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  gig reviews -sep 05
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Don’t Look Back: The Stooges play “Funhouse”
30.8.05 - Hammersmith Apollo, London

The first of a series of gigs in which selected artists play the gem in their back catalogue in its entirety, and it’s great to see that, at £30 + a ticket, the spirit of punk rock is alive and well. Given that the running time of said album clocks in at just over half an hour, this works out at a quid a minute! Then again, seeing as Iggy and his merry men went to so very much unappreciated back in the day, who could begrudge them for wanting to collect payment where payment is well and truly (over)due? And rake it in they surely will, tonight’s show being well and truly sold out.

Cool Kids of Death are the European metal band with the unenviable position of support act. The singer mutters something about what a great honour it is and tries to avoid making eye contact with the audience. Cries of “Fuck off!” are flung in their direction more than once. Unfair maybe, as they’re actually not that bad (pretty cool name, too) but compared to what we are about to receive they are merely the Diet Coke of punk-rock.

Now, there’s no real logic as to why the sight of a sixty year-old man wearing nothing but skin tight blue jeans should make a couple of  thousand people lose their minds, but that’s pretty much what happens. What I want to know is how many of them looked at Iggy Pop and wondered, as I did, whether they’d be in half as good condition when they get to that age. How does the guy do it? Maybe all the drugs had a preservative effect. Maybe it’s just superior genes. Or maybe Mrs Pop (if she exists) knows how to whip up a mean vitamin drink. Whatever the answer is, you can’t take your eyes off him.

As the band tear through “Down On The Street”, “Loose”, “TV Eye” and so on – fucking loudly, I might add – Iggy shows us all in his own amp-humping, face-pulling, trouser-dropping (yes, we did indeed some pube!) glory why he’s still the greatest front man in rock and roll. I get drenched in beer from a flying pint glass and the crowd-surfers come in a never-ending torrent. Some old guy is wheeled out to add saxophone to the final two tracks and then they go offstage for a bit, before returning once more to play most of the first Stooges album too. “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “No Fun”, “1969”…we get them all.

Probably the greatest moment is when Iggy invites half the audience up onstage before launching into “Real Cool Time”, and almost gets torn to pieces in the process (his minder certainly has his work cut out for him). Maybe the godfather of punk deserves a little more respect from his adoring fans, but I have the sneaking suspicion he wouldn’t have it any other way. The only bum-note is that they chose to end with “Dead Rock Star” off Iggy’s last album…let’s just stick to the classics, ok? Other than that, a fantastic night which set the benchmark for the rest of the “Don’t Look Back” season.

Will Columbine

Don’t Look Back: The Lemonheads play “It’s A Shame about Ray”
14.9.05 – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
I believe it was Julian Cope who, during one particular interview, took umbrage with the running time of “…Shame about Ray”, which at 29 minutes is easily the shortest opus being performed as part of the Don’t Look Back series. The phrase that really sticks in the memory was “Where’s the rest of the album, you crack-addled twat?!” Can’t blame the man for wanting his money’s worth, I suppose, but personally I never felt short-changed by Evan Dando’s winning way with a melody, and with two sold-out nights here at the Empire it would seem a few thousand people are in agreement.

After a country-tinged support slot from former Vaselines main-man Eugene Kelly (who also opened for Dinosaur Jr last time they played here…maybe it’s a Boston thing) and a lovely rendition of his own “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”, the mood is well and truly set for Dando and co.’s special brand of grunge-pop. There is a lengthy wait before the headliners take the stage and launch into “Rockin’ Stroll”, but the effect is instantaneous. We’re all instantly transported back to early 90’s indie heaven, with each successive song as warmly familiar and comforting as a soft blanket, and Dando resplendent in a lurid red shirt and still sporting that familiar, unkempt mop of hair. How this awkward, gangly, Daddy Long-Legs of an individual maintains such an effortless aura of cool is a mystery.

What with the line-up of the band changing almost with every album, perhaps it’s no real shock that Dando is the only original member onstage tonight, but the impressive quality of his vocals are enough to divert me from such petty musings. It’s in fine fettle, something that is particularly surprising given his crack and smack-imbibing history. Pete Doherty…if you haven’t been taking notes, you should be.

The album over and done with, Dando performs a solo selection mainly taken from the Head’s last album, Car Button Cloth, before the band return and plough through the last few numbers. The entire set only lasts 50 minutes but the number of songs played makes it feel longer. Put that in your hash-pipe and smoke it, Mr Cope.

