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.
Dawn Of Humans – ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ (LVEUM)
The dawn of Dawn Of Humans‘ debut long player has been a long time coming. It’s now eight years since the band’s demo dropped, back in 2007, and six years since their debut seven on Always Restrictions, in 2009. Early indications are that ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ is everything we hoped for from these psychopathic delinquents, and more. We will be reviewing the album in full, just as soon as it has sunk in properly, until then, here’s a link to the LVEUM Bandcamp stream, so you can judge for yourselves.
Meanwhile, back in the past, you can access some DoH back catalogue action here:
Demonstrating that it’s not always necessary to have three people in a power trio, Wolf Note coalesced from primal ingredients around the middle of last year. The duo of Danny Wood (guitar/vocals) and Liam Jolly (drums/vocals) have paid their dues and honed their chops in bands such as perennial trakMARX favourites Mister Postman and powerhouse combo The Dead Heat.
After a couple of early shows, Wolf Note accelerated to escape velocity turning October’s Inland Arts Festival into a sweaty, churning celebration of visceral rock’n’roll with a set that clearly signposted their gargantuan potential. Now, with the release of their five-track debut EP, they are making good on that promise – providing a nap hand of muscular cuts that first scorches and then gouges the earth beneath their dusty, booted feet.
Opener ‘Move It On’ accumulates thrusting impetus as drop-hammer rhythms crash against the white hot forge of guitar wires glowing white hot with priapic intensity. The track crackles with physicality and hums with innumerable ergs of latent energy plucked from their black hearts and thrust though speakers. This power is applied with precision and guile; ‘Easy For You’ rides sonic riptides, as valves flicker, revealing blood on the sheets and tectonic detonations vie with vertiginous accelerations to remake the aural landscape into something truly monumental.
Badlands throwdown ‘Duck Dive’ ignites the desert dust, causing superdense particles to combine and collide as space opens up for the vocals amid the maelstrom. Suddenly, this contracts, leaving binary pulses of words and sonics orbiting nitrous-infused pedal-to-the-metal bursts of velocity like burning Sputniks. Crackling between immense Tesla terminals, casting an audible shadow of cooling tower immensity before chronal guitar ejections sear across big-beat drum salvos that gives the song a distinct radioactive half life.
Finally, the epic ‘Hemiplegic’ strafes its way down Montgomery Clift’s right profile, a thermospheric scarring, casting out white hot ingots of sound. A work holler from Vulcan’s Furnace, the track brings the disc home at boiling point, creating an aural pressure cooker that spins and twists into a madrigal of red hot coal walking dervishry.
This is an epic unleashing. Ever mindful of our responsibility to cover catastrophic geological events, trakMARX tracked down beat behemoth, polymath and all around good egg Liam Jolly, loomed up at him unexpectedly and demanded information…
How did Wolf Note get started?
I’ve known Danny for ages; firstly from his Panicstruck days and then with his last project The Dead Heat. TDH played for me at a John Peel show I put on once and I thought they were really cool. A couple of months later I tried to book them again, but couldn’t as the drummer had left. As they were right up my street musically and the sort of band I’d love to play drums for I offered my services to help them out but it came to nothing.
A few months later, I tried to book them again but their situation hadn’t changed, I once again offered to help, but this time rather than excepting the offer Danny talked of perhaps wanting to do a new project instead. He then said the magic words ‘two-piece’ and at that point it was a done deal for me. I have always had a massive thing for two-piece bands and knowing Danny and I were on the same page musically this was an exciting prospect – we arranged to get together for a jam to see what happened.
It worked straight away, in fact the ‘Move it On’ riff was one of the very first things we ever jammed. We both felt there was something worth pursuing so just set about jamming regularly to see where we ended up. We kept it to ourselves for ages as we didn’t really have a clue what we were hoping to achieve (still don’t!) so just thought we’d let things take their own course and develop naturally.
You seemed to emerge kind of fully realised, did you have a very distinct idea of what you both wanted to do musically, right from the start?
Not at all, really. We knew we wanted to make something pretty hefty – that was it in terms of their being any kind of brief. We’re both into so many different types of music that there have been many references discussed along the way, some pretty obvious and some less so (the repetition of minimal techno for one) but we definitely didn’t set out with a vision. We’ve just worked with what we had and then developed the bits that (for us) have worked along the way and let it grow.
The EP seems to represent your muscular aspects – was that planned, or did the songs just sort of select themselves?
