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December 25 2009 6 25 /12 /December /2009 17:26

Shambolic + The Haands

19th December 2009 - Bar 1.22, Huddersfield

 

Once upon a time in the late ‘80s, way back when I was a lad and used to get out quite a lot, I lived in Huddersfield. The local alternative scene at the time consisted of an indie band called The Protagonists, and local Goths, The Frogs of War (which still rates in my top-3 favourite band names, along with Rebel Without Applause and Hamster Sex Monster)

 

Tonight is the first gig I’ve been to in Huddersfield for 20 years, and it’s still some of the same people on stage.

 

The Haands

 

Haands-1.jpgThe Frogs of War bass player now lives in London and goes by the name of Hands Randal. He’s teemed up with ex-Blow Monkeys drummer Tony Phones and ex CNN / Tinstar frontman/guitarist Dave. They also all feature in Jok (with guitarist Lucy Temple) – a band who’ve produced one of the most exciting albums of 2009. The Haands, by all accounts, is just something they do for the fun of it, and quite possibly to soak up material that is not needed or quite suited to Jok.

 

Pure raucous garage rock. That just about says it all. Loud, fast, tight, in yer face, energy. Haands 2With a touch of psychedelic rockabilly. To pull of something like this, you have to be great musicians, but there’s a fair amount of guitar porn onstage as well, with a lovely Gretch 6-string, and the most beautiful semi-acoustic bass I have ever set my eyes on.

 

Go & listen to the stuff on Myspace – the music is far more eloquent than I am. If you think that’s OK, you’ll love The Haands live – this is the sort of rock music that is made for a packed pub with loads of beer. All I can say is if this lot are pretty good, Jok must be absolutely sensational. What you hear is what you get.

 Haands 3

 

Shambolic

 

sh-1.jpgI did the sound for these guys (read – lent them my keyboard amp as a PA) way back when they were The Protagonists for one of their very first gigs  - at The West Riding in Huddersfield (The pub where the reminiscents of Huddersfield’s genuine Punks used to hang out). That must have been about 1987. Pete Der Van Driver became Pete Der Bass Player in ’89, and Matt stood in for the original drummer (retired for heath reasons) some time in the intervening years.

 

Shambolic is a pretty good name for a band where you’re really not sure who’s going to manage to get pissed enough to fall off stage first. Like a good Saturday night out with the lads, there’s a strong togetherness and coherence, and that overriding suspicion that Pete and Matt are just going to collapse with embarrassment at either Dickie or Wakel’s antics and have to carry them home. It's nice to see they still have that edge about them. Nothing too polished or subtle, and still true to that good old Punk spirit.

 sh 2

No golden oldies like Sugarfly or Tiffany, but rather a set that includes most of the self-produced 2009 album. A few of the tracks seem a bit on the bland side, maybe down to using the same key quite often to fit in with Dickie’s range, or Wakel’s guitar being toned down a bit from the harsh, aggressive tones that I remember from 20 years ago. Dickie has picked up a nice Vox Teardrop in the meantime and learnt a few chords. But the set moves on and does get steadily better. I can’t help thinking they’ve mellowed a bit in the intervening 2 decades. It's hard to know how accurate your memories are after a few beer-fuled gigs 20 years ago, but even if it's not quite the as aggressive and as chaotic as I remember, the excitement and energy that they get accross is definitely still there. I liked some of the 2 guitar interaction stuff – a sort of lo-fi Bloc Party, and there’s a few tracks, like Shine & Resonate that are really top-notch. It drives on for some really great rockin’ stuff, including at least 2 new songs. And then, they stop and walk of stage. End of set. “I told you we were Shambolic”.

 

sh 3Feh! We want more. And we get some. After all, it’s a freezing night, and the 30 or so people who are in the pub seem to be friends of someone in one of the bands or bar-staff. I’m sure it would be quite different if it was a bit warmer and in term time, and it didn’t clash with so many Christmas parties. But I’m enjoying the beer, the company and the music, so I’m not complaining.

 

Just like on the album, Dickie pushes his voice to the limits of what is feasible without ever quite loosing the plot, and keeps it going right to the end of the set. And Wakel still has that unique flange/distorted guitar sound that has a distinctiveness that most guitarists crave for. For some reason, I thought a bit of early U2, probably because of some of the really simple and effective stuff, The Alarm – sheer raw energy and a bit ‘80s, and bit of Green Day (hmm – yes, I know).

