Eden Project, 27 June 2015
Popular wisdom has been known to dictate that we are all where we are meant to be. If that is so, then the eventuality of King Creature opening for Motörhead represents a clear case of manifest destiny. Like the illustrious headliners, they possess the talent and wit to weld hefty hunks of pure rock’n’roll hedonism to a hard rock dreadnaught. This conceptual superstructure provides the basis upon which the Cornish quartet construct towering monoliths of sound, adorned and embellished with six-string splendour that rises through the rhythm section mesosphere to form white hot coronal ejections, arcing out across the void between amplifier and eardrum.
This evening, the forces of destiny ensure that King Creature manifest early, enabling them to burn a thousand times brighter than the darkening firmament. Just two years into their existence, the band emerge onto the Eden stage to play their most significant show to date, close to the vital small venues where they have so often paid dues and laid waste. Those who love them are here, many more who are seeing them for the first time. The hollers come from the initiated, the intro music ends, a cymbal is struck twice and they detonate. They are assured because, like Motörhead, they are rock’n’roll. There is no pretence here, no vapid hype. Just the sound and fury of something primal unleashed as opener, ‘Wasted Life’, shifts rapidly up through its initial gear changes.
Those to whom King Creature are a new phenomenon face sensory overload as each component of the roaring, radioactive beast shows its fangs. Bass colossus Dave Kellaway generates his own magnetic field that holds him fast at the eye of the maelstrom; twin guitar titans Matt Vincent and Dave Evans dazzle with dexterity, then bludgeon with forces previously held in restraint; drum behemoth Jack Bassett is a leonine whirl, despatching rhythmic mortars that impact upon over three thousand solar plexuses. A false flag of respite is raised – Momentary delicate subtleties are unfurled, indicative of a brief calm before the big one hits. Then they’re off, dragging us through an escape velocity ascent of interlocking solos, strafing chords and buffeting rhythms. Each part of the machine locks together seamlessly, the song’s end brings the cries of many new voices keen to pay due tribute.
The set’s molten core, a powerhouse triptych of whirlpool death trips ‘In Hell’, ‘Breaking Down’ and ‘Down In Flames’ exacerbates the approbation, evangelising new converts to a form of the Devil’s Music overseen by a dark deity with bigger, brassier balls. Suitably literal, ‘Power’ provides the exultant climax to a short set that would have acted as an unholy gateway for many: They will discover that King Creature have plenty more dark delights to show them. The band take the plaudits they deserve; they pose for a photograph in front of those who hail them. It is their moment. There will be many more.
(Photo: Chris Potter)
The highlight of my month was undoubtedly Supersonic Festival (11-14th June), Birmingham, the first major music event I’ve attended in active recovery. I’ve been to many gigs over the last five years, always in company. It’s easy to walk into a relatively small underground venue with friends, watch a band, and leave before things get messy. Hanging around a complex of venues, on the other hand, across a time span of dozens of hours, with the potential for excess alcohol consumption/altered states of consciousnesses invading one’s personal space, is theoretically more intimidating. Or so I thought. As it turned out, I’ve never been to a more friendly, well-organised, relaxed and convivial festival, in all my days.
Unforeseen circumstances curtailed my plans for the Friday evening, so consequently I missed Happy Meals and Sex Swing, both of whom I’ve been enjoying a great deal of late. The former in the shape of their excellent debut twelve for Night School Records, ‘Apero’, and the latter through repeat plays of ‘Night-Time Worker’ and ‘Untitled’, on their Soundcloud page. Happy Meals blend French and Italian dance-floor influences into a soup of analogue delay and busted beats, with Lewis Cook assembling the collages, and Suzanne Rodden delivering the vocals. Sex Swing, meanwhile, are an altogether filthier proposition, peopled by renegades from Part Chimp, Dethscalator and Mugstar, they ably redefine heavy duty skronk for a new generation with an enormous dollop of swagger. I also managed to miss Ela Orleans, Gazelle Twin, Free School, Apostille and The Pop Group, amongst others.
Saturday morning began promisingly. The postman arrived with a copy of Richard Dawson‘s ‘The Glass Trunk’ on vinyl, acquired recently from Insula in Denmark, via Discogs. It’s a record I’ve been after for some time in this fomrat, a magnificent collection of reimagined folk song lyrics rescued from the Tyne and Wear Archives and brought back to life in collaboration with harp worrier and internationalist, Rhodri Davies. Everybody’s favourite former-Solihull-based comedian, Stewart Lee, is a fan: “The Glass Trunk is a mesmerising and pungent selection of seven eerily keened faux folk songs forced into form from scrapbook scraps and forgotten family papers. Penetrating the heart of the archive’s hidden stories, Dawson draws out hidden truths in strong bold strokes”. I subsequently left the house with a spring in my step, and a robust melody in my heart.