Will Columbine

Clem Snide
19.9.05 - The New Roscoe

Ahh, the Roscoe, what a venue. Tucked just outside the city centre of Leeds its and unassuming looking place. It looks from the outside to be part Beefeater, part Bavarian chalet and most the time it plays host to a slew of cover bands (‘Banned on the Run’ anyone? No I thought not) and MOR rock acts. However ever once in a while they manage to pull something really special out of the bag. Tonight was such a night as the illustrious Clem Snide make there welcome return to Leeds.

It’s been a good few years since Eef and his band were last in Leeds, then supporting their ‘Ghost of Fashion’ album. Now with the new record ‘End of Love’ upon us they are back, all be it with a slight change of line up.

The evening begins on a bum note however as we pay witness to one of the most lack lustre supports I’ve seen in along time. I couldn’t tell you his name nor do I give a fig as what we were treated to was a singer songwriter whose songs bared more than a passing resemblance to those moments in Neighbours when Carl Kennedy shares his unique talent with us. There is a time and a place for this sort of carry on and this is not it.

However all this is quickly forgotten as clad in matching white suits, each with a different scene for nature adorning their backs (Eef has a deer at sunset for example) Clem Snide take to the stage to perform their inimitable blend of American indie and Americana.

For those familiar with Clem Snide on CD there live act can be a bit of a surprise. Far more free, loose and loud than you might expect, on many occasions their presence on stage is nothing short of gripping as old favourites such as ‘Long Lost Twin’ (featuring a particularly brilliant and rocking ending this evening) and ‘Your favourite Music’ sit side by side along some of the highlights for End of Love like ‘The Sound of German Hip Hop’ or the jaw-droppingly wonderful ‘Something Beautiful’ reminding us of the consistency of Eef’s song writing abilities over the years.

The real highlights of the evening turned out to be not songs we were familiar with but the insight into the new material Clem Snide are currently working on. Diverse and full of bombast on occasion they prove that there is certainly a lot of life in them yet. These along with ‘Bitter honey’ a lament sung from the perspective of a dancer in Hip Hop videos, which proves to be as Eef promises ‘both happy and a sad, a bit like life’, and a wonderful debauched finale involving a bizarre mix of subliminal sales tactics and the suggestion that perhaps Clem Snide could be the ultimate music to self pleasure oneself to prove that Clem Snide is still one of the most enjoyable live acts around.

Clem Snide continue to go from strength to strength and completely enrapture and entertain live. Now I get on my knees and beg, don’t be away so long next time guys…PLEASE!

Luke Drozd

We Are Scientists + Rolling Shanks + Gliss
5.9.05 - Camden Bar Fly, London
The first band we see are Gliss (apparently there was another act on before but I only found that out later on - so apologies to them!), an instrument-swapping Yank three-piece who sound like The Dandy Warhols during one of their less focused moments. A subsequent peak at their website revealed them to possess a couple of decent tunes but this was less apparent on the night, and the fey vocals and somewhat desperate attempts on the part of the singer to appear to be on drugs soon wear out their welcome. Even a climactic dive into the audience elicits only mild applause.

Thankfully the next band, Rolling Shanks, not only have better songs but also no hint of studied cool or attitude - instead letting the music speak for itself. I wasn't blown away by these guys' Maximo Rake-isms either but their enthusiasm and enjoyment for what they do proves infectious and soon gets the crowd's collective feet a-tapping. A nice moment occurs near the end of the set when the drummer from We Are Scientists leaps onstage for a drunken singalong. File under likeable (if not memorable).

And so to the headliners themselves who, judging by the crowd's reaction tonight, seem to be generating a bit of a buzz. What's good about WAS is that they're funny (check out the amusing between-song banter and the bassist's comedy moustache!) and play as though their lives depend on it. Although I'm still undecided whether their material truly transcends the glut of similar 'dance-beat, stabby guitar' fare currently clogging up the indie charts ("Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt" is pretty dam good though), they definitely have the best tunes of the night and throw all the right rock shapes. By the time they close with current single "The Great Escape", everyone in the room has had a very good time indeed. My advice to you would be to definitely check them out next time they're in town.

Will Columbine

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Formanova Festival
7-10.7.05 - Fredericia, Denmark
"Every year a selection of artists within the contemporary music scene are invited to play Formanova Festival in Fredericia southern Denmark, together with the orders of inviting a second party, which they see fit."
Simple as that, huh?. Now in its third year, the reputation and scope of FoNo Festival has grown rapidly if rather quietly, from not only the place to uncover new and intriguing prospects from the northern sect of our continent, but the place to see established artists in a unique setting. Since 2003 the likes of Scanner, Audrey, the Amina quartet, Bergsans Nipple and Hanin Elias have journeyed many miles and attracted many people to the small port town of Fredericia on mainland Denmark's east coast.  