 

Just like regrets over Sunday morning’s hangover, you know that there’s just no better way of spending a Saturday night, and you can’t wait to do it all again.

 

 

 

www.myspace.com/thehaands

www.myspace.com/elamigojok

www.myspace.com/shambolicband

 


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December 21 2009 2 21 /12 /December /2009 13:21

The Sun and The Moon + Bushhalf

 

Manchester Academy 3 – 18th December 2009

 

I just happen to be back in the UK at the right time, and it’s just a short(ish) drive over from my Mam’s to Manchester, so seeing a full electric Sun and the Moon gig is something that I just can’t miss.

 

The Sun and The Moon was the band that Mark Burgess & John Lever (of Chameleons fame) set up with Andy Whittaker and Andy Clegg (of Music for Aboriginies fame). They released 2 albums (which I haven’t got) and never really split up, doing a fair number of ad-hoc acoustic gigs over the years.

 

 

Bushhalf

 

But first, we must deal with Bushhalf. Bushart is the new band featuring John Lever. They sort of double up as Chameleons cover band Second Skin, and have been known to do a few dates with Mark Burgess as Chameleons Vox. Tonight, it’s just Steven Foxcroft on a 12-string, with Ray on the bass and Jock on one of those drum-seat-box things. Not quite all of Bushart => Bushhalf.

 

We get treated to an all-too-short set of excellent songs that remind me at times of the Beatles, a cover of the Chameleons favourite Tears, some with just Steve on guitar, some with bass and percussion thrown in. I though Steve really managed to connect with the audience and got a lot of emotion across. 2 regrets: too short, and no merchandising stand at which to buy a CD.

 



 

The Sun and The Moon

 

JTT-005.jpgAs I understand it, full electric Sun & the Moon gigs are few and far between, so I’m quite surprised at the venue being only about ½ full (150 people?). But, it would seem that the gig has been picked up on the grapevine, was announced a bit late, and clashes with Depeche Mode, The Doves and The Charlatans. It is also a ball-numbingly cold night, and we’re all hoping that we don’t end up stranded due to a blizzard.

 

If you’ve heard The Chameleons (as I’d guess all of the crowd have), TSATM will sound familiar. Same voice, bass, drums, similar song structures. Yes, it has evolved, and yes it is different, owing to 2 quite different guitarists, but you could just imagine that the original Chameleons might have been a bit like this by album 5 or 6.

 

There are some really lovely songs – I particularly like Dolphins and Pictures of England, and some others, which I really ought to be more familiar with.

 AC.jpg

It seems to be quite a haphazard affair. The sound starts off OK, if a little loud, but seemed to degenerate when something happened to the sound of the bass drum. It got far too boomy and the sound engineer seemed to sort it out by turning the bass up, with the net effect that the subtly of the two Andy’s guitars was totally lost. I was very disappointed in the sound – I needed earplugs in just for comfort – that makes it louder than A Place To Bury Strangers (?!)

 

Overall though, a pretty stunning performance. And as a quick encore, we got treated to a rushed panic trying to find all the right people, and the full Chameleons Vox lineup performing Don’t Fall, as just a taster of what they still have in store. And the good old Chameleons buzz immediately takes both the crowd and the band into overdrive.

 

Yes please, I’ll have some more of that!




Bushart:

www.myspace.com/bushartmusic


The Sun And The Moon:

www.myspace.com/thesunandthemoonmusic


Chameleons Vox:

www.myspace.com/chameleonsvox







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December 20 2009 1 20 /12 /December /2009 19:49

A Factory Night

Biting Tongues + Section XXV

Biting Tongues

BT-Ken.jpgFollowing on from the BR ticket salesman, we have a scraggly looking roadie and someone’s dad onstage fiddling about with the kit. Hang on! There’s more of them! Bugger me – it’s the entire BR track maintenance crew! One of them, who reminds me of the guy who used to stand outside the Student Union building selling Socialist Worker, steps up to the mike and announces: “We are Biting Tongues”.