I eventually arrived in Floodgate Street in plenty of time, and soon found myself inside the festival hub, digging through the crates in the marketplace, populated by stalls from the likes of Alt.Vinyl, Edgeworld Records, Oaken Palace Records, and Lancashire and Somerset Records. I chatted to a friendly Gee Vaucher on the Exitstencil Press stall, passed the time of day with Graham Thrower from Alt.Vinyl, and purchased copies of the ‘Kaspian Black’ album by Nikos Veliotis & Xavier Charles and the ‘Flexible Pooling’ 7″ flexi by :zoviet*france: & fossil aerosol mining project. I wagged chins with a recently-arrived Richard Dawson, who revealed he’s begun work on his next record, tentatively scheduled for 2016, and that Weird World Recordings will be re-issuing both ‘Magic Bridge’ and ‘The Glass Trunk’ on vinyl later this year.
By 4.20pm, I was ensconced in Boxxed, a three minute stroll down Floodgate Street from the festival hub (The Crossing, The Market Place), for my first appointment of the day: Woven Skull. Natalia (mandola), Willie (percussion) and Aonghus (guitar), augmented by an electric violin, launched the day upwards towards the skylights of Boxxed’s industrial roof panels with their mesmeric minimal psychedelic repetitions. Rising and falling like a shaman gorged on ayahuasca, Woven Skull soared transcendentally as I clung to the barrier, front-left of stage, staggered by the intensity of the performance. I await their debut LP, ‘Lair Of The Glowing Bantling’ (Penske), with increasing fervour.
Back in The Crossing, it’s 5.50pm, and Selvhenter have taken to the stage. The Copenhagen-based, all-female, five-piece (minus a drummer, Anja Jacobsen, who recently gave birth) have been redacted to a four-piece (Maria Bertel: trombone; Maria Diekmann: violin: Sonja LaBianca: saxophone; Jaleh Negari: drums) for their current European tour, but that hasn’t reduced their sonic impact unduly. Over the course of an hour, they exceed my already great expectations with a performance of utter wonderment. A swelling and appreciative audience are treated to a masterclass in rhythmically-propelled, freestyle-drone, darkened by the shadows of doom, executed with the ferocity of hardcore. It’s so refreshing to witness performers visibly enjoying their performance whilst remaining somewhat in awe of their surroundings. Trombonist, Maria Bertel, in particular, handled her instrument with the audacity of a rock’n’roll star (and I mean that in a totally endearing and ‘good’ way)! With the backdrop of an engaging slide show complimenting the visual perspective, Selventer were a joy to watch, as well as listen to. As the performance ended, the group took a classical bow, which made me love them even more. As I left the hall, satiated, the talk on the lips of my fellow festival goers echoed the superlatives in my head. This was a moment in time, and Selvhenter had made it their own.
Back down the road at Boxxed, it’s 8pm and I’m glued to the barrier awaiting Eternal Tapestry. I’m hitherto unfamiliar with the Portland, Oregon, four-piece, but I’m aware they dabble in meandering neo-psychedelia, and I try to banish the lead singer/guitarist’s resemblance to Steve Wright In The Afternoon fronting Buggles tribute band from my mind, as the group set up their equipment and soundcheck. What follows is a revelation of sorts, as I’m transfixed by the slideshow and suspended within the pastoral panoramic of Eternal Tapestry’s sonic palate, I’m transported. Staring gamely at the refracting images on the screen behind the band, I enter a trance-like state, unlike any I’ve ever experienced outside of altered states of consciousness induced by psychoactive agents. It really was a trip, man, and I soaked up every note by osmosis.
Eternal Tapestry are followed on the Boxxed stage at 9.20pm by Six Organs Of Admittance, Ben Chasny’s desert-psyche warriors, tonight expressed as a three-piece, emitting searing outbursts culled from their recent studio recording, ‘Hexadic’ (Drag City). Stumbling from rock to folk to noise to psych across his eclectic career path, Chasny refuses to remain static long enough for anyone to get a clear shot at him, and tonight he plays the role of axe-murderer, destroying the room with outrageously heavy guitar licks, somewhere south of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, and ten degrees north of Keiji Haino.
