Speakers Push Air

Narc / KYEO Round-Up November 2012

Album Reviews:


Free Reign (Domino)

Words: Lee Fisher

I’d lost touch with Clinic over the last couple of albums, which seems to have roughly coincided with them losing touch with what they’re good at, so it’s a relief that they’re back to their haunted, freaky best on Free Reign. It might be a source of frustration for them but this is a return to form precisely because it’s Clinic returning to the source, which in their case is the same lysergically tainted water supply as a band like Moon Duo but with better songs.

Because as much as Clinic are very blatant about their key influences – Suicide, Neu, Spacemen 3 and the rest – it’s the addition of post punk, garage and even dub elements that give them their distinctive flavour. Take second track Seesaw – all Monks-style stomp, filthy organ and a spooky clarinet freakout. Or the fabulous Seamless Boogie Woogie BBC2 10pm (I wonder who that could be about, pop kids?). These are songs that fuck with your head without outstaying their welcome. For The Season is like the comedown lullaby you’ve always wanted, with one of Ade Blackburn’s loveliest vocals, sweet and tender but still acidic around the edges, like the lingering effects of a long trip.

King Kong is pure analogue trance, Blackburn sounding positively libidinous (or alarmed – or both?) over a track of Kling Klang keyboards (remember them?). You is pure motorik chug and burble, Cosmic Radiation a lovely bit of jazzy freakbeat, like West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. In short, there’s nothing on Free Reign that’s less than damn good, and a lot of it is fantastic. All this and a limited edition version of the album that comes as a glow-in-the-dark UFO frisbee (with a download code) for you to spin around on your finger in a dark room in those more, ahem, ‘reflective’ moments.

Released: 12.11.12



New Rituals (Rock Action)

Words: Lee Fisher

Errors have always struck me as a band capable of being pretty great but achieving it only rarely. Tracks like A Rumour In Africa are thrillingly inventive electro workouts, but too often they drift into noodling mood pieces that fail to engage. Unfortunately, New Rituals fails to break the habit. There a couple of great tracks – Hemlock, in particular manages to evoke both Boards of Canada and New Order and yet still make sense.

But too many of the tracks on this ‘mini-album’ (a mini-album at 30 plus minutes? See, albums ARE getting bloated) are pretty enough but lack focus or intent, and occasionally lapse into some alarmingly 80s sounds. Maybe next time they’ll nail it.

Released: 12.11.12


Mogwai – A Wretched Virile Lore (Rock Action)

For many acts, remix albums are stop gaps or contract fillers, but that’s not Mogwai’s style. As with its predecessor Kicking A Dead Pig, this is a serious (and seriously Impressive) project. It doesn’t all work but when it does it’s excellent. JK Flesh’s mix of George Sq Thatcher Death Party manages to be both brutal and beautiful, while Cylob marry the vocodered voices of White Noise to some gloriously squelchy techno. The Soft Moon are kindred spirits of Mogwai’s in some ways, so it’s no surprise they work wonders with San Pedro. But Tim Hecker’s remix of Rano Pano was always going to be the highlight because… Well, fuck, it’s Tim Hecker, and his waves of crunchy ambient distortion are always glorious.

Live Reviews:

Divine Trash Presents Women In Revolt /Witch Hands – Central Bar, Gateshead 18th October

Witch Hands are Lux AND Ivy, Bob Log III and Hazil Adkins, Holly Golightly and Howling Wolf, all in the form of one woman and her guitar /drums/ theremin setup. This was her debut gig and it may not have been the slickest of shows but Witch Hands has got filthy bluesy rock’n’roll in her inky black blood.

In the space of little more than a year, Women In Revolt have grown from a pretty great idea into a pretty great band. Poly sexual, polymorphous, all wigs, attitude and New York trash punk, they rocked CBGH for their single launch party. Frontperson Sheena Revolta has got the spunk and sass of a star, while the four piece band (plus tireless gogo dancer) play a lot better than their deceptively simple songs might suggest. For a band rooted in Tyneside’s arts scene, there’s a natural emphasis on image and manifesto, but as they write more cracking songs like Newcastle Roller Girl anthem Rocking With The Rollergirls and single Oestrogynal Itch to join the carefully chosen covers (Love Comes In Spurts, Are You Man Enough To Be A Woman) they continue to evolve from a kind of trashy art project into some serious rock’n’roll fun.

Tusk Festival – The Star & Shadow Cinema, October 5-7th

I only managed to spend at a few hours at the second Tusk Festival (blame manflu) but it was enough to see that it’s a genuinely brave, catholic and welcoming event, one to cherish.