We decided that we had got to a point where we should record what we had; at the time this was just six songs. We recorded at Danny’s parents’ house when they were away on holiday (not sure they know this) in a three hour window after work one night. Let’s just say it would have probably been a six song EP if I’d play the other song better!
I was a little surprised as I didn’t remember you being that relentless from the couple of times I’ve caught you live.
I know we look back on those early gigs now and have written them off as being not great to be honest. At the time we just had to get out of the rehearsal space and in front of an audience to see how people would respond. We were only talking about Waynestock and the first few gigs the other day actually and discussing how we didn’t really know what we were doing then – that was gig number two. We’ve also decided we’re better indoors. At night. In the dark.
Did the December tour play much of a part in your continuing development?
Yes definitely, getting out in front of total strangers was great way to suss a few things out about the songs and the band. As great as it is having your mates in the audience you’re never going to get 100% honest feedback, I guess. People seemed to like it which gave us more confidence in what we were doing I guess. That and just playing those songs everyday at varying degrees of hungover for a week was a great way to tighten it all up around the edges!
What sort of feedback have you had about the EP?
Not loads so far, we decided to do CD only for this run so haven’t gone to town on sending them to press etc – this was more about getting those early recording on CD for people at gigs really. We have gone international though (!) – we sold via Bandcamp to a guy in Finland who just came across us on the internet, he sent us a real nice message telling us how much he loved it so that was nice. We have heard from folk who have received their copies in the post and have said nice things.
So were you digging into any particular set of influences?
Not really, the thing we talked of mostly at the beginning was our mutual love of desert/stoner rock and trying to create something in that vein…so bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Orange Goblin and QOTSA. I think the vision was of an audience losing it to a heavy, repetitive riff. I’m not sure we’ve got there yet or even how we now feel about that initial vision!
What’s lined up next for Wolf Note?
We’re making a video for ‘Duck Dive’, that’s going to be our next ‘single’ and we’ll do another tour to accompany that. We’re also recording again, we’ve got a whole batch of new songs so we’re doing those at the moment. Apart from that we’ve got a few festivals lined up for the summer, so we’re just looking forward to getting out and playing soon.
Lourdes Oh Lordy, my bottom’s on fire! The temperature is rising, baby, and Encoule’s been out and about. In a packed column tonight, this writer will bring you up to speed on recent activity that has included live performances from Sleaford Mods, Richard Dawson and Stewart Lee, as well as newish records by Aska and Cath and Phil Tyler.
Sleaford Mods: Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa (24/03/15)
Leamington Spa often bears witness to has-beens, tribute bands, reformations and no-marks, so the visit of vehement, agitprop ranters Sleaford Mods to this sleepy West Midlands town was without contemporary cultural comparison. The Zephyr Lounge holds around 200-punters, and they came, chubbed-up, in packs. Accompanied by a phalanx of fellow-abstinence-based compadres, I ventured forth into the depths of depravity, to capture for posterity the antics within.
The support bands duly came and went. Neither of them had enough presence to pique my interest, but both had elements strong enough to foster revulsion. No names; no pack drill: no comment. The Mods hit the stage to a wave of mutant enthusiasm. Four-pint punters spilled their plastic glasses, and danced atop the resultant piss like they were on Strictly-on-ice. I made my way forward, burrowing through the ranks like a mole, took prime position front-stage-left, and adopted the sway of the Fearn, dodging the putrid breath of the pissheads, noting Jason Williamson was also on the water.
They opened with a couple of newer songs, doubtless b-sides from the slew of 45s they seemingly release on an almost daily basis these days. I’ve heard Jay say he wants to saturate the market while he’s at the apogee of his zeitgeist, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m pretty sure one of them was ‘Bunch Of Cunts’. The sound was strong, and while Andrew nodded, skanked and swigged, Jason jigged and sneered, pushed his manboobs into an imagined cleavage, and made like a two-bob stripper on a five-quid stage. Highlights from ‘Austerity Dogs’ and ‘Divide And Exit’ flowed like Double Diamond, alongside deceased 45s, such as ‘Jobseeker’ and ‘Routine Dean’. The crowd went mad. I nodded. I shook my head. I skanked. I nodded. I shook my head. I resisted the urge to batter pissed-up chubbs as they pushed past, with their red faces, high blood pressure, and basic lack of decent manners.
I’ve seen the Mods a number of times now, and this was without doubt their best performance yet. The endless months on the road are paying off, and the relatively static presentations of 2014 have evolved into an altogether more ‘rock’n’roll’ experience, which is only natural, given the conformities of the industry. Forty minutes down, rage swamping the stage in the form of Jay’s discarded spittle, and it’s all over. Our dynamic duo leave the stage to rapturous applause and animalesque baying, only to return for an encore! Jay quantifies the rarity of such an action, citing the fidelity of the sound as the driver. Sleaford Mods have pissed on The Parade, and Leamington is all the richer for it.
