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gig reviews - may 08


 
 

Hauschka + Mapstation + Chipper
Sep 08 - Bristol Arnolfini

This isn't quite the usual gig. When I offered to write up on this one for all I knew Hauschka was a quartet of black clad emo types rattling out Husker Du covers, although I wasn't certain what they were up to on Narrow St. Then it dawned upon my quizzical brow - I'd seen Mapstation previously, or at least To Roccoco Rot, of which Mapstation were/are an integral part, and all was apparent once more. Even Banksy wipes his feet when he walks in the Arnolfini.

Which is a theatre, with blackout backdrops and spotlights. And on its stage is a collection of instruments and equipment arranged in a properly artistic manner, and which I had the impression much of the audience would have quite politely sat and looked at for two hours, to a pre-recorded soundtrack over the tannoy. There's a cello at the front. It belongs to Chipper, who is a solo performer and has the ability to use her instrument as both a musical and percussive one, assuming all the electronics are doing what they're supposed to. Using a combination of digital delay and the improvisator's knack of utilising any noise that results from adding a pickup to an orchestral instrument, Chipper presented us with around 10 minutes of eccentrically captivating four stringed electronic experimentation until her laptop packed up, which provided this member of Crippled Black Phoenix the opportunity to show the Arnolfini audience that she could also play the cello without resorting to gadgetry. Which Chipper can, and with considerable skill.

Now, some of you will recognise the name To Roccoco Rot from a little earlier this decade. Leading lights of the electronic scene that eventually gave to our mainstream radio Royksopp, Stefan Schneider, one of To Roccoco Rots' founders, has brought with him a collection of objects none of which, apart from his laptop, are keyboard instruments. But the first number of this part of the evening's performances is an entirely acoustic one. Schneider is joined onstage by Hauschka, or Volker Bertelmann as he is more usually known, and the perform a cover of a poem written in 1979 by the artist Josef Beuys which consists of two words; 'ja' and 'ne'. This provides an introduction of the right type of levity for what could under other circumstances get a bit po-faced, you know, big gallery theatre space, experimental cellist, complicated German electronics and a piano that looks like an artwork -

So the vocal performance ends and Mapstation is quite definitely in the house. And whoever said 'I could do that', listen a little more closely and a lot less cynically. Stefan Schneider is an electronic composer: if you automatically laugh when you hear anyone's work described thus, then stop reading this now. Melding together combinations of basslines and melodies with occasionally added beats and the quite real possibility that the entire sonic edifice could collapse onstage at any moment - such is the overwhelmingly complex task that Schneider is setting himself, using equipment which is, some of it, still in the planning stages. The mood of his sound collages is subdued and questioning, and of course ambient. Your actual lift Muzak, unless I am very mistaken. Then halfway through the conflicting elements merge into a more coherent wholeness and you could stage an absurdist mime to what's thudding out of the Arnolfini's PA which is somehow what was missing from this evening. A recording of Josef Beuys reading 'Ja/Ne' ends Mapstations performance, and none of us could do that. Not really.

Hauschka's piano is designed to do things conventional pianos don't and has assorted chimes and pieces of metal where there are normally strings. Add to this an element of performance as Volker Bertelmann stops/starts/mixes up his collection of toys and assorted objects, not all of which do exactly what they're supposed to, and plays his collection of short-ish keyboard pieces none of which (unlike his contemporary Thomas Lens for example) stray very far from traditionally accepted notions of what a piano tune actually ought to sound like. What Hauschka is showing us is, basically, his own design of acoustic synthesizer, an instrument which can do everything an ordinary piano can do and can also provide percussive elements, as well as the element of chance which showmanship such as this requires if it is to succeed in real artistic terms and while I suspect the more adventurous aspect of Hauschka's work is reined in slightly this evening, the whole performance has the air of an experiment that actually worked and Hauschka is himself an engaging personality with considerable skills to show us.

That, I realised as I made my way home, is what really worked this evening. Perhaps the heady days of seriously avant garde experimentation really are behind us, at least for the moment, and musicians who would in previous times have thrown both themselves and their instruments into paroxysms of atonality verging on chaotic farce are now quite content to let their laptops do the crashing instead. Safe. But very far from dull.