Meanwhile, back at The Crossing, it’s 10.10pm, and the largest crowd of the night is waiting expectantly for the arrival of Holly Herndon. My only previous exposure to Herndon has been via The Wire and a couple of YouTube clips, and I was genuinely under-prepared for the experience of consuming her live. Blending noise, glitch and avant approaches with the slightest sheen of populist fervour, Herndon commands her laptop-as-instrument to emit and project sound and vision on an transfixed audience, hung up on every bleep. The last time I felt this enamoured with electronically triggered music I was off my head on ecstasy, tripping the light fandango at Global Gathering, sometime early last decade. Tonight I was overjoyed to be experiencing the event fired by adrenaline and naturally produced chemicals alone, clutching my bottled water with pride, I felt every previous dance floor experience I’d ever had be superseded in the windmills of my mind. A totally unique experience.
Sunday’s Delight Is Right program takes place entirely at Boxxed, curated by Richard Dawson. Still tired from the previous day’s exertions, I slump in a comfy chair at the back of the hall and people watch: zoned, soaking up the performances of Phil Taylor and Angharad Davies, fighting the gravitational pull of my eyelids. Citizen of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Phil Taylor, temporality estranged for the day from partner Cath, treats us to a choice selection of Anglo-American folk offerings, via banjo, guitar and voice. Improvisational prepared-violinist, Angharad Davies, follows. Sister of harp terrorist, Rhodri, her single-piece performance begins with ugly scrapes of the fretboard, leading to staccato plucks, proceeding to feedback-drenched vistas of noise, as the pedal-driven distortion of her violin oscillates off the walls of Boxxed. As the piece reaches it’s climax, strings shed from the violin, captured reflectively by the stage lighting, visualising the implied violence lurking inside the musical situation. My lungs gasped for air as Angharad bowed to leave.
Fashionably late to the party, as always, John Robb’s arrival for Richard Dawson‘s performance reminded me of the cowboys t-shirt from Sex: “Nah, its all played aht, Bill. Gettin too straight”. As Dawson took to the stage, I rose from my comfy chair and moved towards the stage. Having witnessed Dawson at the Flat Pack Festival back in March, I was no stranger to the power he can generate with just a guitar, a voice, and a pair of stomping feet, but this afternoon felt one-louder, in terms of both passion and delivery. The honour of curating the event possibly firing etra cylinder-power within Dawson’s internal engine? Due to the constricts of time, tonight’s performance was shorter than I would have liked, but renditions of ‘The Ghost Of A Tree’, ‘Joe The Quiltmaker’, ‘We Picked Apples In A Graveyard Freshly Marked’, and a truly invigorating stomp through ‘Judas Iscariot’ captivated me, nonetheless. It was all over too soon, however, and Dawson humbly shuffled off to rapturous applause. I’ve said this once before, but it bears repeating, there is no other troubadour on the planet right now who can match Richard Dawson, on any level. He is such an unassuming, gentle and lovely human-being, to boot, it really is massively rewarding to see him accrue the respect and admiration of the wider audience he so richly deserves.
At 6.05pm, Rhodri Davies took to the stage, and began to torture his harp through channelled distortion pedals, replicating moments from his immaculate conceptions, ‘Wound Response’ (dirty: on) and ‘An Air Swept Clean Of All Distance’ (clean: off). Davies shifted positions throughout the performance, seemingly seeking a more comfortable stance from which to traumatise his instrument. As strings were ripped from the harp, Graham Thrower quipped that something awful must have happened in the Davies household during the sibling’s formative years to warrant the wanton instrument-abuse exhibited by both this afternoon. Having spent much of the last decade ensconced firmly on the global punk underground, it struck me that there is something inherently more punk about terrorising a classical instrument to within a hair’s breath of its life through the medium of distortion than there is in replicating the identical offspring of punk-rock-past. The extreme harp terror Davies creates doesn’t sound like anything else on the planet. From this moment hence, that’s exactly the point.
Au revoir, mes amis.
Due to the apparent demise of the tMx laptop, and a bout of internet interuptus, this column comes later than planned, for which we apologise, unreservedly. The ambient temperature of this inclement isle is rising: the heat generated by the hard drive of the dying iBook is increasing accordingly. Total meltdown was only to be expected. We’re tense and nervous, and we can’t relax.
