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.