Fredericia at first glance seems like the wrong place for such an event to flourish, but really it makes sense; from the calm of the tiny bays and dunes to the industry in the port and railyards, this town has been largely overlooked by the rest of its nation, artistically above all. Like the music we were here to witness though, it needs to be lived inside to fully explore and appreciate it's full potential. Music that can seem like a non-event to the untrained eye, but suddenly reappearing in your head, like the shape of a coastline that you miss as soon as it disappears beneath the clouds on the flight home. 

As if this wasn't enough, the innovation and warmth of the locals and organisers pushes the boundaries beyond the line of sight, as to what a festival could and should be. After being underwhelmed initially by the venue "Undgommenshus", a train station-turned-youthcentre, everything about it made sense after roughly twenty-four hours. From the retro videogames lounge surrounded by local-created artwork to the train carriage that had been turned into a bar, I can't imagine how anybody could do it any different.. And from policies such as bands inviting bands to keep everything fresh, to the move to get Early Day Miners and Unwed Sailor to play a film score together creating one perfectly unique moment , I can't imagine how anybody could do it any better. 

FoNo founder Lenni has the vision to take it further though, with talk next year of multiple venues, even bigger acts from further afield (you'll have to wait and see), and (assuming Lenni wins the lottery) a cross-continent treasure hunt, involving a man in dark glasses and a bag of tickets on a train. But for now, enjoy what we did from 7th-10th July this year. 

Thursday 7th July
Friday 8th July
Saturday 9th July
Sunday 10th July

Many thanks to Lenni and the other FoNo volunteers for their warmth and energy, and Steffen Jorgensen (aka for the use of his wonderful eye.

Formanova Festival Thursday 7th July

2100 - Jonas Olesen (DK)
Many of us feared that Olesen, the only vaguely local act at this years FoNo, would be hard work with his disaffected laptop turns of heart, perhaps a gesture to the tiny locality here in Fredericia. However, what follows is a coy young man with showers of pulses and teeth-shatteringly resonant bass, pulled apart by everyday electronic noise which are then amputated, turned on each other, led by the hand to an entirely different place altogether and finally subside, to create space for the next onslaught. 

With Olesen's facial expression giving the impression that he's tackling some moderately tricky SATS revision questions rather than turning a roomful of people to crackling mush, he's not the most animated of artists to watch, but that may just be the point; the static in motion and bridges of noise in his work creep into the same subconscious from where they came, leaving you staring into a chasm of thoughts - as all instrumental music you can't dance to probably should! Add to this the huge screens behind him displaying html code, 60's political speeches and mutating stickmen, and you have the ideal accompaniment to these flashbacks.

2200 - Made of Buildings (DK)
Having heard so many good things about this band from almost everybody we had spoken to (granted they were all danish), it's hard not to find Made of Buildings disappointing. Either it was that I had expected Jonas Olesen to provide a slightly more subdued start to the festival, or that they fall between charmingly thrown-together indie-rock and sardonic psych-pop, but with the rhythm section always at odds with the melody, they are neither here nor there. A number in the Van Pelt ballpark, with gently balanced guitar, piano and spoken word provides some brief respite, and proves Rasmus Justesen's voice to be an effective tool for textures, but can't save them from trying to do far too much with only four points of view. 

2300 - Early Day Miners (US)
The anticipation for this set was incredible, what with Early Day Miners (aka Daniel Burton) performing the second half with members of Unwed Sailor, but I am astonished and a little bit disappointed to find that the opening half is far superior. Not that this overshadows any of it's beauty, you understand.
Burton begins with brutally wistful vocals and softly played guitar that is driven so hard as to amplify his every movement, no matter how tiny; using the distance between microphone and mouth as it's own entity, he leads us through revolving doors of spacious loss and longing, without losing a sense of refrain and the importance of the songs themselves.  

However once fellow midwesterners Unwed Sailor join him on piano, bass and drum set, it appears to fold into AltRock(TM) obscurity. The sense of dynamic Burton conjured up so well with fluctuating strums and a mere tilt of the head is eschewed for pieces that flat-line, frustrate you for knowing that such wonderful features are hidden somewhere beyond volume, and end exactly how they began.