First up for me were newly-reformed local band The Unit Ama, a cheerful blend of Shellac’s intensity and precision with a more freeform side, songs collapsing into fragmented bass notes, toy instruments and strange languages.  Meitheal were an improvising trio, two fiddles and a tiny harmonium, Irish and American folk traditions meeting in haunting drone and mystical Christian poetry. I’m afraid Sylvester Anfang II’s “set the controls for the heart of the bong” noodling sent me to the pub for a pint and some air but I was back in time for the day’s highlight, Pain Jerk, a skinny Japanese noise terrorist in a Discharge tshirt. His secret weapon was two industrial springs mounted in a miked- up metal box, which he played with what looked like the head of an industrial sander. Glorious, cathartic volume that stayed out of the high frequencies that make Merzbow unlistenable (to me at least)., it made my eyes hurt, my ears wince and my heart soar.

Things took a turn for the awful with The Tenses, two hippies messing about with toys, trumpets and turntables. Neither witty or challenging, but thankfully followed by the wonderful NHK’ Koyxen, who moved from a kind of post-Burial haunted rave to some full on minimal techno. Wonderful stuff. Props too to the Jazzfinger DJ for keeping it fun, fucked up and inspired between acts.

A brief Sunday visit meant I caught a gloriously hungover Richard Dawson wrench out a powerful, harrowing version of his acapella Poor Old Horse before Pelt and Part Wild Horses Man On Both Sides took part in a beautiful, exploratory gamelan performance that had the lunchtime crowd transfixed. Even though I managed to miss apparently incredible sets from the likes of Hieroglyphic Being, Fushitsusha, Pelt and Lobster Priest, I STILL had an amazing time.

Shonen Knife  / Rexine – The Cluny. October 4th

This was the first time I’d seen local band Rexine and I was impressed. Perhaps a little too diffident (or nervous?) to entirely convince, but they sound great, in a stark postpunk kind of way, somehow calling to mind The Raincoats and the more melodic bits of Crass. Well worth keeping an eye on.

Shonen Knife suffer from no such diffidence. Appearing  stage front waving Shonen Knife scarves, they basked in the audience’s affection and seemed to be having the time of their lives (but then they always do). Nothing much changes in the world of the Osaka Ramones, but why would you want it to? They sing about bisons, sushi, rockets and Barbie dolls over sweetly melodic buzzsaw punk and play every gig like it’s their best ever. Newish drummer Emi (two years in) doesn’t stop grinning, slightly less new bassist Ritsuko (6 years) throws shapes, climbs monitors and looks delighted and as for Naoko? 31 years a Shonen Knife and still living the dream. The new stuff sounds great, the old stuff sounds great, everyone cheers, the band beam and we all go home a little less cynical about the world. Gorgeous.

Misty’s Big Adventure / The Lyndsey Tin – The Cluny, October 1st

Newcastle, I love you but you’re bringing me down. I know this gig was on a Monday but the fact that so many of you stayed home rather than coming out to see the glorious Misty’s Big Adventure makes me sad. So what DID you miss? Well, you missed a decent support from The Lindsey Tin – a curious but effective two-man set up with a lot of ideas who perhaps need to focus their energies a little more, and steer clear of overly epic choruses, but have something very interesting going on.

But primarily, you missed amazing, bittersweet songcraft and a band at their very best (Grandmaster Gareth’s sore throat notwithstanding). For all the fun they bring to the stage – the demented dancing of The Erotic Volvo; a series of colour photocopies standing in for high budget film shows; dance routines and messing about – there’s some amazing songwriting and a real bite to much of their material. Misty’s are only ‘wacky’ if your idea of a great live band is 4 anonymous lads in tshirts muttering “thanks very much” between songs. But if you want colour, excitement and sheer bloody joy you can’t beat them. The tunes from their most recent album really stand out – especially the ska-meets-musical hall of Aggression – and old favourites like The Story of Love just can’t fail. Their spin-off girlgroup The Dumbettes even put in a fantastic last minute appearance on 60s gem Egyptian Shumba.  Next time, don’t miss out.

REVIEW: Supersonic Festival

It staggers me that it’s taken me until Supersonic #10 to get round this festival, but I won’t be missing out again. It’s hands down the most musically adventurous and enjoyable festival I’ve ever been too, and it’s friendly, well-run and inventive to boot. I was there primarily to cover the north east contingent – Warm Digits, Drunk In Hell and Richard Dawson – but it’s worth pointing out some other highlights.

Spread across three venues – the rather too small Old Library and two big ole warehouses, Boxxed and (erm) Warehouse  – alongside all manner of sideshows, market stalls and food vans – this was beardy without being blokey, low on hipsters but high on all manner of people who get off on experimental music of different kinds. Staggering round the pleasantly post-industrial Custard Factory arts complex, the whole thing does become a fantastic blur, as you slide between, for example, the ‘dark overlords of Brummie drum & bass’ PCM and the breakcore / noisefest of the Small But Hard Showcase (notable primary for rapper Sensational having some sort of mini-breakdown that became the talk of the weekend.)

Friday night highlights included the Modified Toy Orchestra, who have moved beyond a gimmick (modified toys, obviously) and now make gorgeous, minor key electronic music recalling Plone or Boards Of Canada. Hey Colossus were blinding, a ferocious tribute to the kind of sonic filth that made the late 80s so exciting, but with an almost motoric precision (from drummer Tim Cedar) keeping it from collapsing into sludge (great 70s S&M visuals too). JK Flesh – Justin from Godflesh / Techno Animal etc  armed with a laptop and a guitar – dropped bass frequencies that punched you in the throat, treble that made your nose itch and an overall noise like a sulky teenager throwing a bedroom strop. That’s a compliment, by the way.

We had to wait till Saturday evening for our first Tyneside (ish) act, but Warm Digits absolutely killed it. They followed an impressive set from Jarboe, who – backed by a slightly terrifying goth pianist / backing vocalist who looked like she could kill you with her bare hands – turned in a set of Swans and solo numbers that veered between chansons, cabaret, anguish and ham. Warm Digits drew a decent crowd to the Old Library and treated them to a non-stop Krautdisco party. Perhaps the most improvised and exploratory set I’ve seen them play, they looked absolutely exhilarated throughout, driven on by the amazing crowd reaction. Judging by the Twitter reaction – a remarkably good guide to critical opinion over the weekend – they won a lot of fans and made a deep impact on Supersonic.

Running away from a disappointingly Deadhead Carlton Melton, it was time for Drunk In Hell. I must confess by this point that drink had been taken (in slightly alarming quantities) which means that a) I greatly enjoyed Drunk In Hell’s set and b) I remember fuck all about it. I remember a totally coruscating hardcore blast, I remember the bodies of crowdsurfers being flung all over, I remember a girl in an original Suicide Tendencies cap and that’s about it. When asked to describe their sound, my friend said “they sound like Middlesbrough”, which might just cover it.

Then – after catching a tiny sliver of what sounded like a beautiful set from Tim Hecker – it was time for the bass weight. Hype Williams come with a lot of baggage, mystery, confusion and hipster bullshit. What you get live is a total sensory assault of strobes and smoke and bass and confusion. Their set was bewildering, powerful and left me no clearer about what Hype Williams ‘are’, especially when I realised, as the smoke cleared, that the figure stage left I thought was a singer was a blonde model astride a Kawasaki doing nothing whatsoever.

The Bug came next, firing filthy acid ragga at Babylon while a variety of MCs spat pure fire and the Warehouse erupted in a boglequake (in my head, at least).  Apparently, after this there were after parties but The Bug had finished me off so we stumbled off into the Birmingham night, Supersonic Market shopping in one hand, ‘commemorative’ Supersonic pint glass in the other.

A commitment to Tyneside talent saw me back at the Custard Factory at terrifying hour the next day to see the mighty Richard Dawson. This is the second time in a month I’ve seen him do the opening slot at a festival, and the second time his hangover has been even worse than mine. After requesting a bucket (‘just in case’), he told stories, cracked jokes and played a set of haunted, beautiful folk music. The reasonable crowd (with a healthy Tyneside turnout) were by turns rapt and pissing themselves and by the time he sang Poor Old Horse, wrenching it out, really feeling the pain and taking the crowd with him, he’d won Supersonic. Remarkable stuff.

I’d be lying if I said Sunday at Supersonic wasn’t a bit gruelling, but luckily there were joys to be had. Mothertrucker are essentially Mogwai playing stoner metal, and every bit as good as that sounds. Islaja was a very delicate, very drunk Swedish laptop artist who finally abandoned her playing and singing to simply spin around on stage, lost in her own haunting, fractured loops. Gnod and Six Organs of Admittance were a big disappointment – the first for being too crusty, the second for being showboating guitar wank, like a Wire-approved Joe Satriani. Lichens gave us a lovely warm drone, Kim Gordon’s new band Body / Head were flat out appalling – Gordon lying on her back wailing and tormenting her guitar – and the much-hyped Goat seemed to have escaped from the Glastonbury Greenfields to torment us with a terrible Afrofunk pastiche.

Which leaves two absolute highpoints. Lash Frenzy, some kind of collaborative art/noise project on paper, was in reality a warehouse full of smoke and strobes with guitarists and drummers scattered throughout the crowd, each with their own amp stack and strobe, making the most joyfully insane noise imaginable (98.6 db according to the desk). As we bumped and staggered through the visual and aural confusion, we kept running into another guitarist or drummer.

There were rumours of naked women with megaphones, and as the riffs died out, a string quartet were revealed onstage, taking us through a delicate coda to the onslaught. Italian stone / doom / space metal trio UFOMammut had a lot to follow, and nearly managed it. Playing their entire Oro project (two albums worth of tectonic riffs, deft but neanderthal drumming and ribcage shattering bass) they had the crowd doing the claw, headbanging and grinning like fools without ever cracking a smile themselves.  Metal is serious business, capisce?

And that was Supersonic #10. Bewildering, brilliant, exhausting, unmissable.

Big Night
November 9, 2012, 1:52 pm
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