In other Mods related news, my copy of Jay’s collected lyrics arrived by post a week or so after the show, a random gift from my love-you-long-time musical mentor, David Jones. Reprinted beyond it’s limited initial run by Bracket Press, ‘Grammar Wanker’ collates Mods verbiage from 2007 to 2014, in an essential tome for all Sleaford obsessives, and neophytes alike:
One of my favorite things about being a clinically obsessed with music, is the way the discovery and subsequent patronage of one artist can open doors that lead to a corridor of further doors, and, in turn, a journey of eternal discovery, rather like the endless passages in ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was Sleaford Mods that led me to Richard Dawson, through their posting of his ‘Vile Stuff’ video across their social media platforms, and ever since, I have been exploring and falling: ever-deeper in peace and love; ever-deeper in debt and vinyl; ever-deeper in total admiration for the man and his music.
Richard Dawson: Flatpack Festival, Birmingham (28/03/15)
The venue, The Bond Company, is one normally associated with business events and corporate training days, nestled canal-side in Fazeley Street, in the heart of the city’s sprawling post-industrial refurbishment area. My compadre for the night had spent many an hour absorbing and delivering training in the room we were to occupy for the night, so finding our feet/orientation wasn’t an issue. Situated across the street from an old rehearsal complex in which I once ‘shepherded’ a promising young band from Leeds called sexmachina! a decade or so ago, the night began as both a literal and figurative stroll down memory lane.
The doors opened at 7pm, to reveal seating for around a hundred punters, and a stage with a backdrop for film projection; an amp; a single guitar; and a microphone. On entry, I asked what time the performance would commence, and was told ‘promptly, at 7:30′. As we took our seats, a modest collection of moving images generated by Richard Dawson, the film maker, flashed before out eyes, as Richard Dawson, the musician and raconteur, sat a couple of seats in front of us, chatting idly with a member of the audience.
At 7:30, promptly, Richard Dawson moved to the stage, and began the performance by asking the audience how one begins a performance. Several instructions were forthcoming from the collected throng, before Dawson elected to open proceedings a capella. What followed was a selection from three aspects of Dawson’s beguiling catalogue: namely a set culled from ‘The Magic Bridge’, ‘The Glass Trunk’ and ‘Nothing Important’. The comedian Stewart Lee once described ‘The Glass Trunk’ in glowing terms:
“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”.
Alternating between guitar accompaniment, a capella into the mic, and a capella holding the mic tightly into his stomach, Dawson delivered a passionate and utterly compelling set, including personal favorites such as ‘Wooden Bag’, ‘Black Dog In The Sky’, ‘We Picked Berries In A Churchyard’, ‘Poor Old Horse’, ‘The Brisk Lad’ and ‘The Vile Stuff’. I was mesmerized throughout, transfixed by the magnetism of the performance, stomping along with both feet on the boards below me during an apocalyptic ‘The Vile Stuff’, amazed that one man can make such complexed arrangement work so powerfully with just a guitar, a microphone and two clod-hopping feet. No recourse to digital jiggery-pokery, or effects-board-manipulation. Both Dawson’s guitar and vocal technique are totally unique, his interest in shamanic practice is evidenced in the transcendental properties of his music. Throughout the evening, Dawson kept checking his watch, the subject of a jokey ramble, and, sure enough, as if bound by some preordained timetable, events drew to a close on the stroke of 9pm.
As Dawson stood beside the stage, still shaking and sweating with the pure exuberance of his performance, I seized my chance to congratulate him, shake his hand, and embrace his drenched body in a meaningful man-hug that I hoped would convey my respect, admiration and appreciation. He was sweet, and kind, and asked me my name. I told him I’d seen Sleaford Mods a few nights before, and he was full of positive affirmation for them, too. I left him to greet others, mindful of taking up too much of his time. He later ‘liked’ photos of the show on my personal Facebook page, and left the comment: “Peace and love”. My life is considerably richer as a result of this encounter, and my faith in the transformative power of art through musical expression has been reinvigorated once again. A truly life-affirming moment: one I will treasure.
Stewart Lee: Oxford Playhouse (29/03/15)
As one door closes, another one opens! Synchronicity rings in the air like a bell, and we head for Oxford the very next night, to catch comedian Stewart Lee and his Room With A Stew show. Despite being a massive Stewart Lee fan, this is the first time I’ve seen him live, and the occasion itself transpired to be more memorable for that fact alone, than it did for the show itself.