Formanova Festival Friday 8th July 2005

1400 - Mae (DK)
Mae is a band that are instantly so familiar, even if you have never heard them before; from the first shifting chord sequence covered in the hum of a bass that is warm from hardly being played, you know that they were worth rushing back from the beach for! As brushed drums tumble somewhere close to the horizon, waltzing like a drunk at closing time, and a radio is tuned through a rotating speaker, I get the feeling of what it would be like if Sigur Ros had urgency, or if Jeff Buckley had left out all of his pauses for technicalities.  

An earnest approach does slightly sour the fermentation of songs like these, but what Mae lack in ability they more than make up for with the lo-fi sensibility and points of interest that fellow danes Mew are always failing to deliver, such as the disparate vocals of Nikolaj Skjold M. the flat, inert electronic beats and bowed guitar of Lars Jensen. The only band so far to avoid the pitfall of the long sets at FoNo, Mae have the variation in invention to hold our attention for an hour, and probably long after.

1900 - Stworywodne Jaszczury (PL)
The great beauty of Formanova is that you tend to trip over artists that you would otherwise never know about. Unfortunately, some sick joke including trying to turn a guitar into an accordion using a slide, and another into a harp using tone controls get into a punch-up with math-rock rhythms to form some kind of indecipherable polish dance/fight. Innovation? Yes. Is cultural divergence the reason for my overwhelming indifference to this? Am I too far removed from the origin? Perhaps. Is this unfamiliar polish take on Don Caballero using innovation to a positive effect? Not really. But the buzz created by this many people trying so many new things is undeniable, and whilst it might not always provide happy ending that playing it safe does, it does give you a sense that this weekend has so much more to give.

2030 - Sofus Forsberg (DK)

More Danish electronica, but where Jonas Olesen stuttered and skipped so manically, the work of Forsberg flows like the retarded redneck cousin of electropop. With two laptops at his mercy, his set has more spring in its step than Tigger on a bouncy castle filled with jelly, and most definitely more to smile about! Every piece seems to propel itself along through noise and dissonance, stubbing its toes on its own offbeats and even leaving Sofus time to dance uninhibited like an eleven year-old allowed to drink at a wedding, and grinning like he just found out how they REALLY make babies. Sounding like he would be perfectly at home amongst the less precious Morr Music artists such as Lali Puna or Isan, Forsberg bubbles along nicely, providing the perfect pop condiment to the detached art pieces of Olesen.

2300 - Manual + Syntaks (DK)

After the cancellation of Gameboyzz, the Polish collective who nevertheless deserve a mention for playing songs solely created on Gameboys, there is a waiting period of over two and a half hours for this danish duo. What appears is not Manual in any of the forms I have become accustomed to, from sparse sound sculptures such as his collaboration with Icebreaker International, to 80's electro and beyond. Instead two sunkissed  beachboys in pristine white suits appear, one in aviators the other in long curly locks, looking like Miami Vice and sounding like a John Hughes movie score, so much that any minute I expect to see Molly Ringwald dancing/falling in love, or a buddy montage involving Judd Nelson and an Estevez brother. It is an effective way to begin the show -confusing Manual regulars, enthralling the unconverted, and indeed the audience more than doubles within the opening couple of minutes. 

Eventually, the suits come off to make way for jeans, shirts and laptops, and the wonderfully embarrassing feelgood melodies of a heavily chorused guitar and drum pad make way for the real Manual; looping melodies accentuated by precise manipulation of beats and glitches, coloured perfectly by Syntaks. It is a shame to see around half of the audience disintegrate once the promise of reminders of "Pretty In Pink" et al go unfulfilled, because this is perfectly organic electronica. And the interaction between the two during the show is nearly as captivating as the music itself, as they display a human approach to a cold genre with their constant probing and praising of each others work. Every so often Manual or Syntakes takes a brief pause to light a cigarette, open a beer and stand back to admire the other, or lean in and make a suggestion, which then manifests itself as a subtle change in the piece. The energy they create between them is equal to that of a guitar band, and their intensity and gratitude for this opportunity to play together is mirrored by the light on their screens. They feel rather than merely see what is about to come from each other, and revel without shame in corny melody. And as the show ends with a cover of "Crockett's Theme" by Jan Hammer (from the famous Natwest advert), it is clear to see that they share a theory that is probably correct - that a good melody can never be a corny melody.