Geez! – imagine something sort of jazz-funk-noise-fusion thing with a bit of a coldwave flavour to it. Think shoegaze with brass. Think Talking Heads with the Roxy Music taken out. Think The Happy Mondays on the wrong drugs. No – you don’t have time to think – because this music demands (or rather requisitions) your total attention.

BT-GM2.jpg

The first thing that strikes me is that they are brilliant musicians – certainly Graham Massey (Cornet, guitar and later alto sax) and Howard Walmsley (Tenor Sax & Synth) are a match for anyone I’ve ever seen. Secondly, they’re tight as a gnat’s chuff. And have in Phil Kirby (I think) a drummer who combines creation and destruction beyond the limits of anything I’d previously imagined possible. I mean this guy can really turn a drumkit into an instrument. Thirdly, at times they are all off on a trip all at once. Not like sedate jazz where each virtuoso steps up for a solo, it’s more like wahey – Let’s all solo all at once and make it sound like World War III. Without even a hint of missing a beat.


All that going on behind Ken Holling’s vocals – nay – exhortations! As his vocal technique and content undoubtedly owes more to the age of great dictators than it does to modern day wimps like Tony Blair or Robbie Williams. Not that I took any notes on the content – probably for the same reason as they don’t give you a running commentary on a rollercoaster – there’s just too much else going on.BT GM1


Did I mention the bass player? Yes, he was very good.


Oh and boy, do they look like they’re having a ball onstage. Big grins all round, playful interaction, I’d guess at a fair amount of improvisation, but these guys are delighted to be here in Brussels and are delighted to be performing in front of an audience, and it is pretty infectious.

BT BT

I got chance to have a chat with Graham and Howard afterwards. The band live all over the place, so rehearsals are difficult. In fact, for this gig (they’ve been doing one a year for the past 4 years), they just all turned up here and performed with no prior rehearsal.


BT SetlistThey apparently have a fairly weak claim to being a proper Factory band, as a lot of stuff had been released on a different label (I’d never heard of Biting Tongues before tonight). “Not exactly easy listening” I says to Graham, who quite agreed, and suggested I tried to imagine how it went down ¼ of a century ago. Indeed, even after nearly 30 years of listening to music, Biting Tongues is not something that goes in one ear and out of the other – it stays somewhat uncomfortably stuck and rattles about in your head vomiting out noise and ideas. The stuff they have on MySpace is equally challenging, though different in its effect - a bit more trippy, and I’m far more conscious of the importance of the lyrics. Really pioneering stuff!


Top anecdotes. It would seem that Tony Wilson’s coffin really did have the very last Factory number (no - it’s not a joke – that’s exactly what he would have wanted), and there were some of the original Vikings present tonight (unofficial fanclub, but they were also attributed a factory number). It was generally agreed that Hookey had lost all semblance of credibility though. Not because he was absent for a Manchester Against Cancer gig, but he was playing something where Snow Patrol (cringe) were headlining.

BT Pedals

I made a note – Factory = not what you what to listen to – More a matter of what you ought to listen to.




Section XXV


S25-1.jpg23:45, and we’re running just a little bit on the late side. Section 25 did not inspire me to write an awful lot. That’s despite a new lineup and a better, more consistant and more confident performance than I’d seen last year at the Ancienne Belgique with Peter Hook.


There’s a new member on keyboards & backing vocals, even taking over the lead for one song, it would seem that it’s no other than a 3rd member of the Cassidy Clan, daughter Bethany. Apparently her 1st ever live appearance with the band. I can only give Larry full credit for giving the lass a proper education – it was a recurring topic of conversation all night – how do you get the kids interested in something other than chart crap.S25 3


S25 2I’m not going to write stuff just for the sake of it – I’ve already seen some other reviews posted, so please go & look there. Let’s face it – Biting Tongues were one very tough act to follow. As far as I’m concerned, Section25 played Friendly Fires and Dirty Disco, and that kept me happy, but after Biting Tongues, I was feeling somewhat shell-shocked, and SXXV just passed me by as a joyous musical interlude, and a bit of a breather in expectation of what still had to come.





www.myspace.com/bitingtongues

www.bitingtongues.com

www.myspace.com/section25

www.section25.com/

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December 14 2009 2 14 /12 /December /2009 13:43

A Factory Night (and then again)

12th December 2009

Plan K (aka. La Raffinerie), Brussels


The much awaited follow up to the first edition of the Factory Night from 2007 is finally here. Organised by the team behind the Fantastique Nights, the idea being to get as many of the original Factory Records bands together in one place, in the legendary Plan K venue. La Raffinerie (in the appropriately named Rue de Manchester) is an old sugar refinery that was transformed into a performing arts centre. It was officially known as the Plan K in the late ‘70s & early ‘80s when it was the main concert venue for anything big in the Belgian underground, and saw gigs from the likes of Joy Division, Front 242, and many others.


