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