0030 - Southpaw (DK)
Given their following at home, their reputation and the albeit sparse but largely positive press they have over here in the
UK, Southpaw appear to a big name in a small national guitar band scene. Just like the fact that Fredericia, at a population of just 50,000, is considered quite a large town here, it seems Southpaw suffer from the same loss in translation. In their better moments they combine the quiet oddly-timed eyes of Karate's storms, the metallic post-rock of Aereogramme and the barbed, tired voices of Arab Strap at their most melodic. The breathy, distant vocals tie things together nicely, but far too often Southpaw take shortcuts through long blasts of the same chord, with yelling of apparently little or no point over the top. Mistakes and more overracting than an Italian centre-forward are blots on any moments of real promise, and they end up seeming like kids playing with the bigger boys in their own back yard.

Formanova Festival - Friday 9th July 2005

1300 - Doi (DK)
A highlight on paper, the only point Doi seem to prove ultimately, is that the wealth of equipment at bands disposal on the continent compared to back in the UK means nothing unless you have the direction, ability and invention to use it. Whether it is vintage Fender amplifiers, a rotating wheel or rich warm analogue synths, bands over here seem to have it, and the sound engineers dedicated and able to make the best of the bowed saws and guitars, and the multiple vocals.  

The problem Doi face is, like Made of Buildings on friday, they try to do too much and get stranded in stormy waters somewhere between Sigur Ros ambience, Iron and Wine  songwriting and Mogwai's loud-quiet pastiche. In doing none of this particularly well, they not only wear the most obvious of influences on their sleeves, but lack the outlines necessary to encase the vast amount of techniques and tools they have to hand. 

1430 - We vs Death (NL)

My unfaltering gratitude to We vs Death then, who like Manual + Syntaks last night, blow away the apathy and disdain that had crept in this morning. Having seen these guys accidentally in Leeds a couple of months ago, I knew what to expect, but it seems they have evolved even since then; crisp, clean guitars figure skate around each other, while the tight and decisive drumming of Gerben provides a solid structure of percussive ice to allow this motion; seemingly playing far ahead of the rest in his head, he builds a pre-meditated foundation for the guitars of Bart and Wouter to slide gracefully across. We vs Death take the paint by number of post-rock and add their own detail, trumpet and violin re-enforcing this delicate but stubborn framework they have constructed, the former creating the bell-toll drama and dusty melancholy of a romantic western.  

They quickly disperse any pretence of shyness though, shattering fragile composition with machine-gun drumming and short guitar detonations. It's hard to compete with EP-era Mogwai, or "Spiderland" even, because with convention having already been set before I even owned my own stereo, we are shamed for comparing new bands to great bands. But We vs Death could be a surrogate for both, and perhaps so much more I think, as songs turn inside out on themselves and chord progressions take forks in the road that most artists wouldn't even consider. This is the first time this weekend that I have been able to view a band on a par with their UK/US counterpart, and We vs Death are deserving of that.

2130 - Jeniferever (SE)

What surprises me, after so many sparse audiences thus far this weekend, is the huge audience that has gathered before Jeniferever have even soundchecked. My surprise vanishes as soon as they begin of course; a band realising their own potential, they open with guitars so interlocking that it's unclear to tell where Kristofer Jonson's ends and Martin Sandstrom's begins. This culminates with Jonson's vocal, lilting amongst the heat of stage lighting and the wrung emotions of a large gathering, sigh after sigh ascending and fading in and out between humming synths and skipping, clicking drums and then falling steeply into sparseness. Every piece of the Jeniferever jigsaw fits together so seamlessly and effortlessly that it could be an oil painting, yet it is the sound of well-pondered and conferred songwriting.

The melodic nature, tempo and structure of their music is so instantly recognisable and memorable, yet it feels so much like second nature to them that it never loses the sensibility of being art, as if they are fitting everything that is good about post-rock into one accessible package.

All I hope is that being more successful doesn't lead to compromise on their part - their image is something that they don't really think about, yet it something that is made a lot of over in the UK, and their music deserves so much more. Having been friends with them for nearly three years now, it is hard for me to be moved by them, often only able to analyse them technically and formally. But on the (as yet untitled) closer, written for the new LP, the way Kristofer screams the words "he held his breath to hold your hand" in a way that is not forced but pure release, and Martin breathes them somewhere just behind him, I feel the same as I did when I first heard "Svefn-G-Englar" or "Fear Satan"; the way everything moves so independently, then converges for that final refrain of "take you home" makes me well up with sadness and think of things that I wouldn't normally... And after all, that is what music of this nature should be - technical proficiency, innovation, craft and imagery are all desirable, but if you feel nothing at the end of it then it is all in vain.

