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The Hidden Cameras @ Bush Hall

Hidden Cameras 2014The Hidden Cameras
Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush. 29jan14.

When the Hidden Cameras first came over to these shores, they would often bring a number of party tricks with them; toy percussion instruments to hand out to the crowd and dancers in balaclavas while angry racoons would be set loose on the dance floor. Well, that last one isn’t true, but you could believe it of them, as there was nothing if not a wild abandon about those shows.

However a decade down the line, Joel Gibb (for he is to the Hidden Cameras as sugar is to candy floss) appears more worldly and, err…, ‘tucked in’. The sound on brand new record Age and its 2009 predecessor Origin: Orphan has seen a significant increase in the maturity of the songwriting, and generally has a greater ‘heft’ to it. Not in a ‘middle aged spread’ sense, more that as the hair lightens, the perspective becomes a little wiser as well as the orchestration getting a little denser.

Famously, and this was as much of a journalistic hook as the vaudevillian aspect of the shows when they first appeared, early songs dealt with golden showers, anonymous encounters in toilets and such like. Newer songs are still heavily influenced by the more promiscuous end of homosexual lifestyle, but come at it with an increasing sense of ennui and, some, regret.

Now, this is not to say that a 2014 Hidden Cameras show is all ashen frowns and Amish sartorial strictness, far from it. The current European franchise of Gibb’s backing band (pictured), including Jordan Hunt (of The Irrepressibles) and Verity Susman (once of Electrelane), are quite happy to bounce around for Underage and sling on the blindfolds for Smells Like Happiness, while two beetroot-faced members of the crowd are dragged from the front to lead the rest of us in the hear/speak/see-no-evil hand movements for Breathe On It.

Gibb, meanwhile, is captivating in his own right. There are plenty of vowel sounds within his tunes, a plethora of ooohs, ahhs and ayys, and he sells each one like a man that has just discovered that he is on fire; the ‘o’ of his mouth contorting, stretching and contracting in such a way as to suggest an invisible dentist has taken the opportunity to do a scale and polish.

There appears to be plenty of confidence in the new material, the show opening with the same three tunes as Age, and rightly so. For all that the sound and tone is shaded around the edges these days, Gibb’s ability to write enrapturing pop songs remains undiminished as he continues to add an admirable breadth to his canon

February 1, 2014 Posted by | new reviews | | Leave a comment

2013: 25 gig salute

2013 has seen the end of the ATP weekenders, which is of course a great shame as they were the perfect destination for a gig adventure. Poor quality chalet-age, freezing December weather, a nearby beach with sand-dunes plus a heavy duty line up of quality bands. What more could you want? Their final weekender was a treat to behold and a superb topper for a fine gigging year.

Gig adventures were not confined to Camber Sands either, as in 2013 I was also fortunate enough to be able to search out great live music in a variety of locations outside London (including the rock n’ roll capital, Stamford in Lincolnshire) as well as in France and Germany. In those locations I can recommend La Maroquinerie in Paris, The Kazimier in Liverpool and the Cookie Jar in Leicester as fine places to see live music.

So, anyway, 2013 then; here’s the very best of times… (all pics by D A Nicholls)

Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees @ Kazimier

1: Thee Oh Sees. Liverpool Kazimier (May)
Playing as part of the SoundCity festival, the Kazimier is rammed awaiting Thee Oh Sees who begin their European tour here with their merch and equipment having been confiscated or lost en route from their arrival point of France. Nonetheless, using borrowed equipment, they whip up a fire in a manner to which repeated viewers of their live shows have become accustomed. Perfect festival set from a band at the height of their powers.

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White Fence @ Tufnell Park Dome

2: White Fence. Tufnell Park Dome/ ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins (May/November)
“On record, White Fence’s sound can be quite gentle, bobbing along like a message in a bottle, but live there is a vigour that comes from the wall of sound created by the three-guitar set up. It’s a woozy psychedelic swirl which captures a punk abandon vocally, and some Beefheart/post-punk eccentricity in the guitar textures. Glorious, in short”. FULL REVIEW.

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Michael Rother @ Wrexham Central Station

3: Michael Rother. Wrexham Central Station (April)
Backed by the Berlin-based band Camera, Michael Rother continues to bring the best of his back catalogue to audiences old and new. Here, as part of a Welsh music conference, he demonstrates why he is a pivotal figure in the world of kosmische musik, having been a member of Neu!, Harmonia and for briefer periods, Cluster and Kraftwerk. This is not just a history lesson either, with the motorik beat thunderous and Rother’s guitar shimmering like winter sun over a series of classic instrumental pieces.

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Do Make Say Think @ Field Day

Do Make Say Think @ Field Day

4: Do Make Say Think. Field Day @ Victoria Park (May)
Undulating, oscillating, climbing, crashing, Do Make Say Think occupy a point somewhere between Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As they finished, and the cheers bellowed out, a stranger and I turned to each other in agreement that this was by the far the most exhilarating thing we’d seen all day. You can’t see everything at a festival, of course, but other turns will have had to have gone some to top it.

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5: The Pop Group. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (November)
With a background of Mark Stewart having gone hatstand on the social networks two nights prior to their set, calling out Barry Hogan of ATP, and festival curators Loop as being “cunnts”, there was some speculation that The Pop Group would not be appearing. However a deletion and apology the next morning meant we were all systems go, and HOW. A ball of energy, this was not some nostalgia trip, as much as being entirely relevant right HERE right NOW. Spectacular.

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The Intelligence @ Lexington

The Intelligence @ Lexington

6: The Intelligence. Islington Lexington (June)
Chances are if you’ve taken your guitar to the back of the room and are currently tight-rope walking on the bar seating area then your gig is going quite well. Lars Finberg has got every right as The Intelligence meet the anticipation of their first London show (a previous attempt to play this venue three years ago having been curtailed by the minor issue of them apparently being refused entry into the UK) head on with an hour of to-the-point buzzing garage rock n’ roll.

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7: Verity Susman. Queen Elizabeth Hall (June)
Pretty much the same set as made the list last year but this was the fourth time I’d seen it since and here in a large room, the vocal loops filled the space beautifully. With the sax squawks at the start and the repetitive Siri-speaks-slash-fiction unafraid to test patience, it all builds to the topper twin-set of The Phillip Glass Ceiling and To Make You Afraid which simply blow the lid off. REVIEW OF CAFÉ OTO SET EARLIER IN 2013.

