Wednesday 24 September 2014

Mixtape - July to September 2014

Once a quarter I inflict a mixtape on my friends and acquaintances. These are some of the goodies that have been floating the Call of the Wyld boat in July to September 2014

Orange Caramel – My Copycat

Girl One and the Grease Guns – Jessica 6

Twin Peaks – I Found a New Way

BRONCHO – Class Historian

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – My Club

18+ -Crow

Eno*Hyde – Lilac

Kate Bush - Before the Dawn - Hammersmith Apollo 23 September 2014

Kate Bush (Pic: Ken McKay/Rex/REX USA)

We’ve waited a long time. Oceans have risen and fallen, entire avian species have gone extinct since Kate Bush last performed live.

The atmosphere in the packed Hammersmith Odeon (I’m using old money) is breathless and excited. People are practically pinching themselves that this is happening and that they are here to witness it.

The stage has a formidable amount of equipment on it – multiple percussion stands, guitar racks and keyboards. A lighting rig in the form of a formation of diamonds hangs above the stage.

And here she comes, slowly marching her band on stage. Kate looks happy and comfortable.

Her voice is a revelation, a strong and expressive roar that effortlessly fills the venue. Her band groove alongside, the stage illuminated by projected flames that scorch across the lighting rig.

Second song in is ‘Hounds of Love’ and a fair proportion of the audience die happy then and there. It’s a loping beast of a song, replete with that oddly disturbing hunting horn sound.

‘King of the Mountain’ is an extraordinary song. There is a real feeling of frenzy and of things out of control, the flames behind the performers billowing as though in a hurricane. The song rises to a crescendo…

…and everything goes mad.

Anything can happen in the next half hour, and it basically does. What follows is a lavish and boggling rendering of ‘The Ninth Wave’, a suite of songs from the second side of ‘Hounds of Love’. It features skeletal fish people, a projected Kate bobbing around in a flotation tank, an interlude in which her son Bertie argues with his ‘father’ in a living room that bobs on the sea, a ‘helicopter’ that zooms down and hovers over the head of the audience, a stage set that looks like a Ken Adam imagining of the inside of a whale, and a giant automatic buoy.

It’s utterly bewildering, baffling and quite brilliant. The only thing that I’ve seen remotely like it for sheer unexpectedness was a revue at Bally’s Las Vegas where the high point was the sinking of the Titanic performed by showgirls.

The audience stands and hoots approval. A breathless Kate then invites us back for the second half.

The second portion of the show is devoted to ‘A Sky of Honey’ a long suite of connected songs from the second disc of the album ‘Aerial’. It’s a lengthy, challenging piece of music that thematically draws inspiration from the flight of birds, the different moods of day and night and the struggle of the artist to capture nature.

Visually, the section of the show is wonderful – the stage is swathed in autumnal haze, giant projected geese and tits flap slowly above the band. Less successfully, a wooden mannequin is manipulated through the ranks of musicians, a figure forever struck with ‘wonder’ at the scenes around it. It’s kind of unnecessary, and seems to reflect a worry that the music alone would not be enough to engage the whole crowd.

Bertie appears again, as a painter, struggling with capturing cloud formations on a giant canvas. He gains cheap applause by telling the mannequin to ‘piss off’.

There’s a bit of a conundrum surrounding this whole segment of the show. The music has a cumulative power but this only becomes apparent as the sequence progresses. Until things become clear in the final sections, there is a sense of drift and loss of momentum before the final destination is reached. I am not overly familiar with this piece of music, which may be why I struggle with it.

As the sequence reaches a climax, the birds are starting to take over. There are metamorphoses among the musicians, Bush herself sprouts a raven’s wing, before appearing to take flight as the stage lights go black.

The crowd stands and does its nut. Kate leads her band through a version of ‘Cloudbusting’ which everyone stomps along too.

And then, still happy, still regal, still flippin’ marvellous, she departs. It was worth the wait.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Carter Tutti Void and EIIII at Oslo, Hackney - 16 September 2014

Carter Tutti Void

There’s a lot of black in here. We’re here to listen to a certain type of music and this means a certain type of dress code.

We arrive as the first act gets started. A woman peers intently at a lap top and occasionally makes adjustments to some equipment beside it.

This is EIIII, a name I have much fun pronouncing.

At first it doesn’t appear that anything is happening and the crowd continues to chatter. However, things start to change…

…I’m aware that the back of my jacket is blowing back from my body and that my ribcage appears to be pulsing and vibrating. We are in the world of infrasound, frequencies that are so incredibly low that they are all but inaudible.

