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gig reviews - 2015


Low + Two Gallants
7.10.15 - Manchester Cathedral

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.

Christopher Carney

Sleaford Mods
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.

Dave Procter


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 ...

Matthew Haddrill


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 The Block”.

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.

Will Columbine