt Friedman, A Hawk & A Hacksaw, Nijdrop 15/05/09

A Hawk & A Hacksaw is a band from New Mexico. The poor dudes must have been confused arriving here in the middle of nowhere (of Flanders in fact) playing in an nearly empty old warehouse. Nevertheless, they have the right attitude and can't be bothered. 'We're here now anyway, so we play what we've got' is the attitude for this sort of occasions. With accordion, mandolin (or is that a bouzouki?), accordion (this guy also sings and has a sort of floor tom at his foot), violin, trumpet and tuba they play the sort of folk music that's heavily influenced by Balkan music with perhaps some hints of mariachi here and there. They manage to create a good atmosphere, automatically I think of some Kusturica movie scenes: weddings, drunk funerals, family parties etc... throw in a dog with three legs, cats eating from the table, a lost goat and you know what I mean. All in all, I liked the set and it made me thirsty. One advantage of a low turn-out at concerts is that you seem to own the place: no waiting at the bar, no endless trying to get the bartender/bastard's attention, no pushing your way through the audience and spilling beer etc...

Fortunately a bit more people have arrived when Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman kick of their set but the turn-out is still very disappointing. Where is everybody? Seeing Liebezeit drumming is some experience. Seated before (and a bit higher than) his four toms and three cymbals (and some well placed mics) - no footwork - he starts without hesitation hitting rhythms that he changes slowly, but never is there one hit out of place or out of rhythm. If you follow his hands and sticks it becomes mesmerising, he's like a human beat box. Sometimes in the beginning of each track you think that it mustn't be that difficult to follow him but his timing, attack and volume is perfect and damn, he subtly adds quite some variation. Liebezeit is in the music business since the middle of the sixties, starting in the German free jazz scene (see Manfred Schoof and even Brotzmann) before he played with Can and now, forty years later he's still going strong. Respect! Burnt Friedman is very complementary to what Liebezeit does. He contributes to the rhythms with lots of nice bleeping sounds (lots of lovely steel drum-like sounds) while at the same time weaving very beautiful sound blankets through the rhythmic patterns. Sometimes hints of melodies shine through, some dubby bas feelings show up and at one time he even used some acid house sounds in the mix. The duo works nicely towards some impressive climaxes to which the audience reacts very enthusiastic. They even come back to do an encore. I already saw them a couple of years ago (with a guitar player who wasn't that good) but this time I experienced it as much better. I must admit that at that time the beer flow had been going goddamn fast for a while, so maybe that element had something to do with it.

When experiencing the duo's high quality & highly recommendable chill out studio Cd's at home (first two Secret Rhythms volumes are wonderful, haven't heard third installment yet) I wouldn't recommend beer in plastic cups like I digested that night but I would suggest some nice dry white wine. And before the thousands of readers of this blog start to regard me as some sort of wine snob: I don't mean sipping on a glass like some sort of upper class idiot, while you most probably don't know anything about it but just swallow the stuff like a big boy and at least empty the goddamn bottle would ya?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No Neck Blues Band & Adam Egypt Mortimer, Bozar 05/05/2009

We arrive at Bozar and join a select group of people waiting in the entrance hall. There are only perhaps 30 people for the gig/film, which is a real disappointing turnout. I can't remember seeing any publicity for this show on fora or concerts (knew about the gig via band's newsletter) but then, I'm not following up 'the scene' as close as I want to. First off we receive a short informal speech from Adam Egypt Mortimer, the man who's making the No Neck Blues Band movie 'At 6 AM We Become The Police', which is scheduled to be released at the end of this year. He tells us the movie is almost finished, but he regards it as a work that is still in progress and as he is still shooting material it could be that things will be added/deleted. He warns us that it wasn't his intention to make a story about the band, its members and how they think about the band, music, musicianship, neither is its aim to inform the viewer about how the music is built, thought out, conceptualised or whatever. Instead, he wanted to keep the sort of mystery about the band alive. Indeed, the band members, sitting relaxed in the audience during the screening, confirm that in the beginning they were not open about his filming but after a while (Adam Egypt Mortimer has been following the band since early/mid '90s) things started to work out nice.
The movie itself is - just like the band and its music - one strange affair. All sorts of concert and rehearsal fragments are presented (some of them from a long time ago). The focus is rather on details, the camera shifts follow each other quite fast and the band is shot from different angles. The aim is clearly not to present statically how the band plays (from a more technical point of view), but rather to try to give the viewer an idea about how the band deals with chaos, improvisation, unexpected things, unusual concert settings (in open air for instance). The music sounds more chaotic/improvised/more extreme than the No Neck stuff I have at home. The fragments are mixed with fictional elements, sort of video-clip-style. I remember seeing the beginning of the movie on you tube, a strange thing where two band members (swimming and walking) are confronted with some sort of mirror closet or box and a shining purple eggplant. If that doesn't make much sense to you, well nothing about this band and this movie does. You just have to go with the flow and enjoy the weird but fascinating trip. No questions are answered, but I would say, leave the questions behind and enjoy the images. All is well filmed, cut, pasted. O yeah, there is nudity in the movie ... a man in the nude fighting it out with some lobsters (only a few, not that much, for budget reasons Adam explains afterwards :-). Rock Lobster indeed!