With Supersonic Festival pending, the tMx bunker has been awash with the sounds of Richard Dawson, harp terrorist, Rhodri Davies, and raw folk traditionalists, Cath and Phil Tyler, ahead of their Delight Is Right appearance on Sunday 14/06/15. Sadly, Cath won’t be present, which is a shame, but Richard, Rhodri and Phil will be joined by Ethiopian free spirit Afework Nigussie, who plays a range of traditional stringed, woodwind and percussive instruments; Czech street musician, Jiri Wehle; and prepared violin innovator, and sister of Rhodri, Angharad Davies. Other highlights of the weekend for us look to be Selvhenter, on 13/06/15, and Sex Swing, on 12/06/15.
Incoming items that have been generating sustained interest in the bunker recently include a triumvirate of releases from the always prolific yet never predictable Richard Youngs. A spate of action from his No Fans Records has delivered a 7CD Boxset and a brace of 12″ records. The CD collection, ‘No Fans Compendium’, gathers detritus from the annals of the label to represent an alternative summation of Youngs’ eclectic career to date. It’s a vast array of wares that encompasses the many approaches he has applied to his art over the years. Beautifully packaged and lovingly assembled, it is augmented by the ‘Stormcrash’ two-track twelve inch, which comes complete with its own No Fans tote bag, and the ‘Unicorns Everywhere’ LP, which Youngs describes himself thus: “The political climate is both frustrating and exciting. ‘Unicorns Everywhere’ is a protest album that grapples with this dichotomy. Chance procedures as much as traditional song craft were used as a way through the confusion. Keywords: referendum, Faslane, Trident, foreign policy (war), social justice, NHS, accountability, representation, the 1%”.
With a new album expected soon from Luke Younger’s respected sound collage project, Helm, we’ve been duly delving back into the PAN Records catalogue, and have sourced a couple of supporting gems. The new Helm long player is entitled ‘Olympic Mess’, and early reports and a Soundcloud streaming of the record’s title track suggest that Younger has seen the light at the end of the tunnel to emerge from the dark arts of his back catalogue with something altogether brighter. Written during extensive touring exercises with Iceage, the album has been grown and honed on the road. From a distance, the record’s iconic cover, designed by PAN supremo Bill Kouligas, is vaguely reminiscent of a piece of Soviet early-20th-century-era graphic art, but at closer quarters, it turns out to be a wreck on the inner-city-highway. ‘Olympic Mess’ is shaping up nicely as one of 2015’s most anticipated releases.
Lifted, an ongoing collaborative project initiated by Matt Papich (AKA Co La) and Beautiful Swimmers’ Max D!, is the second PAN release of late worth seeking out and devouring. Drawing on studio sessions recorded in their respective hometowns of Baltimore and Washington DC, the album sees the pair working outside the framework that underlies their solo output. This truly is the sound of summer 2015, and the record’s eight tracks showcase experiments in freeform techno fusion, hyaline consumer electronics, and general ambience. The album also exhibits solo performances from Gigi Masin and Jordan GCZ (Juju & Jordash), who submitted overdubs over the phone from their bases in Venice and Amsterdam.
The final PAN Records selection this month is ‘Live Knots’, Australian avant guitarist Oren Ambarchi’s first release for the label, which features two live renditions of ‘Knots’, the epic centrepiece of his ‘Audience of One’ (Touch, 2012) LP. Built on the interplay between Ambarchi’s swirling guitar harmonics and the metronomic pulse and shifting accents of Joe Talia’s DeJohnette-esque drumming, the record merges the organic push and pull of free improvisation with an overarching compositional framework. Two takes of ‘Knots’ are present, one recorded in Tokyo, the other in Krakow.
In other news, we’ve been delving back into the tMx archives to access residual genius from the vaults, including Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck’s ‘Djam Leeli’ (Mango Records, 1989); Price Far I’s ‘Under Heavy Manners’ (Joe Gibbs Music, 1976); Joe Gibbs and The Professionals’ ‘African Dub Almighty – Chapter 3′ (Joe Gibbs Music, 1978); and Scientist’s ‘Scientist Meets The Space Invaders’ (Greensleeves, 1981).