The crowd continues to talk, now conscious of the noise that throbs through the room. EIIII continues to stare at her lap top with a look of determination. She looks like a sonar operator who has just discovered a nasty ‘blip’ on her scanner.

It’s an interesting experience, but it still comes as a relief when the sound occasionally whistles up into a more traditional pitch, even though this in turn starts to make your ears bleed.

Carter TuttiVoid are what used to be called a supergroup. Chris Carter and Cosey fanni Tutti are famously members of Throbbing Gristle as well as frequent co-collaborators and Nik Colk Void is currently part of experimental techno-rockers Factory Floor.

Carter stands at the back of the stage and busies himself with piles of electronic equipment. He goes about his work unfussily, his face a mixture of gentle concentration and the contented half-smile of a man taking pleasure in a hobby.

He lays down a succession of skittering rhythms and beats that flicker and thrum, propelling the crowd into that twitchy type of dancing you do when you are really enjoying yourself but don’t have the room to really cut loose.

Stage right, Cosey is smartly attired in a black sparkly frock and clutches a bass guitar that looks like a long piece of melted plastic. She gets gradually more animated as the evening progresses and it is she who sporadically addresses the crowd or provides a wordless vocal that is distorted and delayed.

Nik Void stands to the left, bobbing about and, as was her habit when playing with Norwich ahead-of-their-time post punks KaitO, playing her guitar with a drumstick or occasional violin bow.

Each song is a propulsive groove which allows space for Tutti and Void to riff over. It’s bewitching stuff.

So compelling is this music that it comes as a disappointment when a track has to end, generally around the ten minute mark, with Carter either switching off his beat or abruptly changing the pace and heading off to sonic pastures new.

The hour flies by. Carter Tutti Void leave the stage to roars of approval, including mine.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Tweens, Desperate Journalist and Relics at Madame Jo Jo's - 09 September 2014


When I bounce into Madame Jo Jo’s I’m initially surprised. There is literally no one here who isn’t working at the venue. I’m unfashionably early.

There are four acts tonight, so I don’t have to wait long for entertainment. And as soon as Relics hit their first note I’m glad to be in the mosh pit in front of the stage. I try to be cool and elusive but I’m fairly easy to spot. I can’t hide behind myself.

Relics are a band that would vulgarly be described as ‘shoegaze’. It’s a misnomer because these guys motor so fast that they shoes they gaze at are affixed to Usain Bolt.

I’m not even joking. Relics take every song like the last five minutes of a Ride set. Tumultuous waves of crashing guitar and much general thrashing about.  They have no speed lower than absolutely full tilt.

This velocity sometimes works against the band, in the sense that sometimes I wish they would take the time to expand or explore a particular riff or sound. But Relics have their own style and they stick to it at 100mph.

The guitar sound is frankly ridiculous and Theo Alexander’s vocals are lost behind them. It’s always the same with such bands- My Bloody Valentine’s vocals always sounded like a wet fart in a hurricane.

I enjoy Relics a lot – there’s no sleeping on their watch.

I had previously seen Desperate Journalist at this year’s ill-fated Camden Crawl. At that time, you could tell the band had something about them, but the sound on the night was so poor that they couldn't really do themselves justice.

This is not the case this evening. First off, I really like the band even when they take a little while to get into their stride.

My initial difficulty is with their guitar sound. It’s a sludge. Deliberately so. On the positive side, singer Jo Bevan is just terrific. She’s as powerful as a Saturn V and as steely strong.

The Guardian warns me that I am not allowed to use the term ‘fierce’, but Bevan is the rock and the focal point of this band. I could out the band’s music as being Goth, but there are just as many musical similarities to acts like The Smiths. But such descriptors are misleading. Desperate Journalist are very much their own beast and they improve with each successive song.

They have brought their own coterie of fans along with them. These folks are so familiar with the band that they don’t have to do anything so uncouth as actually stand and watch them. Instead, there is a lot of fairly irritating horseplay.  

A minor inconvenience and I'm pleased that my instincts are correct – Desperate Journalist are the real deal.

I’m particularly keen to see Cincinnati’s Tweens. I had heard good things and they don’t disappoint.

Tweens are a blistering three piece ‘trash pop’ (their description) band featuring the talents of Bridget Battle, Jerri Queen and Peyton Copes.

Battle immediately impresses. For almost the entire set her head is a blur, a screaming explosion of blonde hair. She shreds a mean guitar too, wringing out solos and laughing with Jerri and Peyton.

Tweens are an almost literal blast of a band, a dynamic fusion of sass and pure raucous rock and roll energy. This band are so far up my street that they are practically in my living room. Their self-titled album has now taken residence there.

A wonderful night of guitar rock. Well done all. I am allowed to say that.