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8: The Magic Band. Chelsea Under The Bridge (March)
Turns out there is something to admire about Chelsea FC – a very handsome venue in a basement beneath one of the stands. This show was the final show on the Magic Band’s latest tour. I have now seen the Magic Band on several occasions and this gig in terms of atmosphere must rank it up there amongst the very best, certainly since the departure of Gary Lucas’ from the group. Erik Klerks may about as much connection to the original group as I have, but the boy can play, and facilitates John French, Denny Whalley and Mark Boston showing how it was done when the Captain was still around. Key track: Hot Head

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Chrome Hoof @ Lexington

Chrome Hoof @ Lexington

9: Chrome Hoof. Islington Lexington (October)
“Now, of course, this [accessibility] may not be an ideal development for many sympathisers, who may want their business as usual. They’ll be happy to know though that there remain many layers to the Hoof’s operation, with death metal grunt, predatory P-funk, kosmische swirl and heavy duty prog tangents still underpinning the silver-glitter, disco-ball strut”. FULL REVIEW.

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Goat @ ATP

Goat @ ATP

10: Goat. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (December)
Context is all. Their Electric Ballroom set earlier this year which has been captured as a live record was fine, but the further back you are from the spectacle, it loses something. Here, right next to a speaker and close to the veiled and masked troubadours, the spirit of the live performance transmitted straight down into the feet. With a veritable queue of crowdsurfers taking to their air, this was wne of those experiences that you only really find at a festival.

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Teeth of the Sea vs Wire @ Cafe OTO

Teeth of the Sea vs Wire @ Cafe OTO

11: Teeth Of The Sea vs. WIRE. Dalston Café OTO (March)
“After an awkward soundcheck in front of a shuffling, encroaching, excited audience here in the bijou confines of a packed Café OTO, Teeth of the Sea and Wire come together for a twenty-minute version of the latter’s track Drill. It is a Drill so powerful as to put the earth’s core in jeopardy, spinning and piercing incessantly and feverishly until Colin Newman raises his hands to ask “If this is not an exercise, could this be a drill?” It is, and an astonishing one”. FULL REVIEW.

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Nisennenmondai @ La Maroquinerie

12: Nisennenmondai. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“With their most recent material prior to latest LP ‘N’ , the set with which they toured triumphantly round Europe and America in 2011 (captured on their ‘Nisennenmondai Live!!!’ recording), it was mostly the case of a fast rhythm grinding abrasively, stabbing guitar (or Korg synth) weaving its way in and around the bass and percussion, taking it’s time to reach the springboard, the metronomic bass-thump and hi-hat rave-beat greeting the extra drums when it kicks on, but with this new record they are seemingly happy for soundscapes to travel without such frenzy and with a flattening of the peaks and troughs”. FULL REVIEW.

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AKDK @ Southsea Fest

AKDK @ Southsea Fest

13: AK DK. Southsea Social Club (September)
Festivals will give you moments like this, where a band sweeps an audience who, by and large, will not have heard of them, off their feet and into abandon giddier than the situation has any right to be. This was one of those, taking those in the downstairs room of Southsea’s Social Club, when they could have been in any number of the other venues taking part in Southsea Fest, well into their bosom. New found affection abounded.

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Kim Ki O @ La Maroquinerie

14: Kim Ki O. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“Having made the journey [to France from the protests ongoing back home in Istanbul] it is clear this is not business as usual as their voices crack with emotion as they speak of police brutality and a refusal to give up the fight for the secularist community….Of course, all this creates quite a poignant atmosphere in the room and elevate their tunes to a sum that is perhaps greater than the parts.” FULL REVIEW.

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Housewives @ Lexington

Housewives @ Lexington

15: Housewives. Islington Lexington (June)
Relentless, energetic post-punk, the wild abandon from a fledging group immediately impressing.

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16: Destruction Unit. Shoreditch Old Blue Last (October)
Hugeness. A no-encores set of about 40 minutes with two, perhaps three numbers (certainly Slow Death Sounds and Night Loner were in there) stretched out to become crushing, brutalist wrecking balls thumping ‘the soundscape’ square in the face. Lighting rigs were hung from, guitars attacked and rock n’ roll made intense and startling with no quarter given.

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Orchestra of Spheres @ Power Lunches

Orchestra of Spheres @ Power Lunches

17: Orchestra of Spheres. Dalston Power Lunches (December)
The costumes betray a place at the B-52’s/Devo ‘fun-time’ end of post-punk, whilst the ‘biscuit tin’ guitar whirls through Afrobeat, psychedelia and good ol’ rock n’ roll. Punk-funk, glam and detached disco all feature and thus an hour of top flight dance action gradually builds with the in-round singing of Mind Over Might taking it to another level still.

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18: White Hills. Shoreditch Cargo (April)
Entering to a quiet London crowd giving off a not untypical ‘go on then impress us’ air, they left 75 minutes later to feverish cheering, having impressed us thoroughly and beyond expectation.

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19: Cosmonauts. Hoxton Macbeth (August)
Barely pausing to catch breath over the course of 45 minutes, this was rumbling psychedelic rock done to perfection.

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napal11

Napalm Death @ Cafe Central

20: Napalm Death. Weinheim Café Central (January)
“The rhythm section looks exactly as an extreme metal rhythm section should look: portly, goateed and appearing to be combating a migraine throughout. Bassist Shane Embury, the sole member to date back to 1987 debut LP Scum is still billowing out an unkempt wafro, but these days pattern baldness has rendered a kind of reverse-Mohawk parting of the red sea, the bubbling follicles hanging round his ears like palm leaves”. FULL REVIEW.

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21: Eat Lights Become Lights. Rough Trade East (July)
Muscular psychedelic krautrock grooves powered by not one but two drummers.

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Moon Duo @ Tufnell Park Dome

Moon Duo @ Tufnell Park Dome

22: Moon Duo. Tufnell Park Dome (July)
Now a duo of three being augmented with a live drummer but although this was the best I’ve seen of Moon Duo that was more to do with personal positioning as the performance as a stage-lip berth meant I could watch Ripley Johnson work his psychedelic solos at close range. Key track: Catch As Catch Can.

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23: Purple Pilgrims. Shacklewell Arms (November)
A short set with a minimalist set up. Two people, two guitars, two voices, and one box for the rest. Uncluttered, breathy, glacial, ethereal, all of these things and much much more than the sum of the parts.

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24: Colin Stetson. Dalston Café OTO (October)
Harsh and abrasive, yet haunting, Colin Stetson’s virtuoso displays of circular breathing and using all the sonics of his instrument, making it appear as though he is playing three or four patterns at once. How he manages this without looping technology is beyond my comprehension really, so both impressive as a human feat and as a series of pieces that can capture isolation and hope in equal measure.

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25: The Octopus Project. Highbury Garage (October)
It is possible to be oddball and cohesive at the same time. Largely instrumental business with theremins and cinematic scope, like a knockabout Yann Tiersen. Very entertaining in support of Man or Astroman?