Finally, we can’t end this month without collectively expressing our communal love for Captain Beefheart’s recent mid-period collection, ‘Sun Zoom Spark’. The 4CD set collates the albums ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’, ‘Spotlight Kid’, ‘Clearspot’, and a supplementary disc of out takes, oddballs and unreleased shenanigans. For those of you who’ve never really dug Beefheart’s pre-Troutmask output, or those of you who have found the alleged magnum opus itself somewhat dense, intense and ever-so-slightly-too-overwrought, like us, you may well find ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ represents the most satisfying and genuinely rewarding era of Beefheart in his not unsubstantial cannon. We’ve spent many an evening of late basking in the humidity of late spring on a bed of rose petals, quaffing iced sparkling mineral water, and marvelling at the true genius of Don Glen Vliet and his magical band of merry men. Remastered for remarvelling, it could be argued that ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ is all the Beefheart you’ll ever need.
Until the next time: don’t touch that smile.
All this talk of blood and iron. All this talk of defining the zeitgeist. It’s all relative. This is my zeitgeist, tell me yours.
Resurgence: to float upwards, in search of safety, not in numbers, but in spirit. To embrace the sacred, in both form and format; sound and vision; kith and kin:
“If I could dive into the other/Like it was an ocean/Caressed by its water/I’d lose myself forever/I’d lose myself forever/I’d lose myself forever”
With Beltane upon us, and rebirth in the air, to reinvent is to reinvigorate, to inhale with renewed abandon the sweet breath of existence. As we strive and labour under illusion, collude and fraternise with the enemy within, we betray the trust at the core of our soul in our eternal quest for illusive satisfaction. Read. The. Smallprint.
I begin this month by restating my allegiance to the Tasmanian Blackline Elite. If the arcane practice of the written word has had any influence over me in 2015, then those words have appeared in the pages of the Down & Out newsletter, surely one of my soundest investments thus far this year. I have scribed before in these pages of my love of Carved Cross, the Hobart Horde responsible for some of the very least-metal AGBM on the planet, as I type. Funeral-paced, hearse-laden, rotten and stench-infused, bound together with intricate hidden melody, shawn of the bluster of other variations of the genre, Carved Cross play AGBM with a punk rock attitude, and a couldn’t-give-a-fuck nonchalance.
With Nocturnal Emissions all but interred, and a-scene-wide ennui with the traditional elements of underground BM creeping bent through the forests, Overuse has risen from the ashes of Winterreich to capture the ever-widening horizons of genre-meddling rituals taking place 150-miles south of the Australian mainland.
Tasmania 1 – v/a (Overuse)
Floating down the River Derwent like the sacrificial corpse of an indigenous devil, comes this 2 x c/s set, misleadingly packaged in a virgin-white dual-cassette-box. Featuring exclusive hymns from Dysassociation, Fixation, Blackline, Carved Cross, Colour Sensory, Gaunt, Leather Temple, Parvo, Night Falls Haunting, Claudia and Fetish Ritual.
The collection embraces a host of genres, nestling like vipers: the AGBM of Carved Cross; the unhinged violence of Blackline; the punk-encrusted nihilism through minimalism of Fixation; Parvo‘s extraordinary mauling of The Undertones‘ ‘Teenage Kicks'; the haunted electronica of Dysassociation; the dysfunctional noise that is Leather Temple; or the power-electronic howl of Fetish Ritual. “Music isn’t fun”, claim Gaunt, and who are we to doubt them?
All this talk of austerity has hampered the buying of vinyl, as I may have mentioned previously, but, in traditional cross-addictive fashion, that has, in due course, led to an increase in the buying of cassettes. Cassettes are cheaper to buy, and considerably cheaper to ship, which means that buying the odd batch from around the world every now and again doesn’t tax the foundations of cash-flow in quite the same way as a few hundred pounds worth of vinyl a month can cripple a bank balance.
Recent batches of c/s releases from Posh Isolation and Strange Rules, then, have both delivered a host of quality garments, albeit cut from decidedly different cloth. Posh Isolation continue to expand their rich vein of quality faire beyond the confines of earlier brand-parameters, with sterling efforts from Vanity Productions (with and without Varg), Internazionale, Odour Trail, Erotikens Historie and, most notably, Tears, whose ’33’ EP single-handedly justifies the label’s output this year, with four slithers of gossamer-thin populist beatification, soaked in melancholic pathos, drenched by the saline excretions of New Order crying into their beer, circa 1986: ‘Broken Smile’, ’33’, ‘Tears, A Sea Of Love’ and ‘Love Can Not Save Me’ provide ample evidence that melody, structure and accessibility are not enemies of the state of Denmark, after all. Meanwhile, Strange Rules dropped a raft of cassettes too big to capture by challenged wallets, thus I can only recommend Creation Lily‘s ‘Lovers Against The Rocks’ and Analgesic Secret‘s ‘The Stem Of Restraint’, both excellent, both acquired to maintain my obsessive collation of all things Cremation Lily-related.