Jon Gordon

 
 

Tellison + Tubelord
8.8.2008 -  Portland Arms, Cambridge 

A joint tour in support of a split single sees both bands descend on Cambridge for a hotly anticipated gig.  

Tubelord’s short, punky, harmony soaked tunes are just what the doctor ordered with such depressing weather forecast for the forthcoming weekend. At times I find myself reminded of Silver Sun due to the infectious nature of their songs. Easily living up to their already excellent live reputation, future success surely beckons.  

Taking to the stage with their entrance music, ‘Simon Says’, booming around the Portland Arms, Tellison are straight into their stride. Never once letting their enthusiasm levels drop below ‘bloody loving it.’ Before long it appears the lead singer has his own personal power shower constantly above him such is his degree of sweatiness. It isn’t long before sweat becomes mixed with a steady flow of blood due to a guitar injury – however to their credit this is never mentioned as a band this passionate and competent don’t need to play any sympathy cards. A packed Portland lap up the catchy songs aired, which often remind me of Talking Heads. An enjoyable night is had by all and the main bar is soon decorated with smiles as the crowd slowly disperses from the back room.

Mark Whiffin

 

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Her Name is Calla
7.7.2008 - The Head of Steam, Newcastle

On a gloomy Monday evening four of my friends and me bundled into Lady Moomin, my aging white VW Polo, and trooped on down to Newcastle to see Her Name Is Calla. Having been lucky enough to witness their spine tingling set at **** Church in Leeds I was eagerly anticipating another mesmeric performance and HNIC did not disappoint. From the ominous foreboding of the introduction of A Moment of Clarity to the heart-rending climax of Condor and River, they played with an intensity and passion that captured the audience from the very first note.  

After the aforementioned “A Moment of Clarity” we were treated to a few tracks from their new EP “The Heritage”. Stand out tracks were Nylon and New England that culminated in a brilliantly chaotic melange of drumming which saw a wayward drumstick fly into the air to be picked up by an over enthusiastic member of the audience who tried to join in with all the drumming prowess you could expect from Mr. Bean.   

Highlight of the set is still Condor and River, with its almost eternal introduction finally giving way to the simple melody allowing Tom Morris’ vocals to take centre stage as he begins this poignant tale of loss. As with almost all of Calla’s tracks the ending is simply breathtaking and almost uncomfortable. 

Tom may well be the perfect front man with soaring and affecting vocals and a belief in their music that is infectious, he also has just enough wit and charm to provide some light relief between songs with a bit of audience banter, however HNIC are not just about one person. Calla’s greatness lies in creating an atmosphere that you just wont experience with many other bands, one that is almost sacred, and for this you need a band that is not only completely in tune with each other but who also excel at what they do.  

Although exceptional it was not perfect, the brass section was, at times, a little over stated and failed to fully capture the subtle and haunting depth of their recordings and, for me at least, I think they’re missing the presence of a live cellist from the first time I saw them who added that that extra touch of class, but this really is nit picking.  

If you’re bored of all the Indie bands dominating the music scene at the moment with their uniform skinny jeans and dodgy hair (lets face it can you really tell half of them apart anymore?) and want more than a formulated 3 minute pop song then you really should give this band a try, Calla will entwine their music with your soul and you’ll thank them for it.

Laura Swainson

 
 

Glissando + Her Name is Calla + Pupilar
4.7.2008 - The Packhorse, Leeds

Being the first date of a short tour to promote new releases by Gizeh records co-headliners, Glissando and Her Name is Calla, this was an intimate evening, with all three acts playing to an audience of no more than 25, in an upstairs pub venue not much more than twice the size of my living room.

The support act, Kevin Paul Ingham, playing as Pupilar, had the unenviable task of opening the event and creating a suitable mood. “This piece is supposed to have visuals, but the projectors not working”, said Pupilar, asking for the stage lights to be turned off and suggesting we might want to close our eyes as he preceded to produce, what seemed to me to be, a single, long, dark, atonal, ambient soundscape of samples and drones, intently manipulating a laptop and accompanying himself on additional ‘noise guitar’. I stared at the three ceiling fans going round and round, pretending I was in some lost Sergio Leone western and reminiscing about listening to late Coil, Current 93, Godflesh, Skullflower and Non. “Scary!” someone said, as the applause died away. Indeed.