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Honorary ‘Not Sure If You Can Call That A Gig Really?’ Award….

Neon Neon. Village Underground (June)
If you’re going to write an album entirely about the life of left wing millionaire publisher and activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, I suppose it makes sense to perform it live as part of an immersive theatrical show with extra vignettes acted out, and the audience required to move about as the stage itself moves amongst them. Plus with a victorious encore from their first LP which, incidentally, was all about John DeLorean. Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip don’t do things by halves.

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Il Sogno del Marinaio (Mike Watt) @ Cookie Jar

Il Sogno del Marinaio (Mike Watt) @ Cookie Jar

Other highlight tunes from the year’s gigging
Anna Calvi, Eliza (Wilton’s Music Hall)
BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Doctor Who Theme (Rough Trade East)
Bilge Pump, final song of set with drone section (Leeds Brudenell Social Club)
Black Sabbath, Behind The Wall Of Sleep (The O2)
British Sea Power, No Lucifer (Derby The Venue)
Brown Brogues, I’m Not A Crane (Old Blue Last)
Cable, Honolulu (Highbury Garage)
Charles Hayward, My Madness (Old Blue Last)
China Drum, Cloud 9 (Stamford Voodoo Lounge)
Civil Civic, Airspray (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
David Byrne & St Vincent, I Should Watch TV (Roundhouse)
Deerhoof, Basketball Get Your Groove Back (Queen Elizabeth Hall)
East India Youth, Heaven, How Long (Heaven)
Gary War, Pleading for Annihilation (Shacklewell Arms)
Il Sogno del Marinaio, Partisan Song (Leicester Cookie Jar)
James Yorkston, Tortoise Regrets Hare (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
Jeffrey Lewis & The Rain, History of the French Revolution (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
John Grant, Marz (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Kandodo, Lord Hyena, 3am (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
Kraftwerk, Spacelab (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Low, Murderer (Cambridge Junction)
Man Or Astroman?, Antimatter Man (Highbury Garage)
Mega Emotion, Shapes (Courtyard Theatre)
My Bloody Valentine, Soon (Hammersmith Apollo)
Robyn Hitchcock, Wreck Of The Arthur Lee (Rough Trade East)
Savages, Flying To Berlin (Lexington)
Shrag, Faux-Coda (Lexington)
65daysofstatic, Sleepwalk City (Rough Trade East)
Steve Mason, Am I Just A Man? (Record Store Day @ Berwick Street)
Talk Normal, Shot This Time (Sebright Arms)
Terakaft, Tirera (Electrowerkz)
Trust, Bulbforms (Electrowerkz)
Wilko Johnson, She Does It Right (Rough Trade East)
Wire & The Pink Flag Orchestra, Pink Flag (Heaven)

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All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

2012
1: Boredoms @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
2: Thee Oh Sees @ Stockholm Hornstull Strand
3: Mike Watt & George Hurley play the songs of The Minutemen @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
4: The Ex & Brass Unbound @ Pontins Camber Sands (ATP)
5: Group Doueh @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
(full list)

2011
1=: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ Union Chapel
1=: Nisennenmondai @ Kentish Town Forum
3: The Magic Band @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms (et al)
4: Gaggle @ Rough Trade East
5: Kap Bambino @ Krems Messangelände
(full list)

2010
1: tUnE-yArDs @ Shoreditch Cargo.
2: Low @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ Primavera Sound
4: Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II (ATP)
5: The Hidden Cameras @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
(full list)

2009
1: Amiina @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
2: Transglobal Underground @ Shoreditch Rich Mix
3: Future Islands @ University of London Union
4: Veronica Falls @ Spitalfields Rough Trade East
5: Pet Shop Boys @ Greenwich O2
(full list)

2008
1: Tilting & Drifting: The Songs Of Scott Walker @ Barbican Theatre
2: Danananananakroyd @ Islington Lexington
3: The B-52’s @ Camden Roundhouse
4: Killing Joke @ Kentish Town Forum
5: Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire @ Dalston Barden’s Boudoir

2007
1: Carla Bozulich @ Spitalfields The Spitz
2: The Fall @ Hammersmith Palais
3: Rarely Seen Above Ground @ Whitechapel Art Gallery
4: Tim Ten Yen @ Brixton Windmill
5: Yndi Halda @ London Blow Up Metro

2006
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Shitdisco @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Only Son @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
4: Stuffy/The Fuses @ Herne Hill Half Moon
5: Gogol Bordello @ Manchester Academy 2

2005
1: The Magic Band @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
2: Architecture In Helsinki @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Schwervon @ Liverpool Zanzibar
4: Cranebuilders @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
5: Thee More Shallows @ Liverpool Hev’n & Hell

2004
1: Charlie Parr @ Leeds Packhorse
2: Soweto Gospel Choir @ Edinburgh St Georges West
3: The Magic Band @ Highbury Garage
4: Nina Nastasia with Huun-Huur-Tu @ Leeds City Varieties
5: Kid Carpet @ Liverpool Barfly

2003
1: Low @ Islington Union Chapel
2: Jeffrey Lewis @ Leeds Royal Park Cellars
3: Olympic Lifts @ Southampton Joiners
4: The Kills @ Southampton Joiners
5: Melt Banana @ Liverpool Magnet

2002
1: The White Stripes @ Leeds Festival
2: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
3: The Polyphonic Spree @ Leeds Festival
4: Motel @ Portsmouth Horseshoe
5: Nina Nastasia @ Spitalfields The Spitz

2001
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Lonnie Donegan @ Guildford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guildford Festival

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chrome Hoof @ The Lexington

hoof1Chrome Hoof.
Islington Lexington. 04oct13.

Chrome Hoof’s latest LP Chrome Black Gold has been over two years in the making, during which time they have been largely off radar. Now though, the spacecraft has docked and they are returned to us, albeit slightly tinkered with, with Alex Thomas replacing Milo Smee on drums, James Sedwards arriving on guitar in place of Guapo bandmate Kavus Torabi and vocalist Lola Olafisoye’s big shoes being filled by two pairs of feet.

This might throw some bands off kilter, but there is no sign of that on the new etched-in-stone pronouncements they bring forth from the cosmos which capture them in fine, dare I say accessible, form.

Now to call Chrome Black Gold accessible when it features the bassist from Cathedral, Carcass’ vocalist and a bloke who’s thumped tubs with both Squarepusher and Bolt Thrower might be stretching it a bit. However, while previous records Pre-Emptive False Rapture and Crush Depth had ‘gig hits’, big tunes for cutting loose to in front a home crowd or festival audience, this new record has a couple of tunes I could well imagine over Radio 6, or with Jools Holland introducing with the words. “Thank you, the marvellous SeaSICK STEVE…and now let’s enjoy Chrome Hoof”.

