Vanity Project

fanzine archive and photo blog

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

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February 1, 2014 Posted by | new reviews | | 1 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

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

Evangelista, ?Alos, Keiki @ Brussels Les Ateliers Claus.

Evangelista, ?Alos, Keiki.
Brussels Les Ateliers Claus. 14sep12.

Western continental Europe has produced male/female perky pop duos of distinction before; Persil, of Amsterdam, bubbling instantly to mind. To them we can now add Brussels-based pair of Dominique Van Cappellen-Waldock and Raphaël Rastelli, gathered here under the name Keiki. Their bio and websites like to play up the idea of them being evil and satanic, and yet at first glance they appear far more likely to turn up at a petting zoo than a blood sacrifice.

We can assume that all this is tongue-in-cheeky, especially when you consider that not only do they sing in English (Van Cappellen-Waldock being partly from British stock), but a Bonzo Dog absurdist English. The lyrics take a route from not wanting “to be your toothbrush” to “toad-in-the-hole” and “Skegness”. Amidst all this smirking silliness is an astutely sparingly-used theremin, and a cover of Black Sabbath that exchanges the Matthew Hopkins headgear for a conical party hat.

It is perhaps just as well that the witchfinder chic is out as following Keiki comes pagan-performance-punk ?Alos who appears clad in black, face daubed with charcoal stitch-lines and red smears, and with several bells knitted into her ankle-length dreadlocks. The locks sway, causing a delicate twinkle, as the audience envelops her off-stage wanderlust, but this is the calm after a storm that initially takes in primal screams, unsettling plainchant and abrasively droning doom chords.

Carla Bozulich also has the ability to take a room by the scruff of its neck, tease it, terrify it, and walk amongst it unconcerned with boundaries. Tonight, however, she remains stage bound with her three touring bandmates Tara Circus Barnes, John Eichenseer and Dominic Cramp, collectively known as Evangelista. Tied to her post she might be, but with a voice that goes from brittle heartbreak to fire n’ brimstone retribution at a stroke, Carla is a presence that captivates from wherever she is choosing to perform.

Doffing a Stetson towards her country-rock past, the set opens with a couple of numbers by one of her many previous bands The Geraldine Fibbers; Outside of Town and Lilybelle. Indeed, it is quite a career umbrella of a set with Underdog by the Scarnella record made with Nels Cline, all the way to Let It Roll, a staple of Carla’s recent duet sets with Eichenseer (the economic reality being that it cannot always be the full band that tours). For the completest, all it needs is for something from her full LP cover of Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger to appear and for Ethyl Meatplow’s Happy Days, Sweetheart record to receive acknowledgement in song.

Needless to say, all of the four solo/Evangelista records from the past six years are represented, with You Are A Jaguar padding around its cage territorially, Artificial Lamb gradually applying layers of warming and cloaking pelt to its frail skeleton and a cover of Low’s Pissing that stays faithful whilst also taking it a little darker, further down into the cave.

It is during these latter numbers where old musician friends from Brussels join on percussion and cello, adding to the semi-improvisational drone and clatter sequences in Winds Of St Anne and Hello, Voyager. The latter is a collision of drums, with Carla rapping on a marching snare and bellowing like a soapbox street preacher. “This is me selling you out, when you needed me most” she hollers, the power and exhalation of confession and denunciation clambering over the violin twists, the cathartic hammer-on-skull drums and the eerie, psychopathic composure of certainty that underpins all this turbulence.

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 leave a tension in their wake.

More photo’s from the show here

September 22, 2012 Posted by | new reviews | , , , | 1 Comment

John Maus, Peepholes, The Pheromoans @ Scala

John Maus, Peepholes, The Pheromoans
Scala. 14aug12.

Upset The Rhythm began promoting shows in London nine years ago and are noted champions of the awkward, the noisy and the obscure, particularly those from overseas wanting to test themselves in the UK. It is thanks to them that I have been able to check out acts such as Quintron & Miss Pussycat, Nisennenmondai, Omar Souleyman, Future Islands and tUnE-yArDs live for the first time, and in all these cases, far from the only time.

From 2005 onwards, Upset The Rhythm launched a record label, and possibly their most successful release thus far has been John Maus’ 2011 LP We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves which featured in a number of end-of-year Top 10’s, including my own. Thus it is no surprise that when UTR throw their ‘Summer Shop Window’ label showcase that it is Maus they fly over from Minnesota to headline.

However, as well as getting behind esoteric artists from abroad, UTR are also keen to big up more local turns on their label and support comes from The Pheromoans and Peepholes. The former provide largely shambling nonsense that isn’t nearly as daring and strident as others on the label. However, having ho-hummed through their opening quintet of tunes, they then drop Deport Little John which, like The Coral’s early single Skeleton Key (this was before The Coral fully acquiesced to the requirements of Radio 2), fires off in all directions like a Beefheartian nail bomb. At this point, the drooping eyelids flap back up, startled, like a self-retracting tape measure. More of that please, chaps.

Since checking out their 90 seconds of blissful chaos Ladder on YouTube, I have taken a keen interest in Peepholes. It doesn’t appear in tonight’s set but not to the detriment of it. 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 that nods towards Zombie Zombie and the evening’s headliner. A reception for which the pair look duly humbled.

If Peepholes’ synths-and-singing-drummer duo seems like a spartan operation, then John Maus can certainly trump them on that score, having the same set-up as an X-Factor semi-finalist’s lunchtime PA in a shopping centre: vocal mic, backing tracks at the touch of a button and, err.., that’s it. However this basic staging is enough to stimulate a near riot of wild bouncing abandon, the Maus mania at one point seeing one young lady crawling across the stage for the chance to paw at her hero.

Perhaps she was inspired to offer a comforting shoulder given how much Maus stage behaviour often comes close to cathartic self-flagellation. He beats his chest like a gorilla trying to chase away a safari group. He soaks his vocals in reverb suggesting Ian Curtis in an echo chamber fronting The Normal. He bangs his head like there’s a rubber room somewhere with his name on the door. He bellows repeatedly in the ‘instrumental’ breaks with what I can only describe as triumphant anguish.

Some will look at all this with bafflement but there is no denying that Maus can light a fire in a room. This might be man-and-mic karaoke but the secret to its allure is in the vigour, and violence, of the performance.

August 20, 2012 Posted by | new reviews | 1 Comment