HOW DO LIKE YOUR BLUE-EYED BOY, MR DEATH?
a phenomenal writer. If you don’t know his work, check out The Gospel Singer.
Filed under: Gigs!, Photos | Tags: Caretaker, Forest Swords, Newcastle Roller Girls, Nurse With Wound
The Sisters Brothers was one of the best novels I’d read in ages. This is de Witts’ debut and is also pretty damn good. It does have the feel of a first novel and it doesn’t all work – the device set up at the start where the narrator is seemingly assembling notes for a book doesn’t really sustain – but even still, there’s a very dark humour, a curious warmth (and warm curiosity) about this account of a seemingly backstory-free barkeep in a seedy Hollywood bar. Nods to Bukowski without being in hock to him, some fanatically realised characters, some very funny anecdotes. Excellent stuff.
Filed under: Miscellaneous, Reading | Tags: Mungo's Hi Fi, No Ice Cream Sound, reggae, Sound Systems, Woofah
Now the mighty Woofah has ceased production, it’s time for No Ice Cream Sound. A bit less glossy than Woofah (well, that was run by a bunch of middle aged fops and intellectuals), NICS has a similar mix of interviews, reviews, features, lists and daftness. Nice feature on the mighty Mungo’s Hi FI (and a related UK system overview) in this one.
Seems to sell out pretty damn fast (and back issues are non-existent, which is a pain cos I only discovered it at issue 3) so wake the town and tell the people
(oh, and I was kidding about the Woofah crew. That John Eden guy is no intellectual )
STOP PRESS: Rumours of Woofah’s demise were premature – there will be one final, fifth issue. Good!
This is a reunion I can really get behind (hence dragging myself to that charmless dump Ally Pally at the end of May.
Apparently there’ll be no new material, just a few dates. Works for me. They’ve got one of the best back catalogues around.
“Our place in history is secure. All we have to do is… I’ll put it to you this way, man. Every time I walk onstage, I play for my rep. You know what I mean? I come out swinging. And I will come out swinging in whatever group I’m in. And it will be no different with these guys. We’ve got great songs, we are a great live band. And in our time, I would put us against any band in the fucking world, you know what I mean?”
A lovely piece about Jonathan Richman’s Corner Store by Tim Jonze in today’s Guardian happily also contained a link to one of my favourite pieces of music journalism ever, in which Laura Barton traces Richman’s steps in Roadrunner.
Liz Green – O, Devotion (Play It Again Sam)
A very long time coming (her debut single was way back in 2007), Liz Green’s debut album is getting a lot of critical love, and I can grudgingly see why. It’s certainly smarter and more inventive than most of the tiresome neo-folky types she’s likely to get compared to. It’s a veritable boom time for female singer songwriters, which is obviously a good thing, but inevitably there’s as much insufferable drama department toss as there is gold. Where Green fits into this slightly arbitrary spectrum, I haven’t quite decided. Meanwhile, reviews of her gigs, all puppet shows and masks and tomfoolery, are bound to win her acclaim (although not from me – there’s a fine line between stage craft and art school dicking about).
Musically, she’s definitely trying to escape the Laurel Canyon clichés that seem all too prevalent right now, which is a relief. Instead, there’s a dash of Kurt Weill here, some French chanson there, some New Orleans jazz throughout. However, while this isn’t the place to get into a debate about authenticity, at times it does sound a little contrived, a little like Green has just discovered Lotte Lenya and Jacques Brel and Bessie Smith and is bolting their styles on to her songs to give them some flavour, some difference. This applies to her lyrics too, it’s all too neatly crafted: imitation rather than inspiration. But, again, at least she’s trying.
Ultimately, it’s her voice that settles it for me: her vocals are nasal, mannered and extremely grating. It sounds – I’m afraid – like a Muppet character singing a jazz number. If you like the voice, or can get past it, there may well be something here for you.
Green isn’t one of the bad guys – she’s obviously talented and she’s obviously trying to do something a little different, but for me the results don’t match the ambition. Ah well, the new album will probably show up around 2017 and maybe by then she’ll have grown into the artist she obviously wants to be.
Soap & Skin – Narrow (Play It Again Sam)
I’m not sure what I expected when I pressed play – I hadn’t heard Anja Plaschg’s debut and knew little about her – but it certainly wasn’t this. Narrow is pretty bracing stuff, harrowing even. It was born out of the death of her father, and you can tell: the sense of pain and loss is inescapable, in her incredible voice and in the music. There are songs of simple beauty (Wonder) and stark, distraught dissonance (Vater) and while the piano is dominant, there are plenty of harsh electronic loops, beats and stabs to warrant the mentions of Aphex Twin that crop up alongside the more inevitable Nico and Cat Power references. The darker, lusher moments of This Mortal Coil also spring to mind, but ultimately this is all about Plaschg and her brave, original, really quite disturbing music. A brilliant, troubling album.
