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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Part Chimp | That Fucking Tank | Monnocle | Hired Geek All Dayer - The Victoria, London, 4 September 2010

I oversleep and wrongly assume that nothing much will happen at the Hired Geek all-dayer before 4pm. That’s why I miss the first two acts and find that Marilyn Rambo are already playing.

The French guitar drums duo have set up in the middle of the pub. The handful of audience members crowd round. The floor is sticky, and the air hot and stuffy. I think I can smell the band sweating.

Marilyn Rambo’s meaty, muscular, math-rock slowly builds an audience. It’s not revolutionary but the guitarist shifts tones and riffs that stop your mind spiralling off. Mid-set the guitarist string breaks and the drummer freestyles while he waits for repairs to be completed. They end with their best song with a riff like a klaxon. As the band clear their gear away a barman sprays air freshener across the room.

I’m sure I’ve seen Please play before. I’ve only vague recollections though and if my memory is right I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe my recall and opinion are both unreliable because Please are mightily enjoyable. Jaunty, punk-y, riffery, like the chaotic, frenetic, musical accompaniment to a circus. Rhythms come in short, choppy, bursts, like clowns throwing themselves into another choreographed pratfall. After half an hour they pack up their tents and move to another town.

Kogumaza are as Japanese as a Matsui tv. They are instead a slow motion Black Sabbath trying to play acid rock. Longeurs, of dirge-y, down tuned, psych, snake, sinewy, unhurried paths into that bit of your brain where important thoughts escape to.

Change of pace. One Unique Signal don’t bother with the clutch and just crank things straight into fifth. We get one, long, unending, fuzzed-out, guitar solo. Vocals are minimal, probably because it gets in they way playing another distorted, effects drenched guitar lead. Imagine sitting with your old tape deck and filling a TDK 90 with all the white-outs and wig-outs of your favourite distorto-rock bands. Maybe you don’t need to imagine this. Maybe you used to do this.
What should you expect from three French men wearing dresses? The answer, I have learnt, is post-hardcore. Monnocle blaze through their set like watching a flame burn along a gunpowder trail. Only one that doesn’t end in a explosion. That would be far too easy. Far harder to make that trail go round and round circles and leave you wondering when.

On the merch table That Fucking Tank have boldly labelled one of their Cds with the question, “do you remember when Shellac were good?” I’m not sure they’re that good, but they don’t embarrass themselves with the claim. Tight, arid, jagged, riffs, utilising repetition, before jack knifing into a new groove.

Whilst the previous bands have been escalating hostilities it’s now time to bring out the heavy artillery. Part Chimp move onto the stage. In their hands rock becomes rubble. Like a tank crashing through brick wall they swiftly overwhelm their opponents with a frontal assault of massive overkill. Their amps deliver their payload of heavy, buried in the red, richter scale redefining, guitar. If I was General Kong, plummeting towards my target side astride a nuclear bomb, then Bringbackthesound would be my sound track to my happy death and global oblivion.

Prefered drink: Young's Double Chocolate Stout

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There comes a time when a man just needs to listen to heavy riffs played at heavy volumes. Those are the moments I reach for the Bong.

Bong specialise in acrid drone riffage, as if channelling ancient unknown energy sources. However, what transmogrifies their sound is the use of the sitar, which can both drone into cosmic infinity, but also cut through the sulphuric sludge of their down tuned monotony.

Bong’s seismic, slabs of stoner rock lava have been steadily rolling recordings down the side of the volcano since 2006. They first came to my attention last year when I happened by chance to see a mind dementing live performance.

The experience was enough to teach me that these were great druids and that I should be their acolyte. I hastened to the altar of the merch table and purchased Bethmoora and their self-titled LP, two particularly sulphurous emissions which clogged my ears like solidifying lava.

Since then I have devoted myself to their lore, and also that of the myriad of sects to which these Druids belong. Students wishing to become disciples should hasten to Lobster Priest, Master Slave, Basillica, and Obey.

Preferred drink: Fuller's 1845.
Bong: Black Bong of the Wizards

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stephen O'Malley + Steve Nobel | Marcio Mattos - Cafe Oto, London, 18 August 2010

In a record shop I like to frequent they have a section labelled 'Pretentious Art Metal'. It's here that you'll find albums by Stephen O'Malley's Sunn O))) and other bands on the Southern Lord or Hydra Head roster.

Whilst record shop staff are notorious for their snobbery, the instructive part of this tale is that nothing fails as awkwardly as a project with delusions of grandeur. So the two night residency of O'Malley and jazz drummer Steve Nobel is either going to be a triumph or something a long way short of that.