The Names


A good deal of the local die-hards had turned up for The Names at 19:00. Not untypically for this sort of event, things are not quite running to schedule, so we have about an hour’s wait (inside, fortunately, as it’s freezing outside) before we are let in.

Names all


The Names were the most important band signed to Factory’s Benelux subsidiary label. They released a number of records between 1978 and 1982, most of which were produced by MartiNames-M.jpgn Hannett. They reunited for the original Factory Night in 2007, and have since released a new album on Str8line records, Monsters Next Door. Tonight, they are recording the gig for a live album to be released next year (which may well be the source of the delay). Original members Michel Sordinia (vocals) Marc Deprez (guitar) and Christophe den Tandt (keyboards) have been joined by Eric Debruyne (bass) and Laurent Loddewijckx (drums). Tonight, they also have a string trio on stage.


They kick off with a few album tracks from Swimming & Spectators of life. My thoughts turn briefly to the crowd – how pleasant it is to be stuck in the middle of people who are as excited at seeing The Names onstage as the band are to be there, and how it makes a change not to be stuck behind some 6ft2 Dutchman. Michel is very much into performing the songs, as is quite clear from White Shadow – acting out the lyrics as he goes along.


Names Set ListThe string section is fabulous. I’d guess they’ve had some freedom in working out the parts, as there’s regular solo work from the violin & viola. Marc’s guitar work is also delightfully precise and controlled, and Michel is in very good voice – better than when I saw them at the BIFF earlier on this year. Overall, I thought that the sound was very consistent and up-to-date, and though I’d had my reservations beforehand, the string section really worked very well indeed. The set was on the short side for my liking – I was hoping we’d get a full album’s worth, but they’ve only got time left to include the obvious singles – Nightshift and Calcutta, and new track Nature of the Beast. Neither Speak My Language nor the excellent Flesh Wounds from the new album get a look in. And after 35 minutes, there’s just time for The Astronaut as a brief encore.


The whole evening is intersparsed with DJ sets from various personalities from near and far, but there’s so many people to talk to that I really didn’t pay attention to any of these pretty much all night.





The Wake


Wake 1From Glasgow, and originally featuring Bobbie Gillespie, they signed to Factory in 1982 until eventually splitting in 1995. I know we’ve got 2 of the original line up here, but I’m not quite sure who. This is simple, austere New Wave. The excellent bassist is something like Peter Hook playing both the bassline and the bass-solo bit at the same time (if that makes sense), and the sparse keyboards add to a sort of low-tech New-Orderish feel.


I’ll revert to the notes I wrote as we went along – nothing like spontaneity in the heat of the moment. Cesar (guitar & vocals) looks like just an ordinary guy who’s come out of his regular job selling tickets for British Rail to tell us the world he lives in. The first few tracks, I imagined as the sort of thing you’d want as a soundtrack on your walkman while walking around Glasgow’s forlorn industrial wastelands. Wake 2Then a few stories of teenage angst, and something that made me think of a walk down a deserted Blackpool Peer on a freezing mid-winter’s day.


The later tracks get very New Order-ish, particularly the sparse Barney-like vocals and the keyboards. By the last song, he could seriously do with tuning his guitar, and I suspected the lyrics were not as fresh in his mind as they were 25 years ago. But talking to the band a bit later, it seems that they don’t exactly get together that often, though they do all still live in Glasgow. I’d guess there’s been a few people come over from the UK for this, as there’s a minority of very vocal fans demanding an encore. But it’s 22:05, and we’re way late on the schedule.


Trevor, For Against’s manager was over from Nebraska specifically to see The Wake, and he thought they were well up to scratch.