After a short pause the band enters the stage one by one. At first we thought the sound check was still going on but it appeared to be the guy from Embryo (I think ...) sitting on a cheap keyboard, rubbing it, pressing his hands on it and doing some vocal improvisations. Afterwards, a huge flight case (looks almost like a coffin) is put on the stage. In it is Matt Heyner, who leaves the thing, covered with a black cloth and his addition to the rest of the show is him in a sort of slowed down fight with the flight case and the cloth. Meanwhile percussion, guitars and vocals enter the mix. The atmosphere of the music is loose, relaxed, a bit tumultuous and chaotic. A band member is standing in the audience, clapping, shouting and suddenly he enters the stage with white tissues he must have got from the toilet and soon he is dressing every band member with it, while dropping the pants of the percussionist before he picks up the bass and starts playing along. The last part of the set is more introspective, some slightly melancholic/melodic elements turn up (from the bass and guitar players). After perhaps three quarters of an hour they stop playing, leaving the people a bit in a surprise that the set is already finished. We hit town to drink a couple of beers and conclude that the show and the movie were good. Surely strange but good.

Digested the show with regular beer, experience could have been better with Chimay Blue

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swaks/Hey Colossus/Zu/Kong - Nijdrop 24/04/09

Swaks, a local trio (guitar, bass, drums) opens the little festival. Swaks, the three fellows dressed in white (Modern Talking anyone? :-), play mainly instrumental guitarriff driven powerful rock music. Not that original but they play it with the right attitude. Especially the opener from their set and a few tracks towards the end hit the right spot. In between the set is a bit lame and i get a bit bored. I'm not convinced by the singing of the drummer. But as a starter, it's all right and the guitarplayer, armed with some effect pedals, does a good job. The visuals (movie collages) are ok too. A pity that most of the audience isn't arrived yet.

Hey Colossus is a British band and apparently six people are in it. During the short soundcheck, the bearded singer wakes the audience up with a short series of impressive screams. When they open the set, they surprise me not only with their energy and motivation, but also with their sound which is very good. The guitars, bass, drums, noise (keyboard/pedals) and screams/shouts all mix in equal portions to become one beast of a total sound. If you play this sort of music and you're with six on stage, it often happens that some technical errors or unequal mixing turns up, but not with this band. During the first tracks, the rhythm is fast and heavy, I urge to the bar to order a few beers and try not to miss a single piece of the set. The voices are very good and interact well, which clearly is an added value to their sound. Apart from the faster, kick-in-the-guts songs - think Todd, Unsane - they perform one long, slow and heavy track - bit more Neurosis, Melvins direction. The songs are well rehearsed (so it seems anyway) and fit very good. It's clearly not just about getting loud & berserk and don't caring where the noise ends. As they play music that isn't evident and unfortunately is not for the big masses, I hope they manage to get their act going and that the band stays together in this constellation and I hope to see them on a Belgian stage again. I stupidly forget to buy a cd from these friendly guys.

Zu is one of my favorite live bands. Together with The Ex, it's the band that I've witnessed live the most. Tonight they play well (the sax a bit too strong up in the mix) , and I see that most people react very enthusiastic on their music. I can imagine that someone who isn't that familiar with their work and with what Zu stands for, will surely be impressed. Nevertheless I get the feeling that they play on some sort of automatic pilot, i miss a bit of hungriness. A bit of a fatigue after thousand concerts? Or maybe it's me who has seen them too much... I ask around afterwards and those who've seen them already a few times have a bit of the same reaction: good but I've seen them doing better.