Before I can pass verdict we are treated to a solo cello performance by Marcio Mattos. He swiftyly switches between bowing and plucking in the staccato, jerky, style I can only, for the lack of the correct musical terminology, describe as modern classical. It's spellbinding and within a few minutes Mattos has even silenced the crowd by the bar.

He's also rigged his cello so that he can manipulate the sounds he creates with some additional sonic effects. My distant position in the audience prevents me from seeing how he does this. This allows Mattos to introduce spacey noises like a 1970s computer before he drops in a heavy bass 'whoom', a completely unexpected noise from a cello.

Steve Nobel immediately launches in to a rapid fire, schizophrenic, drumming. He flits across his kit in a hyper kinetic way, all energy and blur. O'Malley meanwhile seems to be trying to work out a chord based puzzle on his guitar. Deploying sluggish riffs in a way which provides tonal colour.

I wait for the performance to coalesce, but it never does. Nobel works his kit furiously, the variety and dexterity of his playing is something to witness. However, O'Malley's sonor ping riffs come across for the most part as if he is trying to tune his guitar.

Fundamentally this pairing doesn't work. Which is a little odd given that they have both played together in Aethenor. But in this setting they simply don't mesh. Nobel's drumming requires a more active guitarist, someone more able to duel and spar, or take the lead. While O'Malley needs a less intrusive percussionist, someone who can give his guitar playing more space to unfold and expand.

Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ikue Mori | Chris Cutler | John Butcher - Cafe Oto, London, 14 August 2010

The last time I saw Ikue Mori playing Kim Gordon was wrapped in foil and writhing around at the front of the stage. I’d consider myself fortunate if I saw something half as memorable.

This is the last night of 3-day residency by Mori. Her collaborators have changed from night to night. This evening she is joined by percussionist Chris Cutler and saxophonist John Butcher.

The first set consists of three duos involving all the players.

Mori is uses a laptop. Triggering samples of science fiction inspired bleeps and whooshes. Butcher plays submerged sax squeals. Muting the power of the instrument and firing intermittent clusters of notes.

Cutler has customised his drum kit. Leads and wires run off to a table next to him. It’s covered in percussive ephemera and electrical gear, allowing Cutler to produce a simply extraordinary range of tones and textures.

For all these musicians skill, they sadly don’t play with enough volume for the venue to feel they can keep the bar open during sets. My failure to obtain a drink it the only low point.

The most effective performances are Mori’s duos. The interaction and responsiveness between the musicians seems particularly high.

In the second set they play as trio. Something about this grouping doesn’t quite work for me. It’s a set of moments. There will be a wonderful passage, but then whatever alchemy that had occurred will disappear.

At the end of the gig I too should disappear. Unfortunately, I have stock-piled beer a little too effectively, and as the venue empties I have to stay behind and finish my work.

Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Silver Apples - The Luminaire, London, 8 August 2010

In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have gone. Watching Silver Apples left me feeling sad.

Their set began oddly. A short film about the band reminded us of their innovation, how they’d fallen through the cracks, only to be rediscovered 30 years later. And then, just as it’s meant to end happily, tragedy.

I’m not sure why we’re played the film. Maybe 30 years in the wilderness breeds insecurity. But it feels as if Simeon is trying to educate us or justify his status. He should remember we’ve chosen to be here. It’s preaching to the converted.

Simeon comes onstage to a warm welcome. The music, barring a few updates here and there, is close to the sound on their classic records, but not quite there. Injury limits Simeon’s playing ability and age has weakened his voice. It’s like a ghoulish karaoke.

The audience receive the songs with warmth. I don’t begrudge Simeon the applause or resent the crowds judgement. If they shared mine then this would have been a sour experience. However, for me no accumulated amount of goodwill can disguise the poverty of this gig. And it gives me no pleasure to report that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Graham Lambkin | Call Back The Giants | Helm - Cafe Oto, London 6 August 2010

There are a small number of artists who are very special to me. And when I go to their gigs, the performance is almost an irrelevance. It is enough simply to know that I am in the same room with them.

This performance is one of those opportunities. And in the case of Graham Lambkin a rare one. I have followed his singular body of work for a long time. Tonight he will be reading from his recent poetry collection. But first there are other artists performing on who it’s interesting to report.

Helm is a very neatly dressed young man. He starts his set with a lovely long open drone. Like the sound of electricity pylons nicely amplified. Resting on a small snare drum is an upturned cymbal. A small metal object rests on it. Possibly a contact microphone. Harsher metallic drilling noises are added. Presumably from the vibration of the cymbal. Then again, that stuff might just have been left there and is playing no part in the set. There is a claustrophobic feel to the sound. As if a submarine is crushed whilst an alarm clock rings unendingly. Or if a rusty door hinge screams as it is slowly tortured.