Further cassette joy has been taking place in the form of Nolls‘ ‘V’, a 9-track compilation of previous work from the Finnish duo, who captured both my heart and my imagination with their ‘Losing Game’ (Lot Records) seven at the death of 2014. Heikke (drums/tapes/field recordings) and Tomi (gtr/vocals) drape their pop sensibility in fractured hiss and random noise to fashion one of the most distinctive signature sounds on the global underground, and I’m keenly awaiting more from these boys as the year dissolves right in front of our eyes.
Back to vinyl, and LVEUM drop their 97th and 100th release, respectively, in the shape of Anasazi‘s ‘Nasty Witch Rock’, and Dawn Of Humans‘ ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’. Both bands have taken an age to release their debut full-length offerings; both bands hail from the sewers of NYC; and both records are worth your slavish devotion, for totally different reasons.
Anasazi sound like they’ve stumbled out of a Tardis that’s come to rest in the Batcave, circa 1982, and happened upon Bauhaus‘ gear set up on the stage, a TEAC Four Track tape deck rigged and ready to rumble. Echoes of The Gun Club riddle these ten incursions into the seedier underbelly of punk noire, with desolate vocals, and guitar tones reminiscent of the work of Mayhem‘s Euronymous. The riffs are sharp, and the floor toms duly shake. ‘Nasty Witch Rock’ is a record that peers into the past, both with an awareness of the present, and in acknowledgement of what has transpired in between these points in time.
Dawn Of Humans, obversely, have seemingly arrived at this point in time from some hitherto unimaginable future, where mutant psychocore is conceivably all the rage; people possibly commute to work with the aid of personal jet-packs; and aliens probably live side-by-side with humanity, in perfect harmony. ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ is quite unlike anything else you will hear this year: demented beyond compare, a return to the promise of the band’s second EP (2010), after the relative disappointment of ‘Blurst Of The Birdfish (2012). Emil Bognar Nasdor, Eugene Terry, Mateo Cartagena and Sam Ryser have surpassed themselves this time out, and with DoH set to grace these shores later this year, ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ is a fitting way to reach a century for Paco Mus.
Iceage – Hare And Hounds, Birmingham – 01/05/15
Finally, for this month, I was lucky enough to witness Iceage, once again, on the latest UK-leg of their seemingly never-ending-tour of the globe. In the four-months since I last caught the band at the 100 Club, London, in December 2014, Iceage have conquered China, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Denmark, USA, Wales and Ireland, and will march onwards to take Scotland, Germany, Spain, Russia, Italy and Greece, before heading back to the USA to lay waste to the States until the height of summer, eventually ending this particular campaign in Iceland, and Portugal, in August.
After the sound issues that plagued the aforementioned 100 Club show, it was rewarding to watch the band back in their low-fidelity comfort zone: fighting an inadequate PA system, in a traditional British boozer, in King’s Heath, Birmingham. “Have they come all the way from Denmark for this?”, my glamorous Nirvana-generation companion asked, having not attended a gig since the late-90s. This is a good as it gets in 2015, I assured her.
As dry ice filled the room, and the recent addition of a gtr/drum/mic-tech to the payroll milked his five-minutes of ‘thump’/’bash’/’one-two-one-two’, around a hundred or so punters ramped up the atmosphere, and Iceage took the stage. Opening with a new song that reminded me a little of ‘Overground’ by the Banshees, the sound was rehearsal-room-tight. Johan Surrballe Wieth’s guitar dominated the mix, overdriven and forceful, reducing the bulk of the material from ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’ to its reductive core. Jakob Tvilling Pless’ stoic bass lines rumbled with both menace and intent, whilst the diminutive figure of drummer Dan Kjær Nielsen flailed commandingly from the rear. As has become accustomed of late, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt ruled the roost, rising, swooping, gesticulating wildly, flinging his arms down in emphasis at suitable junctures, imploring the front rows to slam their very angst against each other with ritualistic fervor: every inch the consummate, charismatic frontman.