Now, of course, this may not be an ideal development for many sympathisers, who may want their business as usual. They’ll be happy to know though that there remain many layers to the Hoof’s operation, with death metal grunt, predatory P-funk, kosmische swirl and heavy duty prog tangents still underpinning the silver-glitter, disco-ball strut.

Even if there were to be misgivings on the direction of the record, the live environment is where Chrome Hoof really excel, being both a sonic and visual treat. It’s a the unleashing of a monster, all tentacles and teeth, and the Lexington’s long but narrow stage is filled by an 11-strong headcount; bassoonists, violinists and dancers amongst the collective.

hoof2Now, the absence of Lola from the gang-show could have represented a major blow to stage presence as she used to dominate proceedings, prowling the playhouse like a murderous mantis; a semi-robotic simulant velociraptor you did NOT want to annoy. Here ‘backing vocalist’ Chan Brown takes lead for the opening two tunes (the swooping, stabbing Crystalline and marauding funkzilla Pronoid) and shares it for regular encore closer Tonyte and through her experience fronting Invasion, it’s water off a ducks back, offering a more Vegas soul-diva dynamic.

Then as the largely instrumental Sea Hornet, an absolute beast of a piece, draws to a close Shingai Shoniwa, best known for her work fronting The Noisettes sidles coquettishly onto the stage, hiding initially behind the tassles of her costume. You certainly can’t accuse the Hoof of not being sartorially in keeping with their sound, all chrome, black and gold, the players of instruments partially hidden under habit-like hoods. It would look incongruous if they were to turn out in decorating t-shirts and Crocs, certainly.

Shingai may be a touch more orthodox in terms of ‘threat’ than Lola but nonetheless fits in perfectly with the showmanship required of this band, as well as with the new material which, as stated, is almost confrontationally ‘pop’ although always with a twist in the tail, of course. Knopheria could be a big, brash modern r n’ b number, before it breaks down into a dark electro coda.

Tortured Craft has a ska-like chop at its heart and is the daintiest tune of the set, but the Pat Metheny rock opera, sonic hunter-gatherer Ultimate Sealed Unit and the monsta-stompa Drobe Out turn up late in the set to bench press a two-ton van for our pleasure.

This Friday night out in Islington is a timely reminder of the power that Chrome Hoof have within their multi-headed hydra. It’s a real treat to have them back within the Earth’s atmosphere.

John Robb’s Louder Than War review features two of my photos (different from above) and can be found here.

October 9, 2013 Posted by | new reviews | , | 1 Comment

Nisennenmondai, Kim Ki O @ La Maroquinerie

?????????????????????????Nisennenmondai, Kim Ki O.
Paris La Maroquinerie. 15jun13.

Ekin and Berna of Kim Ki O are obviously delighted to have been invited to France for two shows, but clearly the decision to come is one they have had to wrestle with given their friends and family are back home in Istanbul caught up in the Taksim Square and Gezi Park protests.

Having made the journey it is clear this is not business as usual as their voices crack with emotion as they speak of police brutality and a refusal to give up the fight for the secularist community. Their t-shirts are self-drawn reading “Resist and we win” and “Everywhere’s Taksim, everywhere’s resistance” and each song is introduced, themes explained and dedicated despite the fact, by their own admittance, they don’t usually speak between songs. Here though, stagecraft is trumped by a need to communicate about the cruelty they have witnessed and the injustice they feel.

Of course, all this creates quite a poignant atmosphere in the room and elevate their tunes to a sum that is perhaps greater than the parts. That said the combination of strutting synth and hollowed-out Joy Division-style bass perfectly captures a sense of blissed-out, melancholic optimism and, as such, as their set comes to a close, the roof is raised and if they weren’t having to pack up their own gear they may well have been carried on shoulders from the room.

?????????????????????????Nisennenmondai bring an intense atmosphere of their own, creating a different kind of friction and pressure through build and release. Mostly build. Pretty much all build. Indeed, Syaka Himeno’s drum set comprises only three bits of kit; kick drum, hi-hat and snare and the snare ain’t getting much of a look in. Not much danger of a tear for that particular skin. However the fury with which the cymbal is attacked is a marvel in itself, requiring a limbering up pre-performance and a cracking of the knuckles, elbows and shoulders between pieces. Nisennenmondai are clearly not prepared to surrender to the threat of repetitive strain injury.

With their most recent material prior to latest LP N , the set with which they toured triumphantly round Europe and America in 2011 (captured on their Nisennenmondai Live!!! recording), it was mostly the case of a fast rhythm grinding abrasively, stabbing guitar (or Korg synth) weaving its way in and around the bass and percussion, taking its time to reach the springboard, the metronomic bass-thump and hi-hat rave-beat greeting the extra drums when it kicks on. With this new record however they are seemingly happy for soundscapes to travel without such frenzy and with a flattening of the peaks and troughs.

Still at the heart of it is Yuri Zaikawa’s bass. A wall of bass. Impervious bass, set down as a foundation layer. Then Himeno, head thrashing from side to side in time with her drum pedal, will attack the hi-hat as though trying to whittle it with blunt sticks. Finally Masako Takada, tweaking notes out of her guitar, will hunch over a deck of pedals and switches, looping, stretching and manipulating those notes, before adding more echo and shimmer. It is all done in a similar way to how Michael Rother operates live, albeit on a more compact scale.

So, this latest marker in the Nisennenmondai canon sees more ambient textures, more teasing (N being made up of three near-quarter-hour pieces), but nonetheless their repetitive hooks clasp tight, and the grooves prove swiftly addictive.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | new reviews | , | 1 Comment

White Fence @ Tufnell Park Dome

?????????????????????????White Fence
Tufnell Park Dome. 16may13.

So let me tell you about Tim Presley. Well, no, let me tell you about the apparent work ethic of those working in the Bay Area psych-rock scene. It appears the musical culture there is based on this kind of exchange: “so, you’ve released seventeen albums this year? How quaint, I’ve released thirty”.

John Dwyer seems to put out Thee Oh Sees records to commemorate each time he has a shave while Ty Segall appears to believe recording is a practical alternative to eating and sleeping. Doing well to keep up with them is Tim Presley, currently touring with a band as White Fence. Four LPs in 2012 and another one so far this year. Bangbangbang. ‘Ave ‘em.

Of course the two other prolific personalities mentioned above are not chosen at random with Dwyer’s Castle Face label putting out the latest White Fence record Cyclops Reap, while Segall and Presley collaborated on an LP, Hair, one of the four Presley releases last year.