While I think that there is something vaguely solipsistic about one man and his laptop performing in a live context, I was sufficiently intrigued to check out, and bookmark the Pupilar MySpace page a few days afterwards. Kevin has a list of influences that seemed, gratifyingly, to encompass at least a third of my own music collection.

With six people on stage things looked a little cramped, but Her Name is Calla still managed to play like demons, performing tracks from their recently released mini-album, ‘The Heritage’. Having bought the record a few weeks ago on the recommendation of a friend who’d done the artwork, I was already familiar with their music; although this was the first time I’d seen the band play. If anything the songs sounded even better live, even more spectral, monumental and intense.

Special mention goes to Adam Weikert, surely the world’s scrawniest drummer, who put in an amazing performance and, along with Michael Love on bass, generated a solid foundation upon which the other band members; Thom Corah, on trombone, samples and additional percussion and Tom Morris, lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, aided by Dave Dhonau on cello and Sophie Barnes on trumpet, could reconstruct the epic, melancholy landscapes from ‘The Heritage’ mini-album.  Their set ended, fittingly, with ‘New England’, in a huge firestorm of feedback and percussion.

Glissando closed the evening with a set of songs exclusively from their debut album, ‘With Our Eyes Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’. Elly May Irving, lead vocal and keyboards, and Richard Knox, guitar and everything else, between them manage to recreate, and, if anything, transcend the fragile beauty of the studio versions of the tracks, with Rich occasionally switching to bowed guitar, for those songs that in the studio are augmented by a string section. The audience was treated to absolutely mesmerising versions of ‘Grekken’ and ‘Floods’. Glissando make music to take your breath way.

Sitting on the windowsill as the set finished, I remember feeling privileged to have had the opportunity to see both Her Name is Calla and Glissando in such an intimate setting and at such crucial stages in their creative careers. From tonight’s spellbinding performances, both bands deserve adoration and adulation, and I have a premonition that it won’t be too long before they have followings that shower them with both. Seek them out.

Bill Howe

 
 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
25.5.08 - Slam Dunk Festival, Leeds 

I am hard to please when it comes to pop-punk sounding bands and seeing the hoards of fans dislocating each other in the crowd lifted my expectations – but they fell slightly when the band actually started their set. It’s like “lets sing about my girlfriends ex” happy-clappy, fairly unoffending screamo-pop punk, but lacks any sense of individuality. There is something, however, that made the set fairly likeable, but something else that made me wish the glass of water in my hand was vodka. In terms of appearance, they look like bunch of misfit “emo” kids and rockers, staring meaningfully into the crowd as they contemplate who to dedicate their next song to. Overall, the set wasn’t bad, the melodic riffs were catchy and well accepted by the crowds of skinny-jeans and polka-dots, but the rhythm section were a little basic for my liking and needed to be played up a little to make the band more interesting. Not bad for the set, with a good venue and a solid sound. 

Lid

 
 

Feeder
28.5.08 - The Point, Cardiff

It’s taken an 18 month hiatus for Feeder to return to Cardiff. Hailing from nearby Newport I was unsure how Feeder, as the stadium fillers they are, would come off under the arches of the converted Church, known locally as The Point. Feeder would do nothing to help the venues plight which has been threatened with recent closure due to complaints of noise. However what Feeder did deliver was a high octane set of classic and new songs which spread across from their first album to their next. Off on tour in October this was an extremely rare glimpse at Feeder who can’t have played a similar intimate 500 capacity gig for a long time. As a home coming gig I still wasn’t sure Feeder’s epic sound would come across at the venue. However the sound really came across. They played loud and proud and still maintained every element of the music and vocals, nothing was lost in a fantastically well delivered set which was clear and crisp. Their classic songs for me rose above their new material which often blended into one, as at times a lot of the gig did. Their variation was not great but you get what you expect with Feeder. Powerful, well performed rip roaring songs. They really caught my minds eye, causing me to recall those days when I was first introduced to the band way back when I was about 11 or 12. But for me and it seems a lot of other people around my age group (students) the band have passed us by in recent times, the crowd where in awe of the band but for me as their latest album did the band passed me by apart from the songs of yore which I could identify with. The band seems to have continued on their path of stadium rock and it has all becomes a bit dreary. An enjoyable gig certainly. Well delivered songs from a talented band well worth their status, but never the less, I left before the encore.