What’s next? Bighting Tongues? Section XXV? A Certain Ratio? We’ll save that for part 2 – this was a long night with loads to talk about, so I’ll have to split it into more than one post.


So it’s time for a sandwich. Which was not just the usual fare of ham and bread, but came buttered with pickled gherkins on as well! (a hint of the attention to detail that went in to the whole of the organisation). Though I did think a chips van just outside would have just gone down a treat.

Myspace:

http://www.myspace.com/fantastiquenights

http://www.myspace.com/thenamesofficialwebsite

http://www.myspace.com/the_wake_ltm


Official Websites:

http://www.lefantastique.net

http://thenames.be/

More reading

http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk/namescat.html

http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk/wakecat.html


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December 4 2009 6 04 /12 /December /2009 23:09

Needle and the Pain Reaction

DNA – 28th November 2009


Quite a choice on tonight. There’s OMD & Simple Minds at Forest National, and The Musical Box (Genesis in their full prog-rock glory) at the Cirque Royal. Both at extortionate ticket prices. Or there’s a small band in a small venue where the company is (usually) excellent and the beer is normal prices.


We’d spotted Needle & The Pain Reaction because we’d been to the Musicantendag at the AB a couple of weeks back. The guy who gave us most of the feedback on our demo was obviously quite clued up. In researching exactly who he was, it turned out that he played bass in N&TPR, so Ronan & I decided that it would be worth popping along to the DNA to see him if he’d put his money where his mouth is.


Needle & The Pain Reaction are a good old tried-and-tested power-trio format. Lucce on bass, Peter on drums and Wim on guitar and lead vocals. This is the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid!) applied to Rock music. Direct bass, loud guitar, thumping drums and a clear vocal. So simple even, that there’s only a single FX pedal between the lot of them!


I thought a bit punkish, a bit of Nirvana, and they really made me thing of the Foo Fighters – Simple, straight, loud, effective rock, and very well executed. The songs are direct, up-front, and there’s really loads of space, and the execution is immaculate.


They’re a very tight outfit, but maybe just a little too basic for my liking. I could see a guitar-synth in there, or a really wild Hammond, but then I would. I didn’t quite connect with the music. It’s decent enough, but the tunes didn’t stand out  well enough to hum along to on the way home. What I did connect with, big time, was the band’s infectious attitude and energy. It’s a sparse crowd. I counted 20 people, including the barstaff. But I looked round at the end of one of the songs ½ way through the set, and all but 2 of the audience had a huge grin and were clapping as loud as possible (and in favour of the 2 offenders, as you can grin with a beer glass in your mouth, but you can’t clap with one in your hands). That’s a crowd that included some fairly harsh critics – yours truly, Nico from Garner, and Ronan from Subsonic Hornet, and I bumped into a journalist from CuttingEdge.be.


Now, I don’t think that the Foo Fighters are anything other than a decent rock band. There’s no way I’d pay €40-50 to go & see them at a somewhere like Forest National. However, there’s gazillions of people who think that they are the best band ever to have graced the face of the earth, so I’ll qualify my own views with a pinch of salt. But in a small venue, good solid rock band, and a few friends? I’d be down there like a shot.


That pretty much sums up Needle and the Pain Reaction for me. That magic of getting to see just pure rock’n’roll up close. In a small venue, they are utterly, utterly fabulous.


Official web site: http://www.needle.be/


And Lucce deserves a very honourable mention for the DJ set afterwards – he scored at least 4 on the wahay-excellent-havn’t-heard-that-one-for-ages-ometer.

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October 27 2009 3 27 /10 /October /2009 13:32

Victoria Tibblin, Faustine Hollander, Soho Grant

Soirées Cerises, 25th October 2009-10-27

 

Soho Grant

A lad & a lass? Drums & guitar? If that makes you think White Stripes, pass straight to the next act, and do not pass Soho Grant.


The first 2 songs seem to use the same chord sequence and hit the same limited range, strangely devoid of much of a melody. The unimaginative backing vocals from the Renaud the drummer don’t really enhance Soho’s rather flat voice and dubious English pronunciation (imagine Tanita Tikkaram after a bottle of vodka). Soho’s guitar playing is not exactly going to set the world alight either. And pausing for breath in the middle of a word like “only” or “always” is utterly unforgivable – when you sing, you’re at least supposed to be putting some sort of sense into the words, and that means consistant phrasing as well.


