Thursday, December 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: Kernel's Porter

Sunday, September 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They finish. Upstairs. Out into the night.

Preferred drink: Budvar

Friday, July 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: San Miguel

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Raw Power Festival - Corsica Studios, 10 July 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: San Miguel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: Young's Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: Water

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dead Meadow - The Drop, London, 14 April 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: Sussex Best Bitter

Monday, February 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Koreisch - This Decaying Schizophrenic Christ Complex

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferred drink: Water