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Guillemots
27.05.08 - Newcastle

For my money they opened up with one of their best songs. Made up love song, with its slow lead-in was perfect and showcased Fyfe's vocal talent for those unfamiliar with Guillemot's music. The guy has a smile in his voice that is infectious, which would also be a good word to describe their new single, Falling out of reach. I'd not heard it before and so didn't quite know what to make of it. Maybe it was the sound system but it had a dubby feel to it quite unlike the rest of the set. I've heard it since and like it more and more each time.

A couple of numbers in they launched into a kind of euro dance pop number that had Arista lay down her double base and became a pop siren for 4 minutes. Great fun! Other songs saw Fyfe step from behind his keyboards, strap on a guitar and alternate between troubadour and rock god, complete with mirror shades. However, the rockier performances all seemed to adhere to the same structure. Fyfe would let rip; be a bit shouty and indulge in some feed-back, but come the final third of the song he would lighten the tone with a change of key. This amounts to playing at rock, but Fyfe radiates such charm that he manages to keep you on-side throughout the weaker songs.


The highlight of the night, for myself and I suspect, many others was 'Trains from Brazil'. It's a fantastic song and they did it proud on the night. The pounding rhythm and the highs & lows that make it such a dynamic number were all present. Great Stuff!

Cay Green

 
 

MGMT + Florence and the Machine
22.5.08 - Cockpit, Leeds 

A balmy evening outside kissed farewell and goodnight, we entered the gloom of the Cockpit, the sounds of Florence and the Machine pinging off the corrugated roof and reverberating back off the stone floor. Their single Kiss With A Fist has been getting a good bit of attention and airplay, and rightly so, but the rest of their engaging material is more muted, with half an eye on Regina Spektor et al, especially in the delicate, lilting, deceptively powerful vocal tones.  

A pleasant and promising performance which seemed to flash by as quickly as the recent ‘summer’ which we had been enjoying. 

Then, onto the much vaunted, the quite-possibly-over-hyped main event, MGMT. The Brooklyn band slinked quietly onstage in front of a crowd that conceivably could have gathered at your average bus stop. The odd hyper-on-trend teenager, flanked by middle aged social workers, cheek-by-jowl with unremarkable twenty somethings and the decaying relics of the real summer of love, MGMT had obviously struck a chord with people far and wide. So, an interesting crowd and an interesting outfit by the frontman. Obviously it was to be expected but the knee length psychedelic dress jarred nastily against the black t-shirts and jeans of the rest of the band.  Still, it made a change from floppy hair and skinny jeans. 

And so the set began: Like a good fifty percent of all the songs, with no introduction, just an ambient creep of keyboards, the distinctive Bowie-like voice and then, finally, the drums, guitar and bass, all at once. Cue slightly unsettling synchronised nodding, carefully controlled feedback and the feeling that you’d seen it all before, somewhere, maybe on TV, in black and white or grainy super-eight, definitely not in the Cockpit. 

The eclectic sounds, varied influences and diversions from the album versions of some tracks ensured lots of moments of interest and signs that their expansive song structure suited a live venue, but I got the feeling that the band needed to channel more into their visual performance.  Too often the static band members left the audience in a similar state.  There was some annoying costume fiddling by the frontman too which most people seemed to miss, but his mid-song switch around to fix his bandana really got on my nerves. I mean come on, what’s more important, the guitar in your hand or the material around your face? 

I began to get the feeling that everyone was pretty much waiting for ‘Time to Pretend’, and I was right. When the keyboard loop finally dropped I had a slightly sinking feeling that the band had accidentally stumbled upon one moment of revelation where everything had worked in, a song to lift them out of their absolute mediocrity and into the musical stratosphere, but that they were also destined, by design, and because of that blinding moment, never to reach those heights again. Needless to say the crowd loved it, but I couldn’t help thinking about “Race for the Prize” by the Flaming Lips, drawing analogies and wondering if MGMT are destined for a similar musical destiny?  

The encore was rather odd.  The singer and keyboard player emerged from backstage to play Electric Feel, only without any guitars or live drums, they then lurched into an onstage jam of sorts, to be joined by the drummer, who sat at his kit but didn’t play it, the singer picked up guitar out and played a few bars, then the band walked off again. Confused? You’re not the only one.

Ian Anderson

 

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Animal Collective + Atlas Sound
21.5.08 - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

As a relative newcomer to experimental/ avante-garde music, I’m most definitely not the highest authority on what makes good noise and what makes bad. So, I went into the gig with an open mind, promptly found a seat and a gin and tonic and got stuck in. Atlas Sound (Deerhunter's Bradford Cox), and his loopy electronic fancy stuff, was definitely an eye-opener. I didn’t realise at the time, but since reading a couple of myspace pages and the like, what I thought sounded like a loop pedal being eaten by a whale in some kind of nightmarish womb was...probably the intended effect. The project is supposed to represent ‘darker childhood experiences’. Perhaps forewarned is forearmed; maybe I would have enjoyed the set more if I knew what I was letting myself in for. I can safely say that the darkness was very much there, but in live performance it seemed to be lost underneath a bass drum beat that was so loud it shook poor Brud’s ceiling tiles, and so exposed it couldn’t really get away with it. For the most part I was intrigued by what the little guy curled up on stage was fiddling with, but after a while the novelty wore off. Although the noise was all quite pleasant, I found it a bit nondescript, and lacking in the emotion and soul that seemed like it ought to be reflecting.

On to Animal Collective, though, whose flashy lights, bouncy melodies and thumpy drums were an upbeat relief following the support. In a performance that suited the venue well, I was really glad to watch the band play a ridiculously long but entertaining set. If I’d started to doubt my avante-garde credibility by just not getting Atlas Sound, it was thoroughly refound during the following hour and a half. Animal Collective make music that’s fun. Fun I can do. Apparently they have an ‘anti-song agenda’ or something. That’s cool, as long as I’m allowed to really flipping like the catchy little tunes that peek through a fair few of the numbers. I just wish people had been dancing more. I’m not a big dancer, but boy, the audience seemed at times to be resisting any kind of expression enjoyment to a ridiculous extreme. At least they condescended to applaud, and plenty of people evidently did think a lot of the gig - earwigging outside the venue, I heard plenty of great review snippets, my favourite of which being “fuck! What was that crazy shit?!”. I think that pretty much sums it up.

Lauren Smith

 
 

Jonah Matranga + The 5 O's + ATTN
8.5.2008 - The Cockpit, Leeds

Sometimes you are reminded of the things you were sure are truths. Sometimes those things are told to you in ways you cannot refute. Sometimes you get whatever you need and you realise you got it when you needed it most. Sometime someone reminds you of something you forgot but would cling to, like you life depends on it. Sometimes… your life depends upon it. Tonight I got what I was looking for. I give no disrespect to the 5 o’s. They were very good and deserved to be on tour. They played songs I like. But tonight I saw Jonah Matranga and he said things to me. He started the gig just playing his solo stuff, and finished playing with members of his old band Gratitude (Who are now back being ATTN). He played a wide selection of his “3,856 song back catalogue” including a couple of songs from his, frankly amazing, Unique Records project which he played because the people who commissioned them were in the audience. He played my favourite songs (Bury White and Mother Mary) but he also played beautiful songs and spoke like I hope I could speak. He reminded me that while there is a time for spin kicks there is always. ALWAYS a time for honesty and integrity and every single thing that made me think the way I do and want to write songs. I spent a lot of that night on the verge of crying my heart out - for joy and sadness. His rant against what Emo was originally compared with what it is now was perfect. His ideas of why you should want to be in a band reminded me of arguments I had and ideals I’ve abandoned, or at least not paid much attention to, but will never do again. EVER.

I’m very glad I got to talk to him after. I’m very happy with what we said to each other. I’m different now. Or rather, I’m back!

Best thing ever. Not because it hit me in the crotch…and I love that visceral feeling that rock can give. But because I very nearly fell to my knees…and then realised that I mostly wanted to feel alive and be there. Right there and then ahead. Ahead. Ahead until I cannot progress any more but I cannot forget. I am thankful!!!!

Great gig.

Christopher Carney

 
 

Sebadoh + Jennifer Gentle
7.5.08 - Koko, London 

It’s my birthday and I’m still recovering from the previous night’s carousing at Tasty Fanzine’s first London gig. Possibly the last thing I need to hear is the shrill voice of Jennifer Gentle’s singer Marco Fasolo. No, this is not going to be (as the name misleads me to believe) a girl in a flowery dress with pigtails serenading us on her flute but a full band of young men, from Italy no less, whose vocalist sounds like a cartoon witch and gurns like a pirate. It takes a little getting used to, as you can imagine, but the songs, which sound as though they’ve been time-warped directly from 1960’s San Francisco, dismantled, stuffed full of weird drugs nobody’s ever heard of and then put back together using rubber tools, slowly win me round. Each one meanders, slowly winding its way around the room until it’s twice the length it should be, yet manages to sound completely structured at the same time. How the group manages to remember what goes where and when is a mystery…all I can say is that I’ve been revisiting their Myspace every chance I get for another dose of “Take My Hand” and “Locoweed”. A wonderful discovery and one that proves to be an ideal warm-up act for Sebadoh. 

Tonight, Lou Barlow and his pals are playing the entirety of their album “Bubble & Scrape”, recently reissued in bumper deluxe format, as part of this year’s rather disappointing Don’t Look Back season (Public Enemy are the only other participants). Of all their albums it’s the one I’m least familiar with and, let’s be honest, producing a stone-cold classic was never the point of this band anyway (see also: Guided by Voices). To be frank, I’d have been much happier if they’d performed “III” or “Bakesale”, although the former is probably too sprawling to recreate live and the latter doesn’t feature Eric Gaffney. 

Yep, Eric’s back and the original line-up stand before us, so “Bubble & Scrape” it is. “Soul and Fire” kicks off proceedings and sounds, well, pretty classic as it happens…no-one communicates heartbreak quite like Lou. Later he will reduce the room to a reverential hush with a magical solo turn on “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)”. However, there are fourteen songs to get through before that, not to mention two other singers due to take turns at the microphone. Despite his wayward reputation, Gaffney proves to be less of a character than you might expect and possibly the weakest link here tonight, his songs robbed of their weirdness in this stripped-down format. Hell of a drummer, mind. Third musketeer Jason Lowenstein also does a good job pounding the skins, and reminds us with “Sister” and “Flood” that some of the finest cuts from the album belong to him. 

It’s a long journey and constant instrument-swapping and tuning between songs doesn’t help, but there’s always the demented fan screaming “SEB-BAD-DOH I LUV YOOOO” at every opportunity to keep us all entertained, and the encore brings “Too Pure” (from “Harmacy”…who’d of thought it?) and  a rapturously received “Gimme Indie Rock” to send us on our way. Patches of empty space in the crowd are a reminder that Sebadoh were and always will be a cult favourite at best but, for a side-project that started life on a four-track in Barlow’s bedroom, the level of devotion they inspire in their fans is as life-affirming as the songs themselves.

Will Columbine

 
 

Lethal Bizzle
29.4.2008 - Leeds Rios 

If you like deep grimy basslines reminiscent of underground dank cellars then this is for you… the support acts of Blah Blah Blah were not much to shout about, as an indie band with a slight hint of retro 1950’s happy-go-lucky theme, yet the other weirdly short set from the second support act was fairly welcome. With hip hop/grime style covers of Nirvana’s “smells like teen spirit” and occasional drops of the newer basslines from Benga; this support act was not bad and lifted the spirits of a somewhat bored crowd by “Blah Blah Blah”. The entrance of Lethal lived up to my expectations, as grimed up hip hop and heavy basslines pound through the beats. The set was good, the only let down was the size of the audience and the grimey atmosphere that seemed to be lacking – without these two factors the gig will never be as good, despite the music. The crowd was encouraged further forward, but the majority of the people stayed sat down… not so good and probably off-putting for any artist. 

Lid