Prior to 2012, Presley spread his output across a number of acts, through Darker My Love, The Strange Boys and The Nerve Agents. Where I come in with Tim Presley was his year-long stint in The Fall in 2006/07, slotting in with Darker… colleague Rob Barbato after Mark E. Smith’s previous gruppe resigned en masse during a US tour. In the end he played a big part in The Fall’s Reformation Post TLC record, returning briefly five years later to cover Pete Greenway’s maternity leave for a UK tour and has even contributing to a number of tunes on the latest Fall LP Re-Mit.

How he makes time for all this, I don’t know, but interviews suggest that his social life outside of gig venues and recording studios has suffered as a result. Has it been worth it is the key question here and on the basis of this performance at Tufnell Park Dome, you’d have to say ‘Yeh. Oh yeh’.

?????????????????????????This was an electrifying hour despite the fact Presley does not go in for extremes in stage craft. Whereas John Dwyer might bend, twist and flip, embodying the music in body and performance on stage, Presley is much more straightforward, his guitar tied tight to his torso, rather than his hip; he will occasionally spin on a heel and present his guitar for a little feedback, but that’s the height of the ostentation.

Nonetheless, boisterousness was certainly in the air as a scuffle briefly broke out down the front. “Come on, don’t fight” they implored at the conclusion of the tune they were amongst at the time, in the polite manner of a W.I. tour group accidentally finding themselves lost in Ayia Napa at 3am on a Sunday morning.

On record, White Fence’s sound can be quite gentle, bobbing along like a message in a bottle, but live there is a vigour that comes from the wall of sound created by the three-guitar set up. It’s a woozy psychedelic swirl which captures a punk abandon vocally, and some Beefheart/post-punk eccentricity in the guitar textures. Glorious, in short.

What a performance to commemorate Upset the Rhythm’s 499th promotion. Indeed this stacked, five-band bill would have been an ideal 500th really, but timing is everything. King Tuff impressed with half an hour of trucker-punk rock n’ roll while Mikal Cronin’s band topped a brisk set with a freakout section that felt like a much more benign version of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘holocaust’. Cap doffed, once against, to UTR.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | new reviews | | 1 Comment

Teeth of the Sea vs. Wire + Verity Susman @ Dalston Café OTO

?????????????????????????Teeth of the Sea vs. Wire, Verity Susman
Dalston Café OTO.
23mar13.

Verity Susman wanders onto the stage, wearing wide-eyes and a gigantic false moustache, looking like Yosser Hughes asking to be ‘giz’ a job as the support act. Having been ‘gizzen’ the work, Verity swiftly proves that she can indeed ‘do that’.

She arrives, pins on a sax and proceeds to speak through it like a pining whale, kissing the tip before turning her attention to the bank of diminutive synths and numerous effects pedals which form the basis of her sonic collection, whilst behind her Jack Barraclough’s bespoke, psychedelic visuals illustrate her stories. Susman’s central underpinning is the disembodied voice of Siri reading the Seven of Nine-based lesbian fantasy Sustenance by Tenderware, which cycles in and out of her work, decontextualized and detached, but like an old friend returning with each appearance.

Verity has tunes, but in her live set they become part of a larger whole, a PVA glue collage of bits taken from sci-fi slash fiction, avant-jazz, kosmische music and snippets of vibe from her previous work with Electrelane. The swirling, increasingly claustrophobic fairground sounds of The Phillip Glass Ceiling and the looped, estranged choral twinkle of To Make You Afraid are particular highlights.

Teeth of the Sea are similarly nuanced, but come at things with much more muscle. They are a four piece, but do the work of many more, with some members often playing two instruments at once (Matt Colegate on bass/drums and Jimmy Martin on guitar/synths being two multi-tasking types). They have the billowing maelstrom element of psyche-prog without really being it. They have the heavy duty, chest-barging aspect of hardcore and avant-noise without really being either of those.

?????????????????????????Their music comes as long-but-not-outstaying-their-welcome instrumental pieces, and where there is bellowing, it is off-mic, a marker of the energy; breakers of sound swelling and colliding. A trumpet appears at points, often in the more reflective passages, a Gabriel-esque trump of doom indicating imminent attack and change. Alternatively, if a turn to the Biblical isn’t your thing, they could easily be soundtracking a pub fight on Neptune.

If all this wasn’t triumphant enough, they are joined for the encore by Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey of post-punk veterans Wire. This gig is part of a four night run of show curated by Wire and they appear here having sped from the Lexington where, earlier in the evening, they had performed with Toy, but in a support slot to the younger act. Their headline performance in this festive run will follow in twenty-two hours time.

After an awkward soundcheck in front of a shuffling, encroaching, excited audience here in the bijou confines of a packed Café OTO, Teeth of the Sea and Wire come together for a twenty-minute version of the latter’s track Drill. It is a Drill so powerful as to put the earth’s core in jeopardy, spinning and piercing incessantly and feverishly until Colin Newman raises his hands to ask “If this is not an exercise, could this be a drill?” It is, and an astonishing one.

Graham Lewis goes around kissing and hugging everyone, the grins on the faces, particularly, of the Teeth of the Sea members light up the room, and the cheering of the audience goes on. A superb finale to an excellent evening.

Video of the evening’s Drill performance here

March 25, 2013 Posted by | new reviews | , , | 1 Comment

Napalm Death @ Cafe Central

shane001Napalm Death
Weinheim Café Central. 20jan13.

Napalm Death are much like the Sugababes really, in that their current line-up features none of the people that made up their first incarnation. However, the current quartet have now all been in situ for well over twenty years, and in terms of recorded output, this collective have worked together on twelve of their fifteen long-players.

Barney Greenway has been the vocalist now for quarter of a century, which with his fresh face and bank clerk hair suggests he arrived in Napalm Death before he did secondary school . His stage movements are, however, a bit more Dad-at-wedding appearing, as he prowls about, to be a man wading through swampland, pushing aside five-feet-high long grasses whilst shaking his head like a dog attempting to rid itself of excess rainwater. Not some cartoon ‘evil’ death metal band these, certainly; after playing their infamous one and a half second long piece You Suffer, Barney whips his grinning face towards the crowd in a way which recalls Tim Vine after an elaborate pun has hit home.

napal11For a man barking like a garrotted lion during the tunes, between them Barney is very much the avuncular presence, thanking the audience repeatedly for making their way to Weinheim to pack out Café Central despite the repeated snowfall and transport issues of the prior few days, as well as requesting, in hangdog fashion, that we both put aside violence and war and invite Nazi Punks, courtesy of their Dead Kennedy’s cover, to “fuck off”.