2300 - Colleen (FR)

After being wrung out emotionally already tonight, nothing can prepare me for the sheer beauty of this; seated alone, Cecile Schott surrounds herself with a mass of delay pedals and an arsenal of instruments such as wind chimes, cello, spanish guitar, melodica and a music box which she then begins to wind. Over the next hour she proceeds to loops these instruments over themselves and others, creating a one woman orchestra, watching the components drift in and out of phase, and delighting in the recurrence of any tiny error that renders this set different to any other she has played, such as the buzz of a fret or a faltering breath on the melodica. The mood and textures of these pieces is undeniably french, and brings to mind the soundtracks of Yann Tiersen - so achingly delicate and yet so strong and dark, this is the sound of thinking without thinking, conflict within your head, wandering around late at night. It is the sound of being awake while the whole world sleeps, of hearing somebody's chest rising and falling with each breath, of being aware and clean and it hurting but feeling so real.

As I have said before, there is only a reason to make music like this if you believe you can provoke some stirring of the senses; I don't think music can change your life at all, I'm not one of those people, but I think it is one of the things that reminds you how good it is to be alive, and even how good it is to hurt. And soon after Schott remarks that we are "the most quiet audience I ever heard", and begins to play a music box through her guitar, I see that she has stirred these people tonight - I look out and see bodies strewn across the floor at her mercy, people sharing beers, cigarettes and glances that say we all feel the same.  

With a wry smile on her face, Cecile Schott plays the wind chimes, shifts them around, cuts one out, puts it back elsewhere, her bare feet tapping on the buttons of her pedals and turning switches; on pieces such as "I'll Read You A Story" she never loses sight of the fact that amongst all experimentation, there are  only 12 notes that the hairs in our ears respond to, but she strains all the creativity out of them that she can. Again, we come around to the beauty of FoNo - it is bands like the three I have seen today, and how they make me feel, that make a trip over to Denmark worth everything.

0030 - Pakku (IC)
By the time Iceland's sole performer this year begins his set it's nearly one in the morning, and after Colleen's incredible hour you can't help but pity the guy. His guitar-sample driven electronica can only serve to show the relativity of music at this point, as I find myself caught wanting to dance, but after the previous two hours feeling far to drunk on melancholy (and Odense Pilsner); it is a battle of the senses between science and nature, and ultimately the only winner can be a breath through a melodica, and the vibration of a string against her finger.

Formanova Festival Sunday 10th July 2005

1300 - Audiotransparent (NL)

Having spoken to Gerben of We vs Death, compatriots of Audiotransparent that travelled to Formanova together, I couldn't help but get at least a little bit excited atthe prospect of this show. I anticipated his described formula of Low crossed with Sparklehorse, albeit with some caution, after the cavernous difference between what I had been told Doi would sound like yesterday and the tame offering we received.

Audiotransparent however, are an ideal demonstration of instinct, of how bands can reveal so much more intensity by following their natural tendencies to full capacity, as opposed to forcing themselves in a direction they were never destined for.

Where Doi attempted to play not what was natural to them but whatever they felt like doing at the time, Audiotransparent embrace their predetermined niche; low-paced drums as smooth as sunkissed skin and sprawling guitars grow over Bart Looman's caressed bass like weeds you'll never want to pull up, while his vocal, reminiscent of Christian Kjlellvander in range and strength, builds a bridge between midwestern America and Scandinavia. Towards the end of the show the tone alters from the noise and celtic violins of early Arab Strap without flinching to closing with sole guitar and vocals from Looman. Lyrically intelligent for their second language and deftly frantic, Audiotransparent's distinct indie songs inside post-rock shells do well to blow the cobwebs away from saturday, without overdoing it.

1700 - Molia Falls (SE)

Lenni and the other organisers of FoNo run a unique "bands invite bands" policy; they themselves invite a band to play, and that band brings another along. This not only results in getting a second artist that, being chosen by a band already on the bill, are of a high standard, but that second artist gets exposure to you that they would otherwise lack. And the organisers themselves get as surprised by the audience by some of the acts they see, so everybody wins! Hooray! 