As if the presence of Graham Lambkin were not enough, the late addition of Call Back The Giants is an exciting bonus. They are the new project of Tim Goss who, like Lambkin, is an alumni of The Shadow Ring. The spectre of that band looms over his set. The distinctive primitivism keyboard sound harks back to their classic albums. Surreal dark tales are narrated in a blank deadpan. Goss is joined for the first half of his set by, I am guessing, his daughter. She helps weird out his keyboard sounds and her young voice counterpoints Goss’s bleak intonations. Like the greatest Shadow Ring moments it is uncomfortable, unsettling, unique.

Whilst Goss carries the Shadow Ring torch Graham Lambkin’s career has continued to move in the directions heralded by their later records. In Transmission and then in his own solo work he explored tonal soundscapes and musique concrete.

This evening though he is here to promote the publication of 'Dripping Junk' a book of his drawings. That’s not going to make a performance so he reads from his poetry collection ‘Dumb answer to miracles’, published in a tiny run last year.

The poems are very short. Providing Polaroids of Lambkin’s mind which seems phase shifted to a reality slightly out of sync with our own. The ordinary is made odd, the familiar, peculiar. Several poems cause the audience to laugh but never confidently. There is always a flicker of doubt. Is this a serious or humorous observation? Does my laughter betray a failure to engage intellectually? I embrace the ambiguity.

Lambkin downs four large whiskies during his set, observing: “It’s thirsty work.” The readings are punctuated with what sounds like a child’s recorder being played. The poor acoustics of the recordings distort the sound, adding to a uneasy, haunting, melancholy. As I make my way home through the night one line echoes in my mind: “We are all complex piss.” I do not understand it. But the pleasure of Lambkin’s work is in the attempt to decipher it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zs | Temperatures - Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1 August 2010

The Whitechapel Gallery is a tiny space. Tucked away up an easy to miss alley. Gigs here have a secretive feel.

Temperatures are a duo. Bass guitar and drums. The drummer also has a massive block of electronics which looks like it last used by NASA in the 1960s. The two-piece have a hyper dense sound. Dense bass fiddling battles with percussive drum rumble. I struggle to work out what the electronics are adding. Definitely something. The bass work is murky, thick, intense. Meanwhile the drums clatter away like a box of pots and pans thrown downstairs. In a good way.

The lights are turned off for Zs set. Random patterns and colours are projected onto the band. The effect is like an epileptic lava lamp. Zs set begins with a guitar duet. Complex, math-y, playing. They stop. Then saxophone adds dry note runs and squiggles. The drummer, playing without cymbals, taps gently. The guitars come back in playing an angular riff. They all lock-in. Repeating the malfunctioning riff while the plays muted squeals. They break out of the groove for some flashy playing, but they always return.

They play a shorter second song. Beginning with a syncopated handclap. Over which the guitarists add a quiet metallic twanging. Then they erupt sax jizzle, hard drumming and guitar riffs.

It’s jazz, rock, and prog. It’s also none of these things. I am at least sure that it’s good.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Part Chimp | Sloath | Gum Takes Tooth - The Luminaire, London, 29 July 2010

Gum Takes Tooth play to the small crowd who’ve arrived early enough to see their set. Their identities are obscured by plastic sheeting and a piece of fabric which sparkles dully in the dim light. They play drums and a table full of gadgets. These instruments play as if in a headlock, wrestling viciously with each other. The effect is a bit like digital grindcore. Or if you strapped a Commodore Amiga to John Bonham’s back. At it’s best the electronics sound evil and squelchy and the drum pummel adds a relentless forward motion. When they finish their set no one has emerged victorious.

The venue has filled up by the time Sloath take the stage. Low-end, down-tuned blues riffs. Some form of transcendence is sought in the repetition of those riffs. However, I find myself becoming bored. It all sounds so familiar. But there’s something which stops me dismissing them outright. Maybe this is not my night to fall in love with Sloath. I think there’s potential for a relationship. Perhaps we just need to see a bit more of each other.

I love Part Chimp. Nothing sums up the band more than their name. It encapsulates the un-evolved, Neanderthal, rock they play. I like a Don Cherry improvisation as much as the next jazz sophisticate, but sometimes you just need to listen to mean riffs played at deafening volumes. Part Chimp blast through their set with well practised precision. They never disappoint. Rusty corrugated iron riffs serrate your ears through the twin guitar attack. The drummer hammers his kit like a furious blacksmith. They close with a thunderous version of War Machine. They return to the stage for encore 30 Billion People. The audience nod their approval with synchronised head banging.