To his right, American-born guitarist Mitch Harris also looks well preserved for his years on the road, crashing through the noise and offering backing vocals that contrast Barney’s rumbling tones with a high-pitched, help-I’m-being-devoured-by-zombies-at-the-bottom-of-a-well scream.

The rhythm section looks exactly as an extreme metal rhythm section should look: portly, goateed and appearing to be combating a migraine throughout. Bassist Shane Embury, the sole member to date back to 1987 debut LP Scum is still billowing out an unkempt wafro, but these days pattern baldness has rendered a kind of reverse-Mohawk parting of the red sea, the bubbling follicles hanging round his ears like palm leaves.

What Napalm Death continue to offer after all these years, and even now slimmed down from a five-piece to a four (Jesse Pintado having left in 2004, before sadly passing away two years later), is a captivating energy which in the right space sends the pinballs flying; the stage invaded on a regular basis for use as a springboard into the crashing waves of human surf.

Far be it from me to consider myself an authority on extreme metal but with regards this 75 minutes spent at Café Central, here in an otherwise sleepy provincial town, well, I loved it.

January 25, 2013 Posted by | new reviews | | 1 Comment

2012: 25 gig salute

Looking at this list of my 25 top gigs (well, sets really) of 2012, it seems I have much to thank the curators and bookers of the festivals I went to, with ATP festivals in March and December, as well as Field Day, Lovebox, Apple Cart and the BT River of Music (Africa Stage) represented robustly here.

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Thee Oh Sees @ Hornstull Strand

Interesting, to me at least, is that the act at #1 would, the first time I saw them, have won my ‘Most Disappointing Gig Of The Year’ garland, were I the spiteful type to dole those kind of things out. Just goes to show first impressions don’t have to last.

So, anyway, here’s the best of ‘em…

1: Boredoms. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Five drummers, twelve guitarists, and leader EYE at the centre of the storm, conducting with body rather than baton. We were promised an “energy orb”, and it becomes just that, with EYE’s intonations and sonic crashes blowing minds all around.

2: Thee Oh Sees. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
Playing third on a four band bill at 20:15 might seem like a thankless task but while Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kurt Vile & The Violators may have been bigger draws at this special ‘What We Do Is Secret’ summer event, Thee Oh Sees go beyond ‘warming up’ the crowd to the point where the energy they generate on stage and in the crowd would be enough to keep the Stockholm street’s lit through a long Scandinavian winter. Highlight: The Dream.

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Watt & Hurley @ ATP

3: Mike Watt & George Hurley play the songs of The Minutemen. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
After a rare mistake, Mike Watt remarks “you know we practise, and practise, and practise, but we’re still missing our guy”, acknowledging the D. Boon shaped hole in this set-up. Boon died in 1985. Watt & Hurley refused to replace him, or use the Minutemen name without him, and this is a very rare duet, but these are their songs re-shaped for a bass guitar and a drum-set only, and it is both a tribute to an absent friend and yet electrifying in the here and now.

4: The Ex & Brass Unbound. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
The Ex can now officially be called staples of my end of year list having appeared here in 2010, again with Brass Unbound, and last year in tandem with Getatchu Mekuria. This, though, was the best of the lot.

5: Group Doueh. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
It’s the end of a long weekend. Long, but great. Just as the body is beginning to give up, it gets a recharge from Western Saharan rock troubadours. Like a psychedelic wedding band with a bosomy Auntie on backing vocals and excitable frug. Electrifying, at just the right time. A fine way to finish off an ATP.

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The Fall @ ATP

6: The Fall. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Continuing a rich run of astonishing Fall gigs, by no means a guarantee, with one of the very best yet.

7: Liars. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Never ones to sit still, new LP WIXIW is yet another change of direction, and they showcase it here, thunderous beats and ambient electro building up from the wide-pupilled alt.rock foundations, and occupying a world of its own”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: Brats.

8: Turing Machine. ATP @ Camber Sands (November)
So, you go to a festival, and you do your research, see what’s good for checking out n’ that. Ramping up to the Shellac-curated ATP, Turing Machine’s record stood head and shoulders above other unfamiliar acts that were previewed. With expectations thus running high, it was bound to be a let down, right? Not a bit of it. Utterly electrifying.

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Liars @ Field Day

9: Black Sabbath. Birmingham O2 Academy (May)
“Throw in the fact that Ozzy Osbourne has been a cartoon character with a shot voice for many years, while guitar hero Tony Iommi has been stricken with cancer of late, even the fact that my first experience of Sabbath live, twenty years after they first entered my record collection, would be a warm-up show in their home town in a venue far too small to accommodate demand, felt tinged by an sense of disappointment. One hour and forty-five minutes of some of the finest hard rock anthems later however, all those misgivings were blown away.” FULL REVIEW. Highlight: The Wizard.

10: Evangelista. Brussels Les Ateliers Claus (September)
“However, it is Winds Of St Anne that takes the prize as the set highlight, as it crawls through the haze of an Arabian desert-scrape, ridden with the impact sweat of the dry heat, the lyrics anticipating a new life in preparatory stream of consciousness (“When the wind blows, there are no rules”) as the bursts of excitement leaving a tension in their wake” FULL REVIEW

The first time I saw Carla Bozulich playing the music from her Evangelista album in 2007, if it wasn’t life changing then it was certainly eye-opening and EAR-changing. I’ve seen Carla in duos, trios and with the full Evangelista group on several occasions since, but it was probably this show that got closest to matching the intensity of that first show.

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Evangelista @ Les Ateliers Claus

11: Verity Susman. Dalston Birthdays (June)
Thirty minute sonic adventure taking in squalling sax, vocal loops, dancefloor beats all weaving in and out of Seven of Nine based lesbian slash fiction read sonorously by a disembodied ‘Protect and Survive’ style narrator. Startling and arresting.

12: The Pre New. Social (August)
Chaotically immense. Was it not ever thus?

13: Bo Ningen. Rough Trade East (October)
“With each Bo Ningen gig I have attended, they have been twice as good as the previous occasion. If these trends continue, they will become the greatest band in the world about four gigs from now”. FULL REVIEW.

14: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park (June)
“I’ve never done this before sober” says Aidan Moffat as he shuffles onto the stage, followed by the band and the eccentric looking figure of Bill Wells who takes a back-seat on stage. Yet it is his piano lines as much as anything else that causes my flesh to goose into bumps on at least three occasions. It is Jubilee weekend so they play their Glasgow Jubilee with prefaced warning to the parents at this ‘family’ festival that it may get a little x-rated. Also, with the rain hammering down incessantly outside, their drawled cover of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer is entirely apt. Highlight: Let’s Stop Here.