Invited by Jeniferever, Molia Falls use a tried and tested formula, but use it so well. The hoards of bands in the UK playing under the math-emo banner born from American Football, Appleseed Cast, Ghosts and Vodka et al should take a listen at how Molia Falls have made this their own - this kind of thing isn't easy to make but easy to think it is. Molia Falls fish the same dry waters of instrumental indie-rock as the aforementioned bands, but managed to take the redraw the template in an unmistakably scandinavian way; the guitars concentrate on brittle melodies that punctuate each other, the bass favours warmth and texture over trying to fill all of the remaining space, and the drumming skips seamlessly from taught stutters and clicks to calm stumbling.  

Maybe it is that with the lack of avenues to take guitar music right now, all we can do is our own take on that which has already been? Treading the waves of laptop generated noise, androgynous drums and samples in out direction to colour these math-emo masterpieces, Molia Falls do as good take on it as anything I've seen or heard.

2000 - Efterklang Pi (DK)

This flawless blending of fluid electronics and dense acoustics, from the compact three-piece version of the enormous collective from Copenhagen nearly stops my heart. The most noticeable difference between Efterklang and a majority of other electronic artists is that they interact as a guitar band would; one member sits raised towards stage left, picking out the frameworks of the songs while the two others add the detail. They surround themselves with laptops in front, synths and pianos to the sides, a drum behind and guitar, melodica, and other surprises underneath the tables - like children building a musical fort. And what a result; like labelmate Colleen the previous evening, Efterklang never fail to hit the perfect ratio of electronics and acoustics, using the former to manipulate the latter, and creating an untraditional but oddly familiar song structure.  

In their short set, the trio create so much variation it is hardly believable - from the shadows at the left of the stage come forth beats and sketchy synth that bring to mind a more human Christian Kleine, with broken single-note piano frameworks and strings that sound like they age the minute they are played provide the platform, from which to spin webs of beauty. From the fuzz-laden, itchy keyboards and gently wheezing melodica to the free-falling brushed drumming and noise, the two members in the middle of the stage are polar opposites; one deeply focused and unmoved, the other playfully animated and unabashed. One talks to another whilst signing to the other, counting each other into the next phase, reading each others eye contact, mutually admiring. Even with the electronic-based half of the collective here tonight, Efterklang can make it human with beats where every one is treated differently, melodica where the breathing is unsteady and alters ever so slightly from note to note, telling you to notice it and to breathe it along.  

When vocalist Casper Clausen sings and samples five flawless first takes over the top of each other and shifts them around, each one breaking more than the last, you can't help lose yourself (as the danish audiences are so wonderfully prone to doing). And sat on a metal staircase up in the rafters of the big hall at Undgommenshus, I too find myself never so lost in something, but never so found.

2100 - Greater Explosives (CAN)
Again, this set offered another reason to adore the setup they have at Formanova;after the sigh-surrendering Efterklang Pi, it seems unthinkable to sit through another hour-long set. So instead we played Super Mario Bros on a SNES, taking turns and in between walking through from the raised 'retrogaming' platform to the balcony in themain hall to watch the ambient latop Enoisms of the Canadian artist.

2200 - Stateless (US)

FoNo throws up so many unexpected gifts, and Stateless is no exception; members of Unwed Sailor and Early Days Miners playing the soundtrack they scored to Chris Bennet's 2001 film, which was shot on his travels around North America and Europe.

The film itself, playing on a large screen behind the bands, focuses on the details that nobody really ever notices rather than postcard images and catches them in a beautiful light, showing the great feeling of being so small and covering so much ground and the journey being paramount relative to the destination. The score reflects this transience, forever fluctuating, and even when it repeats the same progression it is always in a slightly different way that is not quite possible to put your finger on, as is the case with everyday sights such as leaves blowing in the wind, electricity pylons or water rippling. For fans of Unwed Sailor this is more comparable to the material from "The Marionette And The Music Box"; the less indulgent Brian Eno feeling strings, wistful piano and rhodes colliding softly with refrain after refrain from the vast but intimate guitar of Daniel Burton, and his sparse vocal providing an appropriately awestruck and breathless commentary to the moving images - like the sound of somebody running for the joy of running, rather than knowing what they are running for or from.  

The cinematic qualities of both artists suits film scores even on their records that were not purposefully written for film, but the key to Stateless' stimulating qualities is that they don't worry about technical issues such as visual cuts or nodes too much, and leaves your mind to make its own associations between the music and the movie. Indeed even the vocals don't lead you by the hand, instead providing a voice to all the people that had been in the places on the screen before Bennet, rather than merely translating the images into words.  