‘The Lord’s Favorite’ and ‘Abundant Living’ incited the fiercest of the moshing, whilst the anthemic ‘Forever’ claimed the moment-of-the-night-award, on account of its precision-executed finale: a triumph every time. A further new song was unveiled, along with ‘Everything Drifts’ and ‘Morals’ from ‘You’re Nothing’, before ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’ closed the show, with not even a suggestion of the encore awarded at the 100 Club four months before.
Iceage remain the go-to-rock-band-of-their-generation, straddling the underground like a colossus, punching above their weight, as they bait the overground with their studied arrogance, and their measured cool. As my glamorous companion rightly noted, however, the pond gets ever smaller, and the audiences are dwindling, by the time we reach the future from whence Dawn Of Humans have returned, it could well be one man and his dog.
(Album, Easy Action)
It seems like a long time since I first heard these eleven songs. Since then, I have listened to them via a number of delivery systems. Thrust directly into the ear via tiny headphones, or blasted out of my largest speakers, these songs resonate and somehow become more resonant through repetition. This is an album that functions like an organism; vibrant, pulsing, in tune with something expansive and primal, yet capable of narrowing its focus to emphasize detail. It is counter intuitive – a monotheistic plurality within which diversity is unified.
I’ll explain. ‘Lost Dawn’ opens with ‘Song For Robert’, a melange of swaggering Bolanisms, Deltahead crunch, and glam-racket stomp. It is the fresh air that blew in during February 1971, recreated, subverted and modernised. All time is simultaneous; a man in a sliver suit sings a song for women in satin hot pants to formation dance to on ‘Top Of The Pops’ while a wine bottle floats in a bathtub. It is an encapsulation of what has gone before extended into what is to come.
‘Breaking Bad’ widens the third iris, extending the field of vision from UHF’s parallel horizons to a broad, hi-def, cinematic vista. Shimmering with texture and transgressive energies, it coruscates across echoplexed badlands, becoming dreamlike before shooting into the stratosphere, leaving the listener to track its vapour trails. Propelled by polyrhythms, ‘Wasting My Time’, snaps our notional lens back into inner space for a nervous blues twitch, before cutting loose with amphetamine precision.
A balm for the senses, ‘Talk About It’ diffuses light, over-exposing the retina and enabling eyes-wide-shut psychedelics to drift by. It skitters and clatters, gathering momentum like a dwarf star accelerating around the edge of a black hole before its own gravity pulls it into another dimension where ‘Count On Me’ ends by soloing out across a spiral arm. Sibilant and sultry, the track is a cocksure chronal ejection that delivers musky allure, then subtly acquires impetus before hitting a transcendent vertex. The constellation of Priapus is defined.
Like warm breath on frigid air, ‘Darkest Night’ deliquesces as its vocal rises, throbbing its way toward a gently pulsing incandescence. Then ‘The Fall’, which winds and grooves, developing a stuttering, hypnotic allure, supported by rattlesnake percussion. Rhythm and melody become interchangeable aspects of a whole. It is immense, timeless.
Similarly epic, ‘Manchild’ is suffused with insidious subtleties as the Cheshire Cat grins and the Caterpillar draws upon his shisha. Power is controlled, allowing the group’s gears to interlock, creating a mesh upon which sound recombines into new shapes and wonderful forms. Space opens up as dervishes whirl beneath the rumbling spires. Episodic and imaginative, it opens up the topography of strangeness and charm.
‘Four’ recreates the acceleration of a trip hitting. Rising up, it is revelatory, bewildering and exultant. Native rhythms are strafed by jagged shards of psych, detonating sporadically, before the dislocated funk of ‘Colossus’ brings us to the very edge. Over that cusp lies ‘Kennedy’; laconic and transcendental it develops as an aural travelogue, revealing wonders as its successive layers carry it on its unhurried way to a bleakly beautiful climax.
Take the needle from the record. Turn it back over and begin again. There is still more to be discovered.
Lost Dawn have recorded a unique and special album. It would be remiss of us not to find out more, so we pestered Stan Duke (guitar/vocals), Ben Woods (drums/vocals), and Joel McConkey (bass/didn’t say much) until they made with the speak.
If we could start by doing the whole ‘Secret Origin of Lost Dawn’ thing and you could tell us how it all began and what were the powerful forces that brought you together.
Ben: In brief, the band was the love child of Stan and his childhood compadre Luke. I met the guys in college, we were studying music production. They were and intimidating pair, but they invited me to jam on the grounds that I liked the blues and Tinariwen and Led Zeppelin.