Unfortunately, much of tonight’s material I’d heard before. The first third of the show, almost in its entirety; much of the second third of the show, as a variation in kind; only the final third could be conceived as totally fresh to these ears. As a result, although I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks, I was mildly affronted by the bare-faced cheek of Lee’s material selection processing, and did consider shouting ‘repetition’, ‘repetition’, ‘repetition’, once or twice, as if I was a guest on one of those drab mainstream cultural edifices Lee decries so caustically with the majority of his acerbic wit. In the end, I didn’t fancy being derided in front of a couple of thousand people, as the unfortunate guy who felt sick ten minutes into the performance was, or the other guy, who got up to go to the toilet at an inappropriate juncture.
I understood clearly before attending that this ‘road show’ is primarily about ‘honing’ material for Stew’s seemingly highly-coveted fourth BBC series, and in the end I likened the experience to the time in early 1979 when I saw The Clash play an early version of ‘Somewhere Calling’, in its entirety. Moments that stood out for me that night included: ‘The Guns Of Hoojamaflip’, ‘Thingummy Jazz’, ‘Costa Rican Bombs’ and ‘Whasshiname Can’t Fail’. I left the building imagining that Stewart Lee was immeasurably richer as a result of the experience.
After fifteen-odd years of scribing and editing this fanzine, it has recently dawned on me that, in terms of cultural assessment, I am basically equipped with the critical faculties of a cross between the teenager from the ‘Fast Show’, and Father Jack from ‘Father Ted’. Seemingly everything I ever write about is either ‘briiillliiiaaaant’ or ‘ARSE’. That’s worth bearing in mind before mailing stuff, or emailing me links, or sticking me on your publicist’s promo-mailing-list. These days I only write about stuff I want to write about. With that in mind, relatively new things that I have fallen for as they’ve ambled across my record deck recently include:
Aska – ‘Gratonar’ (Ronja Records)
Hailing from Iceland, the frozen tundras of beatific cold wave issued forth by Aska across the sides of ‘Gratonar’ should come as no surprise to marine biologists, geologists or travel writers. Dressed in the uniform of a standard black metal album, with matching skull and typeface, this eight-song excursion shares a certain sonic kinship with CCCandy‘s ‘Lonsesome Berlin’, issued on Avant Records, back in 2010. Synths and minimalist drum patterns vie with tortured vocals, eerily reminiscent of a down-tuned Ian Curtis, lost in a particularly long tunnel, on the way home from the recording sessions that spawned Joy Division‘s ‘Closer’.
The impenetrable nuances of the Icelandic language only raise the atmospheric bar further, and the result is total captivation, leading to directly to besotted, within two spins. I have treasured the aforementioned ‘Lonesome Berlin’ these past five years, returning to it with regularity, amazed that CCCandy have never garnered wider recognition. ‘Gratonar’ sits beside that album as I type, lifting Aska to a pedestal in my estimation they doubtless never imagined in their dullest dreams, requiring the forging of a new genre section within my collection, hitherto unnamed (I’ll leave that to some one remotely qualified).
Cath And Phil Tyler – ‘The Song Crowned King’ (Ferric Mordant Records)
Having only recently discovered the work of Cath And Phil Tyler, I was overjoyed to receive this recently issued six-track EP in the post the other day. Although available on CD only, at this juncture, the packaging is rather wonderful, replicating, as it does, a sewing kit, of sorts. Contained within are six-cuts of raw folk: stitched together by rumbustious and resonant acoustic guitars that bite at your ear lobes and snap at your hearing aid; twanging banjos that pluck at the arterial stringage; violins that have you reaching for the bodhrán; spectral chords of electrified guitar that haunt the backdrops (‘Old Lady’), all draped in the sumptuous vocals of Cath Tyler, raspingly harmonized by compadre Phil. The duo largely reinterpret traditional material (with the exception of ‘Boys The Buzzards Are Flying’, in this collection), in a way that could possibly have been captured at any stage over the last century or so of recording technique/fidelity spectrum, with much the same results as those presented here. This is music as old as the hills, that sounds as fresh as the daisies making their way up, as I type, through the rapidly warming soil of spring. If the tender beauty of ‘Fathers Now Our Meeting Is Over’ doesn’t melt your resistance to the genre, you are destined to listen to inferior art for the rest of your days, and nothing has been learned here this eventide.
- 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