All of this leads me to believe that this is the best work of both bands, and this is confirmed when Jonathan (bass/vocals) shows us another film score they collaborated on with Bennet the following day; "For Jonathan" is a film made by Bennet and his friend who was terminally ill, weeks before his death. Bennet then got Jonathan's favourite bands to score the film, resulting in a call to the past and to the unknown that is so powerful and makes me want answers to so many things, that even seeing it on a tiny screen in an office at Undgommenshus with three other guys makes me well up. The music crackles and flickers with the images, rises and falls with the all to brief adventures of the two friends.  

More projects should not only be this good, but have this fearless and selfless positivity, an energy created by a group of people giving their all to something that they realise is bigger than all of them, and indeed all of us - whether it be an awestruck rejoicing of being alive, or a legacy to a lost friend that keeps their spirit alive.

2300 - Unwed Sailor (US)
After a very short pause, the intensity of "Stateless" and the sapping heat that has built up in the room, it would be easy to feel a little lacklustre, but Unwed Sailor show that a great band can take you outside of your current condition, and keep you going. Just as they do within their own body of work, they provide the perfect contrast; gone are the breathy vocals and delicate piano of the previous hour, and this time the rhodes twinkles with a ferocity that is punctuated by the bass, and the way that Jonathan twists and stamps on the spot, it seems as if the bass is punctuating him also.

As is apparent on the recordings of Unwed Sailor, they move as a unit rather than separate entities, with Brookes' drumming tying up the whole package to bounce off the high ceiling and down to our ears, as if it were a satellite. It is amazing to see post-rock played with such energy, with the guitars replaced by a trio of keyboards, but never losing any of the natural warmth or range of tones. If the majority of post-rock is drawn towards meditations of the past, then Unwed Sailor do 180 degrees on all of that, providing the same provocation of thought but with the positivity of looking forwards. And after "Stateless", it is more obvious than ever that both sides of the coin are as important - almost like the nodes between music and images of the last set are mapping out the landmarks for this one.

Sammie Cain 

Sigur Ros
9.7.05 - The Lowry,
Salford Quays
The superb Sigur Ros had support from Amina, their fellows from Iceland. Four women making noise from synthesisers, violins, harps, saws and glasses of wine! At first it was a bit boring but they managed to keep the audience captured in the beauty and novelty of their music.

Sigur Ros comes on stage, behind a screen which made it looks as if they weren’t there at all. The visual props, lights and perfect sound made it an astonishing performance. They played a few new songs which displayed the same beauty, melody and catharsis as seen in their previous albums. Singer and guitarist Jonsi’s vocals fail to impress (What is he singing about, anyway??)

As the members of the group change positions around the stage, at times gathering around huge xylophones, synthesisers and what not, it made you wonder that Sigur Ros couldn’t do any better than they’re doing now. It’s almost like they’ve reached distant barriers with their music, where the emotions/pain/joy that are expressed are left open for interpretation by their followers.

Aline Lemos

cabaret, nottingham. 19/06/05

from the minute opening pair "don't go" and "cold, cold water" start with fragile violin, gently wheezing accordion, and of course that caramel-like seductive lullaby voice, it is clear this is a different experience to the mirah of LPs such as "advisory  commitee" and "you think it's like this but it's really like this". though it takes me until the mid-point of the set to actually realise the detail of this change; the arthouse strings and thunder storm timpani that usually lend the latter of this pair a cinematic quality are gone, and somewhere between songs sang a capella and vocals softly lapping together between herself and others during "we're both so sorry", like waves on a shore rolling in gently then breaking, the production and trademark percussion of phil elvrum is discarded for far greater subtelty.

it is a credit not only to mirah that the skeletons of her songs in a basement in nottingham are able to keep pace with the recorded, or 'definitive' versions, but that she can dress these pieces up with all of this detail on record and not smudge the focal point of them. her pronunciation and earnest strength on record usually make the distorted hum of a synth or a string quartet underneath a vocal as ordinary as the hum of traffic outside a closed window; however tonight, with double glazing fitted and the roads closed, the intensity of her delivery is ten-fold. 

she makes the edge of the stage her tightrope, gripping the edge between performer and onlooker with bare toes. in the already waterlogged field of play, and with the emergence of a whole plethora of incredible female voices in the past year or so, it seems that the only tool left to use in folk music is your personality. with the sheer number of songstresses of genuine quality appearing in recent months, it would be very easy to be skeptical. but with a wriggle of her hips and a flick of her eyebrows, lips pressed firmly to the microphone so that every breath is as poignant as every word, mirah helps us forget for about fourty-five minutes that there is even anything else out there.

sammie Cain