So we were a haphazard three piece for a while, we did a handful of pretty sweet little shows that took us by surprise as much as they did anyone else. But then just as it was feeling good, Luke left and we had to make some hasty rearranging
We became a two piece, decided it worked (despite the constant Black Keys/White Stripes comparisons – we loved those bands but wanted to move away from that sound), recorded a couple of EPs which barely made it over the Tamar Bridge and then we fled to university; Stan to Brighton and me to Manchester. That didn’t last long, Stan moved back after one year and I moved back after two. And then that summer we recorded the album, with an aim to self-release
Then we sort of realised that what we were doing wasn’t working as a two piece, so we went on the hunt for a bass player. Which is when we found guitarist Joel, and forced him to play bass, which revolutionised the band, and brings us to where we are today, the beginning. Six years later
Ultimately though, the extended gestation has resulted in something that seems to have no boundaries. Would y’all see Lost Dawn as having no stylistic limitations?
Ben: Our only stylistic limitation is Stan’s poncho.
Yes, I could see that in the video, when it got soggy… The album covers a great deal of stylistic ground, though – But you’ve also given it a cohesive sound – it’s all different but it’s all Lost Dawn – is that something you were aiming for?
Ben: I don’t know if it was an aim, but if it don’t have our identity then it wouldn’t have been right. We were conscious that what we were working on didn’t adhere to one genre.
Did you put the album together in sections or all in one go?
Stan: We had the core structures of the songs written and recorded everything separately; drums first, then everything else. But some things, like little guitar parts outside of the main structures, just came to us as we were going along – using the studio as a writing tool (not that it was a studio, it was all recorded at Ben’s house).
You’ve got a few guests on there too…
Stan: Yeah I think we had a vague idea of what we’d want but the idea to get people in for certain parts was an afterthought.
Do you think that the way that you’re regularly involved in working on other projects with different people has played a part in the extensive nature of Lost Dawn’s sound?
Stan: I think you learn a lot from working with different people so I suppose it has, if only subconsciously.
How about the lyrics, are there any literary influences there?
Stan: I’m really not sure what influenced the lyrics, they just sort of came out. There is a lot of different subject matter, but I do like to keep lyrics a little ambiguous.
It’s been about a year between it all being ready and it hitting the shelves, you must be delighted that it’s finally out there?
Ben: Definitely. We’ve just been practicing playing the whole thing live for Wednesday’s show and the songs were feeling fresh again, but it’s been so long since we wrote the tracks that we’ve stopped gigging some of them
Stan: Having guest musicians playing with us has definitely injected life into some of them.
What are the most interesting reactions you’ve had to the group so far?
Ben: Our third ever show, at the Acorn in Penzance six years ago. People sat with their fingers in their ears. And then the Tregony heavy horse show three years ago – A giant of a man thrust his body around the dance floor for the duration of our set in a tiny working man’s club, and then tipped us £20.
Stan: He was throwing £5 notes at Ben while he was playing – like a stripper.
The Falmouth Sound tour at the back end of last year was a blast from where I was standing – was it as much fun as it seemed?
Ben: It was a total shambles, but we had a gay old time.
How do you feel about the whole local scene thing that the media have seized upon?
Stan: I think it’s definitely great for bands outside of big cities when the media finally pays attention, I wouldn’t want it to be choked to death but it’s good to have appreciation in a small town.
I can think of half a dozen great bands from Falmouth, I couldn’t say that about London.
Stan: I guess London just has so much variation, which is obviously a good thing to a degree, but it does mean there’s a lot of crap. In Falmouth it seems like it’s all been condensed and filtered.
Ben: I think bands get picked up too early on there before they’ve had time to develop – which chokes them.
How’s the build up to the album launch been?
Ben: At times positive, but sometimes it’s just frustrating, trying to push things out there. We still don’t know how it’s going to go down.
You must have a fair few songs that came together after the album – any plans for them yet?
Ben: Yeah! We’re well underway with recording an EP, which should bridge the gap between Album One and Album Two (which we’re writing at the moment).
If you could go back to the dawn of Lost Dawn and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Ben: I’d teach us the songs we’re working on now, to be ahead of the game. And introduce us to Joel. Actually, I’d take Tame Impala’s discography to us so we could be on top of the world
Stan: Yeah, Ben’s got the idea! I’d teach younger me the White Denim back catalogue.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER