Something like music, live performance of music must be described
at least in part in terms of how and what it made you feel.
If you think that your experiences are different to those of
others based on the filter and effect of every previous experience
your experience cannot be the same as someone else's. In this
way music reviewing is the description of someone's ability
to elicit emotion, to cause feeling.
2 Gallants are a curious choice to open for Low, I think they
are fantastic but their howls of pain and thunderous exclamation
that is their music seems slightly at odds with the brooding,
sustained gloomy build that characterises a lot of Low's work.
And yet, I'm not tempted to swap them around. I want to save
the tension for last, the release apparently can come before
the build. Either way, I'm still so into 2 Gallants.
Manchester Cathedral is a beautiful place to put gigs on, but
I'm curious as to how the stage set up has been decided. I am
happy that they are respectful of the space, I am certain they
could also use it better, harness some of the reverence and
grandeur, build the tension, use the acoustics.
I think that that is just how I filled the quiet between sets
though, because Low washed all that away. Not because they used
the space well, it could have been staged infinitely better,
it was because Low are fantastic.
Low, broody without too much menace and even moments of humour.
Less common than I've been lead to believe, but the “it's thin
line my friend” to needless shouting from the crowd following
a particularly intense outro with exaltations through a guitar's
pickup worked much better than I am describing it here. I guess
I didn't want witty banter tonight though. I didn't want time
to do anything other than listen to the songs and feel how they
hit me. I got that and it was glorious.
Peace be with you as a sign off (and a statement generally)
is lovely too.
28.9.15 - Irish Centre, Leeds
By the time James Williamson and Andrew Fearn amble onto the
stage at the Irish Centre, a large number of us are praying
that the dogshit sound that plagued Steve Ignorant's set. It's
better, but still average at best. Fortunately Sleaford Mods
are not too fussed about that "It's a full aaahhhsss Leeds"
slurs Williamson in his best Notts accent and kick straight
into "Live Tonight", professional as you like. It's
smooth and funny and this material and its delivery could be
rubbish in the wrong paws, but there are no concerns here as
spit is spit and targets are hit. "Jolly Fucker" gets
the evening going properly and some sort of abstract moshpit
occurs, with drink flying as some of the worst stage diving
ever seen takes place - Fudgetunnel or Extreme Noise Terror
diving this is not. "Fizzy" lives up to its name and
"Tiswas" is the highlight so far. There's no pauses,
just start the song, do it, stop and repeat. Grantham's most
famous export dedicates "Showboat" to himself and
you thank fuck something with a social conscious has come out
of that town. It has a lot of making up to do, and Williamson
is a good start. "We fucking love you Leeds" is sprayed
into the crowd and "Tied Up In Nottz" follows and
"Jobseeker" hits home. Such is the profile of the
band these days that we get two encores - "Tarantula Deadly
Cargo" and "Tweet Tweet Tweet" and during this
time you realise that this band is very important. Few bands
rant in such a spiked with acid delivery and that's a good thing.
Stick with them, there's much more to come.
Harald Grosskopf & Moongangs
13.8.15 - Shacklewell Arms, Islington
The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston is currently very much in the
thick of things as far as London's indie music scene goes, regularly
hosting interesting upcoming and slightly leftfield bands along
with promotional events. The opportunity to see and hear Krautrock
legend Harald Grosskopf who played with Wallenstein, Klaus Schulze
and Ash Ra Tempel in the 70s before going solo was too good
to pass up.
Tonight's gig opened with Moon Gangs, a one-man “cathedral”
of kosmische sounds created with what seemed like a vast array
of interlinked keyboards and played “as a piece”. London-based
electronic artist Will Young's music transports you through
different moods. There's no talking during the set, tracks are
neatly segued, and Young buries his head in all his banks of
equipment like a man transfixed.
The sound that Moon Gangs produces is the sort of smooth classic
kosmischer set you'd probably expect from tonight's main attraction.
His celestial music puts you in mind of Bobby Krlic (The Haxan
Cloak) and other artists of that ilk. Engulfed with a sound
apparently created with just a few twiddles of knobs, you're
left wondering where the line is between man and machine. In
fact, the interesting bits are where the tracks blend into one
another, gentle fades followed by sonic “explosions”, playing
with your headspace. Ultimately it's all about moon-scaping
(as the name would suggest), cutting out glacial frontiers along
those Neu!-like motorik and gliding rhythms. Even at the end,
with the dramatic finale, Young seems tongue-tied, desperate
not to interrupt the whole occasion.
Harald Grosskopf's set is richly textured and percussive,
swapping his conventional drum kit for the structured beats
he used on 2001's collaborative 4 X 3 with German house producer
Steve Baltes and guitarist Axel Manrico Heilhecker. As a solo
artist, Grosskopf is best known for 1979's Synthesist which
was re-released in 2011 with an extra album of re-workings by
artists influenced by the original album and kosmische sound
(artists like Oneohtrix Point Really, James Ferraro, Blondes
and Arp). Years later though, he's moved on. Powerfully backed
with slides, Grosskopf's newly-energized sound jumps out at
you like Swiss duo Yello with all their jazzed-up synthpop,
or the more experimental arch-percussionist Dieter Moebius of
Cluster. 'Crazy Snake' marches trancelike, fractured beats sprayed
out in every direction, with eastern snake charmers pipes drawing
you into its dark sonic abyss. Definitely elements of Haxan
Cloak going on there. Oddly, 'White Deer Skin Dance' is more
frivolous with some soft-house Berlin techno at its core, but
lingers long enough to meander into more dreamy scapes. 'The
Long Walk' is equally exploratory, deep-house and immersive
(replete with gurgling sounds), but emerging with futuristic
robot-techno and progressive rock guitar. Later on, he mellows
with cerebral stuff like his recent collaboration with electronic
artist Efestion 'Subconscio' echoeing Grosskopf's philosophy
of grabbing whatever's around to eke out magical sounds.
Grosskopf is no equipment snob, he creates a mood based on
emotion and artistry. The indie crowd at Shacklewell appeared
awkward and staid at first, unsure what to make of the wildebeest
of Krautrock, seated behind his consul of devices. Possibly
mis-cast, you wondered if anybody could have stayed still if
it were a heaving nightclub like the Hacienda. Robotic beats,
twitchy scratchy glitchy-affected, ultimately deep house but
with a really infectious groove. Yes, it certainly felt good,
and as the night wore on, the event loosened up as people started
twitching their feet and dancing more.
I left slightly early, to get my Tube across the city, those
throbbing electronic sounds still planted like little pleasurable
seeds in the the back of my brain, not deafening, just textural
and groovy immersion. Definitely an artist with a beat in mind
26.7.15 - Barbican, London
It’s been 15 years since Damon Gough’s first album, “The Hour
of Bewilderbeast”, was released but it doesn’t seem like it.
Friends whom I later tell about this gig, where Gough plays
the whole thing from start to finish, are disbelieving, maybe
because that’s a long time since we all first caught a glimpse
of that tea cosy hat, or fell a bit in love with “Once Around
In his heyday, Gough was notorious for long-winded, rambling
shows (one clocked in at over 3 hours) where the playing of
songs took a backseat, and tonight’s performance actually has
an interval. The plan is for BDB to perform “…Bewilderbeast”
in the first half, and then follow it up with other select cuts
from his back catalogue. By his own admission, there is an ulterior
motive for this anniversary show; an opportunity to reintroduce
himself after a few years away (Gough‘s last album was the soundtrack
to Being Flynn in 2012), during which time he has got divorced
and only recently started working on a new record.
Also notorious for onstage rants, as the crowd at Latitude
Festival last week were swiftly reminded, Gough is on excellent
form tonight, shy and shambling yet charming, and backed up
by an excellent group of musicians who are clearly having a
great time. He’s thrilled to be playing Barbican, a long-cherished
dream, and feeding of the supportive vibes of a devoted audience,
so it’s only right that he offers humble thanks, fist pumps
the air repeatedly and shakes the hands of all the people in
the front row (I am one of the lucky few!).
Of course, this is merely icing on the cake…do the 18 songs
on this half million-selling, Mercury Prize-winning album still
stand up? Yes, they do – in fact, they sound better than ever
– and prove that all those lazy labels like “the British Beck”
were just that (the 48 seconds of “Body Rap” are the only thing
that sound vaguely similar). Scattershot they may be, recalling
Elliot Smith (“Stone on The Water”) one minute and Lou Barlow’s
cut-and-paste soundscapes (“Cause A Rockslide”) the next, but
all have a common theme (Gough and his then-girlfriend’s blossoming
romance) and sound like they were written in a Manchester bedroom.
It’s a real one-off which, perhaps unsurprisingly given its
subject matter, Gough has never been able to match.
The second section is meant to last an hour but is cut short
due to the venue’s noise curfew. Gough displays his considerable
keyboard skills on a song dedicated to his manager, Jazz Summers,
who is being treated for cancer (Summers passes away a fortnight
later), and runs through later singles “Silent Sigh”, “Something
To Talk About”, and “All Possibilities”. More fist pumps, a
second shaking of hands and he’s gone, the band playing in his
wake and the audience feeling as though they’ve witnessed something
truly special, but only time will tell whether it’s a triumphant
rebirth or last hurrah.