© Narc Magazine 2012
Filed under: Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Floating Palaces, Howe Gelb, Laura Veirs, Meschiya Lake, Narc, Thee Spivs
Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns
While the bloggers tie themselves up in knots about Lana Del Rey’s ‘authenticity’, here comes Meschiya Lake – her own special creation. Probably born in the ‘wrong’ state in the ‘wrong’ decade, maybe even the ‘wrong’ colour to be playing this music, but that’s her on stage, making a strong case for gig of the year already.
Sticking to the classic New Orleans line-up of trombone, trumpet, sousaphone, guitar and drop dead cool drummer, Lake takes the base elements of old time blues and jazz and turns it into something really special by adding massive charisma, an incredible voice and a fantastic rapport with her band (her time in the circus obviously taught her a lot about stagecraft). Alongside the band was a champion Lindy Hop duo, who managed to really get the best out of the local swing dance crowd.
Drawing heavily on New Orleans tunes even the casual listener might recognise, from slow blues to snappy jazz to second line standards like Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Lake and her Little Big Horns managed to make the Cluny2 feel like a Bourbon St jazz club for a couple of magical hours. 5/5
The Jumpin’ Hot Club, The Cluny2, Newcastle February 9th
Thee Spivs / Night Owls / Nervous Twitch
Both openers tonight (each from Leeds) were just a little ‘wrong’ somehow – Nervous Twitch’s pretty straight garage revivalism didn’t really gel, and Night Owls seemed unable to decide if they were a muscular R&B band, belligerent punk or somewhere in between.
Praise be, then, for Thee Spivs. Too many bands harking back to the late 70s get stuck on the ugly, lumpen version of punk. But this lot – a stylish and charming trio of Hackney-dwelling ne’er-do-wells – get it just right: the sharp, snappy, melodic end of things that has more in common with The Jam or The Chords than it does Peter & The Test Tube Babies. It’s punk through the eyes of Billy Childish, although Thee Spivs largely avoid garage clichés.
There’s nothing wrong with being retro if the songs are this good, and from the off Thee Spivs totally nailed it. Ba-ba-ba choruses, amphetamine riffs, bratty lyrics about perennially punk subjects, estuary vowels, two minute songs coming thick and fast with the minimum of fucking about. The Trash Shack crowd loved it, and if it really was the last Trash Shack night (say it ain’t so), it was a fantastic way to end. 4/5
The Trash Shack @ Central Bar, Gateshead February 17th
Sometimes the way some people armed with pieces of wood and string can conjure up something so beautiful, so transporting still amazes me. Tonight Laura Viers – tiny and bookish and utterly beguiling – is flanked by a guitarist who comes off as an amiable stoner until his playing knocks you out and a peppy keyboard / fiddle player with the voice of an angel. Between the three of them they create something very special.
Viers loosely fits into the country / folk songwriter vein, but there’s something in her music which just shimmers. Simple melodies married to lyrics with a strong sense of place and nature, delivered by a sweet, often childlike voice. Tonight we get songs from across her eight albums, including a couple taken from her recent Tumble Bee release, kids’ folk songs performed with real joy. (A bubble machine was the sole remnant of a lunchtime matinee show for kids that featured costumes and face paint and a cover of Nirvana’s Sliver). Between songs, Viers chatted excitedly about everything from the origins of the songs to The Sage’s laundry facilities, comfortable and friendly and full of love for what she’s doing, and that love shows through in her music. 4/5
The Sage, Gateshead, February 2th
Floating Palaces featuring Robyn Hitchcock, Howe Gelb, KT Tunstall, Martin & Eliza Carthy and Krystle Warren
You know when you throw a dinner party and you think it would be a lot of fun to invite some people who don’t know each other but are bound to get on and make for a fantastic night? But it just doesn’t work? The laughter forced, the pauses pregnant? Welcome to Floating Palaces.
This sort of event (artists collaborating on each others’ songs en masse or in small groups) can sometimes work wonderfully but tonight was flat, charmless and plain awkward in places. Robyn Hitchcock still seems to think stringing together 6th form non sequiturs makes him Syd Barrett’s natural heir and his songs just irritated. Folk legend Martin Carthy seems uncomfortable and grumpy, daughter Eliza tries hard but never really gets going. Krystle Warren – a last minute replacement for Abigail Washburn, who really dodged a bullet – has a great voice and no songs to speak of. Howe Gelb was painfully underused and looked a little lost. A true genius, he was far too inventive and irreverent for a night of folk dirges and bland balladry. To my great surprise, KT Tunstall came off best, her personality and warmth standing out.
When a line-up of this calibre can’t even wring some joy out of I Want You Back or The Weight, the whole project is in trouble, and I got the feeling everyone involved knew it. 1/5
The Sage, Gateshead, February 6th
© Narc Magazine 2012
Filed under: Festivals, Narc | Tags: AV Festival 2012, Chris & Cosey, Desertshore, Narc
I had a busy old month for Narc, with all this in the March issue. Most of the copy appeared as submitted in the mag (which is ace), but I’m posting the entire interview with Chris & Cosey because limited space meant we had to leave loads out.