Kong is a Dutch band that has a long career behind them. Somewhere in the early nineties they have gathered some success with their original concept of performing filmic instrumental metalbased music while each of the four members of the band stands (or sit in the drummer's case) in a different corner of the place. Their debut album 'Mute Poet Vocalizer' and the second one 'Phlegm' are still listenable pieces of work. After a long hiatus, the bass player invited new members and they actually have a new cd out. The quadraphonic live approach still works, the public chooses where to stand, where to look at and you get some sort of dynamism, people moving through the concert room, that you normally miss at a concert. The new tracks don't do much to me. Not bad & well performed, a very professional sound but they don't add much to the earlier work. Kong impresses me the most with their older material.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kjell Bjørgeengen & Keith Rowe / Fire & Ignorance / Activity Center, Netwerk 13/03/09

We arrive at Netwerk art center, order quickly an Orval beer at the bar and go upstairs for the first set. The duo Michael Renkel and Burkhard Beins perform together as Activity Center. Each of the players have some electronic equipment before them as well as all sorts of small percussion elements, selfmade string instruments and other more or less 'readymade' garbage. The duo choose for abstract, minimalistic sound layers/waves that change slowly, while adding bowed & plucked string sounds, some hand percussion accents, but all in a arhythmical context. The live produced sounds are often instantly given an electronic treatment. The sound collages sound nice, sometimes i get interested but in a whole I never really get involved in the music they produce.
After that we refresh our drinks and head over to the other exposition room where close to the four walls several televisions produce fast flickering black/white screens with changing frequencies. Apparently that's the contribution of Kjell Bjørgeengen who is sitting with his control gear at a table in the middle of the room. Listeners sit, hang, stand or lay around him. Meanwhile at the other side of the table, legendary EAI-guitarplayer Keith Rowe is working on his prepared guitar. He produces high pitched sinus-like tones, sawing guitar sounds, twitches guitareffects and creates other rumble-like sounds. Strangely I can't enter into his soundspectrum. I only feel a sort of fatigue and boreness. As I expected more of his set I wonder if it's me who isn't open to it, who fails to grasp it. I try different approaches: stand still and concentrate, stop looking at the artists (not much to see anyway) wander around the room, try to get distracted by the TV-images so that the music can take me off-guard so to speak - but the TV's keep producing the same sort of black/white blocks, which are - fair is fair - not exactly spectacular to put it mildly. I get the feeling that the duo just isn't doing something new, spectacular or impressive. But with this sort of music/sound/visual art one never knows and aybe others are more positive about this set. After a while we just give up and head to the bar for another drink.
We put all our hopes on the two dudes of MoHa!. Last year I saw them performing a great massive set of ear-shattering drum/guitar/electronics mayhem at the Magasin4-club in Brussels. It sounded like a blend of Lightning Bolt power with Supersilent weirdness. Now they have teamed up with two visual artists and perform as Fire and Ignorance. And do the four of them deliver? Hell yes! We enter the room and the musicians are allready waiting for us. On both side of the musicians the artists stand behind their light control pannels. The light equipment (stroboscopes, black light, strong spots) are aimed not on the musicians but on the spectators. We are clearly the slaves, they are the masters & in full control. As everybody sits down, doors are closed and lights go out. We wait in anticipation. The silence is abruptly broken by the sound of (amplified?) breaking light tubes. That is the signal for of a series of very loud, intimidating & furious assault on as well ears as eyes. While the musicians go for the ear damage, the light artists attack (100% in phase with the music) our visual senses. The music is loud, atonal and simply put: brutal. Often there's a small pause between the drum/guitar/light/electronic thunder - they clearly choose for the unpredictable start/stop-tactics and play with contrasts between silence and noise; black and white - but the public doesn't aplaude or yell, maybe they don't dare. In fact, the few times I look beside or behind me (when lights are on) I see some people almost pressed against their chairs. One women leaves the room, poor lady. Sometimes the whole concept is so grotesque, so intimidating and perfect that I smile in almost disbelief. What impresses me also is the fact that not only the music is played with great skill but that also the sound - even at this volume - is just perfect. After a merciless (and understandable) short set, people finally relax and applaude. We leave the place delighted and as we walk to the car I feel in my jacket the bag with the protective ear plugs the organisation handed out before the concert ('we've heard the rehearsal this afternoon and it's very extreme'). Oh well, ear plugs are for pussies.