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