AV Festival 2012: As Slow As Possible
(the other half of this piece was written by the excellent Michael Hann, who covered the film, art and symposia).
Inspired by the title of a piece from minimalist pioneer John Cage, the fifth AV festival – As Slow As Possible – appropriately stretches out to cover the whole of March, with a programme taking in concerts, film, performance, talks, installations, radio and a lot of walking. Each of the 70+ events considers the passage of time in a bewildering variety of ways. Across the next few pages Michael Hann and Lee Fisher try to do justice to a fascinating and packed itinerary.
The music programme for AV can be divided into two equally fascinating parts, split by scheduling and content. The opening weekend draws heavily on the minimalist tradition (appropriately enough, since the festival’s entire theme derives from a John Cage piece) and features a variety of contributions from Phill Niblock, Susan Stenger and Yoshi Wada. The centrepiece is Lament For John Cage (Mar 3rd, The Sage), a celebration of the great man’s music, poetry and texts, taking in his own pieces and new works from Niblock and Wada. On the previous evening, Niblock presents The Movement Of People Working (The Sage), using film and music to consider the repetition of the workplace. The core trio discuss their work in the context of the NYC minimalist scene at the Tyneside (March 3rd) and Wada performs live in his own sound installation at the Discovery Museum (Mar 4th). The weekend comes to a close with the UK premiere of Requiem by Hanne Darboven, a minimalist, numerically-driven piece for organ, at St Thomas The Martyr Church (Mar 4th).The second part of the music programme takes place across the two weekends either side of the spring Equinox. The highlight of this is surely Wishful Thinking (Tyneside Cinema, March 17th), a tribute to the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, who was working on a commission for AV at the time of his death. Contributions include a performance from fellow Throbbing Gristle members Chris & Cosey and the screening of Derek Jarman’s Journey To Avebury, with music from Sleazy’s other main project Coil. The event is preceded by a talk from Rob Young at the same venue.
The following weekend sees Stephen Stapleton performing an all-night Sleep Concert at Centre For Life (March 23rd-24th), reworking his Dadaist / industrial Nurse With Wound material to unsettle and intrigue an audience tucked up in beds provided by the venue. The following night sees the hauntology scene make its presence felt with Time Out Of Joint, a night of special performances from The Caretaker, Pye Corner Audio and Forest Swords (a one-off performance using local field recordings that will be destroyed afterwards) at the Star & Shadow (Mar 24th).There’s a trilogy of very rare performances from local pioneers :Zoviet*france across the two weekends (and across the area) and two performances of Enochian Scrying from Sunn 0))) vocalist Attila Csihar at Tyne Bridge North Tower (Mar 24th-25th). (Csihar also joins Susan Stenger for part of her Full Circle installation)
Chris & Cosey Interview
(the full version, lifted unedited from the email)
• First off, how do you think Sleazy would feel about a great tribute like this? And how do you both feel about it – do you foresee it being quite an emotional event? And do you see it as being some kind of final chapter for the TG story?
I think he would feel honoured but he’d give that Sleazy smile and tickled pink shuffle. We’re thrilled that this event is happening and gave us the opportunity to present some of his last work with us. The emotions of loss tend to surface when you least expect them but I dare say such a gathering will be somewhat charged with the love for him and his work and the loss we all face.
• Apart from Factory Floor, do you see the influence of TG and your various projects as strongly now as ever? To my mind, an outfit like Factory Floor seem to get the spirit of what you’ve achieved and what you’re about much more than any number of faux-shocking industrial / power electronic numpties who namecheck you
Well there’s The Emeralds who have a similar band ethic too. I’m just happy I can name two! It’s been a barren musical landscape
over the past 30 years as far as new bands/people go. There’s been too much emphasis on ‘career’, ego and finance and not enough on the crucial key elements, the sound and the spirit in which it’s made.
• Finally, the two of you are very active on Twitter (I feel like I’ve met Dexter!) – do you seen this as just a bit of fun, or is it a useful tool, both in terms of getting your music out there and maintaining a kind of artistic community at a remove?
Well I’ve always been very open and kept communication channels free as far as my life and work are concerned so Twitter is a pretty useful tool for me. But Twitter is many things to many people and I think that’s why I personally like it. It’s enabled me to reach out to people I don’t know but have empathy for and as far as a promotional tool of course it’s pretty good medium for that but it’s not my primary reason for using it by any means. It facilitates a great and swift exchange of information on a vast array of subjects. Of course it can be used for bad as well as good but that’s the world we live in and the good far outnumber the bad.
I stated using Twitter on the final TG USA tour in 2009, to keep our fans regularly updated with titbits of tour info and photos. Which worked out really well. Actually too well once or twice, as we got intercepted by lots (LOTS!) of excited TG fans at a couple of airports and hotels because I’d left my geolocation on. Of course we also use it to promote whatever we’re doing but on a day to day level I think it helps you connect with fans and followers on a more personal level. Which I think people appreciate. Although lately I’m not using it so much while we’ve been recording the album as it can be REALLY distracting.
© Narc Magazine 2012