15: Melt Banana. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
Down to a core duo, but no less intense. It required a shower and a change of shirt for me directly afterwards, involved me carrying two crowd surfers on my head at one point, and one bloke left afterwards minus the set of specs he went in with. Bedlam and thus brilliant. Highlight: Free The Bee.

16: R. Stevie Moore. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Dressed in sweatpants, and sporting the kind of facial hair you can usually only get away with if you have an army of elves in your employ, the eccentricity is clearly of the cuddly ‘hey everybody, I’ve just dyed my beard blue’ kind. R. Stevie projects a wavering baritone onto his sharp rock and his pop whimsy, but then unleashes a growling bark that Jazz Coleman would rank amongst his best. A reason to be cheerful, certainly”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: I Like To Stay Home.

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Bo Ningen @ RTE

17: Andrew W.K.. Kentish Town Forum (April)
Sometimes you just need to check your brain in at the door and surrender to ridiculous, gonzoid, cartoon rock. What better time to do this than with Andrew W.K. in town, with full band, performing his superb record of feel-good PAAAAAAAARRRRR-TAAAAAAYYYYYY anthems, I Get Wet in its entirety to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Damn good fun.

18: Victims. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
From Nyköping, Victims play a brand of punishing hardcore punk rock that gives no quarter, and barrels into the audience like a rolling dust cloud of thrown fists and kicking legs. First on Victims own the Strand stage and both Bombus and American veterans Poison Idea couldn’t follow them.

19: Gallon Drunk. Hoxton Macbeth (November)
“There’s nothing stand-offish about Gallon Drunk. More stand in-ish, as frontman James Johnston spends the entire set indulging in some front-row frottage whilst slinging his guitar about with such carefree abandon that the less attentive audience member remains permanently in peril of a blithe biffing” FULL REVIEW.

20: Peepholes. Scala (August)
“Peepholes can be a little awkward in their stage craft which isn’t helped here by a fidgety drum set causing continual trouble. However a packed Scala forgive these minor shortcomings and raise the roof on their departure, having been blown away by a peacock display of assertive synths, rattling drums and a psychedelic yelp” . FULL REVIEW.

21: Angélique Kidjo. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
When your playing at a day of African music and the moment legend of African music Hugh Masekela joins you on stage isn’t anywhere near the highlight of your performance, it’d be fair to say you’ve turned it on proper. 52 years of age but performing with the zeal of a teenager, Angélique Kidjo stole the Saturday of the BT River of Music’s Africa stage from under the noses of King Sunny Ade and Baaba Maal. Highlight: Move On Up.

22: The Magic Band. Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (March)
Crowd turned from quiet and respectful to hollering and hooting in the space of two energetic sets. Your favourite band gets booked into your favourite venue, what better excuse is there for a trip back home?. Highlight: My Human Gets Me Blues.

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Angélique Kidjo @ BT River of Music

23: Hot Chip. Lovebox @ Victoria Park (June)
Humbled by the honour, Al Doyle announces this is the first time Hot Chip have headlined a festival, and they don’t waste the opportunity afforded them. Being a fan of both Pet Shop Boys and Devo, it is difficult for me NOT to have a soft spot for Hot Chip, who also apply a subtly arched eyebrow to spirited synth-pop. Here it is also aligned with a monogamously romantic soul sound, and no small dose of party funk. The hipster chess club nerds own the field as the sun goes down, stacking the bases for a triumphant closing medley of Ready For The Floor, Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere and Hold On. Highlight: Over and Over.

24: First Aid Kit. Rough Trade East (January)
Often bands playing Rough Trade comment on the lack of raucousness in the audience. This was one where a quiet, appreciate, record shop crowd probably fitted the occasion. They still look about 12, but the two ladies of First Aid Kit have a maturity of performance and harmonisation well beyond their years. Highlight: The Lion’s Roar.

25: The Invisible Republic of JuJu. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
Formerly of Jah Wobble’s Invaders of The Heart and collaborator with Robert Plant, Brian Eno and Tinariwen, Justin Adams has also worked recently with ritti player Juldeh Camara, bassist Billy Fuller and drummer Dave Smith as JuJu. For the River of Music Africa Stage they surrounded their desert psych and jazz drone with a number of North African guest players and singers for a glorious union celebrating the ‘the invisible republic’ of collaborating musicians and interacting cultures.

‘Gigs 2012′ Spotify playlist

 

Ooh, so close: A Place To Bury Stangers (Cargo), Beach House (Brighton Haunt), Hejira (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), K-X-P (Corsica Studios), Lower Dens (Islington Lexington), The Megaphonic Thrift (Shoreditch Old Blue Last), Scratch Acid (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), Squarepusher (Hackney Empire), Underground Railroad (Hoxton Macbeth)

 

other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s gigging

American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Beak>, Yatton (Islington Lexington)
Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny, Sweet tooth Bird (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Billy Bragg, Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards/I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles/A New England (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Bis, Eurodisco (Lexington)
Blurt, Enemy Ears (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Merciless And Great (Hackney Empire)
Dead Rat Orchestra, the one with the percussion provided in the beer garden via axes and a log (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Hejira, Litmus Test (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms)
Here We Go Magic, Make Up Your Mind (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
The Hives, Walk Idiot Walk (Roundhouse)
The Imagined Village, Bending The Dark (BT London Live @ Victoria Park)
James Yorkston & The Athletes, I Know My Love (Cecil Sharp House)
Jeff Mangum, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Joanna Newsom, Inflammatory Writ (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
The Levellers, One Way (BT London Live @ Hyde Park)
Low, Murderer (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Megadeth, Never Dead (Download @ Donington Park)
Metronomy, Love Underlined (Brixton Academy)
Ministry, N.W.O. (Kentish Town Forum)
MJ Hibbett & The Validators, Easily Impressed (Wilmington Arms)
Moon Duo, I Can See (Elephant & Castle Corsica Studios)
New Build, Do You Not Feel Loved (Rough Trade East)
Nina Nastasia, Jimmy’s Rose Tattoo (ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins)
Public Image Limited, Death Disco (Rochester Castle)
Robyn Hitchcock, Uncorrected Personality Traits (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun (Download @ Donington Park)
Toy, Left Myself Behind (Shacklewell Arms)
The Wedding Present, Corduroy (Los Angeles Troubadour)

 

All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

2011
1=: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ Union Chapel
1=: Nisennenmondai @ Kentish Town Forum
3: The Magic Band @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms (et al)
4: Gaggle @ Rough Trade East
5: Kap Bambino @ Krems Messangelände
(full list)

2010
1: tUnE-yArDs @ Shoreditch Cargo.
2: Low @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ Primavera Sound
4: Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II (ATP)
5: The Hidden Cameras @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
(full list)

2009
1: Amiina @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
2: Transglobal Underground @ Shoreditch Rich Mix
3: Future Islands @ University of London Union
4: Veronica Falls @ Spitalfields Rough Trade East
5: Pet Shop Boys @ Greenwich O2
(full list)

2008
1: Tilting & Drifting: The Songs Of Scott Walker @ Barbican Theatre
2: Danananananakroyd @ Islington Lexington
3: The B-52’s @ Camden Roundhouse
4: Killing Joke @ Kentish Town Forum
5: Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire @ Dalston Barden’s Boudoir

2007
1: Carla Bozulich @ Spitalfields The Spitz
2: The Fall @ Hammersmith Palais
3: Rarely Seen Above Ground @ Whitechapel Art Gallery
4: Tim Ten Yen @ Brixton Windmill
5: Yndi Halda @ London Blow Up Metro

2006
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Shitdisco @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Only Son @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
4: Stuffy/The Fuses @ Herne Hill Half Moon
5: Gogol Bordello @ Manchester Academy 2

2005
1: The Magic Band @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
2: Architecture In Helsinki @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Schwervon @ Liverpool Zanzibar
4: Cranebuilders @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
5: Thee More Shallows @ Liverpool Hev’n & Hell

2004
1: Charlie Parr @ Leeds Packhorse
2: Soweto Gospel Choir @ Edinburgh St Georges West
3: The Magic Band @ Highbury Garage
4: Nina Nastasia with Huun-Huur-Tu @ Leeds City Varieties
5: Kid Carpet @ Liverpool Barfly

2003
1: Low @ Islington Union Chapel
2: Jeffrey Lewis @ Leeds Royal Park Cellars
3: Olympic Lifts @ Southampton Joiners
4: The Kills @ Southampton Joiners
5: Melt Banana @ Liverpool Magnet

2002
1: The White Stripes @ Leeds Festival
2: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
3: The Polyphonic Spree @ Leeds Festival
4: Motel @ Portsmouth Horseshoe
5: Nina Nastasia @ Spitalfields The Spitz

2001
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Lonnie Donegan @ Guilford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guilford Festival

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gallon Drunk, Underground Railroad, Snack Family @ Hoxton Macbeth

Gallon Drunk, Underground Railroad, Snack Family
Hoxton Macbeth. 22nov12.

Sometimes conditions are just right and here at the Hoxton Macbeth it was all set fair for a night of sweaty, squalling rock n’ roll; the audience packed tightly into a backstreet boozer with its walls painted in the sleaziest of reds and lit like a tart’s boudoir.

Snack Family open the evenings business slithering about the place like a pencil-‘tached anaconda, a Tom Waits like growl and a smouldering chasm of baritone sax adding to the speakeasy vibes.

ImageRamping up from the Family’s slinky bedrock, Underground Railroad kick on the pace, merging the rock n’ roll vibes with a post-punk sensibility. J.B. Ganivet, looking like the eighteenth Beatle, wheels away at his bass like Pete Townsend trying to sculpt flint using only his thumb-nail; while his guitarist Marion Andrau and drummer Raphael Mura share the vocals around like a passed parcel at a child’s birthday party. It is assured and a little aloof, but in the very best way; a little mystique never hurt anyone.

There’s nothing stand-offish about Gallon Drunk. More stand in-ish, as frontman James Johnston (pictured*) spends the entire set indulging in some front-row frottage whilst slinging his guitar about with such carefree abandon that the less attentive audience member remains permanently in peril of a blithe biffing.

As stated earlier, the atmosphere is ideal for this kind of behaviour. Nothing’s perfect though, and the ceiling could probably be lower, it be summer and sweat be dripping down the walls, but as a request this probably ranks up there with complaining that the Lexus you’re getting for your 16th birthday has turned up before your party and thus ruined your life. I’m really not that spoiled, honest.

Besides, Gallon Drunk more than make up for these minor troublings with sharp organ stabs,  Terry Edwards’ peel-yer-knickers-off sax action and a rhythm section so muscular it could bench press a tractor. Bad Servant live in particular kicks its recorded LP version into a clammy hat stained by sweaty salt deposits. This gust underpins Johnston who captivates the room whilst prowling and perspiring.

At the end of the main set, blurring the stage line further, his guitar is given to a random punter to clang their contribution to the crescendo and there is almost a fight to be the one providing the ham-fisted blam. You can’t blame people getting over excited though; who wouldn’t want to contribute to a Gallon Drunk set when they’re on this form?

*picture found online from a previous show

November 25, 2012 Posted by | new reviews | , , | 1 Comment

Bo Ningen @ Rough Trade East

Bo Ningen
Rough Trade East. 30oct12.

Taken at face value, one might easily lump Bo Ningen into a Japrocksampler-made-flesh corner, and bandy the names of Kawabata Makoto, Yamantaka Eye and the Flower Travellin’ Band around as though to suggest they can only be a product of their ethnicity and cultural heritage.

Bo Ningen might be as Japanese as kabuki theatre in their skin and bone, but their psyche rock business owes as much to the West as it does to the Far East. They were formed and are based in London, and although no fans of contemporary UK music per se, wrap around elements of kosmische musik’s cylical ethereality; the darker, less Arthurian end of prog and the drawn-out freakout end of the garage rock n’ roll scene.

This year’s album release, their second proper, Line The Wall is a triumphant LP which does a great job of capturing the band’s remarkable live energy. Soko burns like revving tyres, while Henkan undulates and pops like a lava lamp roasting on an open fire. Here they do the same, only more so.

For while the record provides good after-the-fact evidence of their action, it’s not a perfect encapsulation. On your compact disc or vinyl platter, or within the coding of your mp3, you won’t see bassist/vocalist Taigen’s mouth gurning and wrapping around itself as though in the eye of a wind-tunnel’s gusto. You won’t see the guitars spinning and jutting, strafing the front row like annoyed seagulls. What’s more, you won’t feel your eyelids flap up like roller blinds, nor sense that all the eyelids around you are equally peeling back as easily as a satsuma’s suit. Startling then, to cut a long eyelid-heavy story short.

A Bo Ningen show crackles with shared delight and even here, at a Rough Trade East instore, where audiences tend to be quiet and performances low-key, a heat develops, the band handling this show like any other, where they treat their instruments like bare-knuckle sparring partners, climb the speakers and plant down a flag for their own world wherever a stage will attempt to contain them.

With each Bo Ningen show I have attended, they have been twice as good as the previous occasion. If these trends continue, they will become the greatest band in the world about four gigs from now. On this form though, I can happily live with them plateauing out for a bit.

More VP fanzine pictures @ Songkick

October 31, 2012 Posted by | new reviews | | 1 Comment

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