Things get better when Pierre Castor turns up on the piano on the 3rd number, and improve drastically when Pierre takes over the lead vocals in French. Unfortunately, just for one song. We got treated to some of Pierre’s exquisite piano work later on in the set which was the only thing that stopped me regretting sitting so far away from the bar.


I thought that this was one person who has completely bypassed the classics like The Beatles, Dylan, The Byrds, Buckley, or at least has learned no lessons in song writing, melody and assembling chord sequences from them. She'd do well to work a few decent covers into her set, though I am utterly uninspired to make any suggestions.


I did not enjoy listening to Soho singing about her fillings – a trip to the dentist would have been a better eggs-perri-yense. I may be missing something, because there must be some reason why a half decent drummer and a talented pianist would take the trouble to hang about with her, but I didn’t see it tonight.

 

Faustine Hollander

No time for a beer says Fred – straight into the next act. Faustine Hollander is here for the 3rd time this year. As she’s going to the US for a couple of gigs with Victoria Tibblin, they wanted to give it all a one last run through in front of a live audience, and the live audience has obliged by turning up en masse.


Faustine looks a bit like a little elf in a hoodie with a guitar, and takes about 5 seconds to convince me that she’s in a totally different league from the last lot. The guitar is delicate and subtle. Picked rather than strummed. Her voice chirps up with a delicacy and expression that reminds me of a couple of things that I can’t quite put my finger on. Along the lines of obscure 60 folk singers, with a touch of Feist or Jeff Buckley.


3rd song is a Bukka White (no idea – you’ll have to google) cover. Drop D tuning! Excellent folkie blues. This girl really knows the standards, and it shows. After another self-penned number, we’ve got another cover. Not immediately obvious what it is, until we get to the first few words of Helter Skelter. One of the Beatles’ rockier numbers, this is stripped right down to the essence, even with a vocal line that is much more subdued than Lennon’s original. This is very, very good indeed.


I should also mention Faustine looks like she's just made for this stage (it is my 3rd time – I’m starting to feel like I’m at home here, she quips). She’s as bubbly and entertaining when tuning the guitar as she is when playing it, explaining to the audience what she’s thinking of playing next, and at the end, asking us what order we want to hear the last 2 numbers in.


Only what-if is that when she does shouty parts (as in the last song), she needs to step back from the microphone, and watch the “th” sound, as that occasionally slipped in her otherwise faultless near-mid-western twang.


The thought even crossed my mind that she has a touch of Eva Cassidy about her.

 

Victoria Tibblin

Vikki is a rising star in these parts, with appearances at les Nuits Botaniques and Les Ardentes, and a second album due out imminently. Last time I saw her was here at la flute last December (see: http://exprof21.blogspot.com/2008/12/vinz-we-like-red-wine-la-flte-enchante.html) It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard there, so I went armed with earplugs and was prepared for a full-on set of pure punk. What we got was quite different.


Just Victoria on a Gibson SG playing rhythm parts, and Sal Jean from The Guilty Brother’s Experience on lead. There are a couple of major differences from last time, apart from the line-up. Firstly, the level of volume is far more appropriate to the intimate setting of the Flute Enchantée, secondly, her choice of songs suit her voice much better.


We get a set with exquisite guitar playing from Sal Jean, and a variety of bluesy rock/folk numbers, somewhere between Led Zepplin and Jeff Buckley. And I’d have no hesitation in comparing her to either Buckley or Plant vocally.


The packed house is lapping it all up. She has come on miles over the past year, and is now sounding like an artist just on the edge of the big time. Let’s hope she makes it.


I found Ms Tibblin a bit too bluesey for my liking, but that’s just me. Faustine however is wonderful, and I hope I’ll be getting out again to see her quite soon. Quite possibly on 19th of November, as she's opening for Akron / Family at the Botanique.

http://www.myspace.com/soireescerise

http://www.myspace.com/victoriatibblin

http://www.myspace.com/fostyfox

http://www.myspace.com/sohograntmusic

http://www.myspace.com/theguiltybrothers


Pictures nicked from the ever wonderful and admired Marc Durant:

http://www.marcdurant.com

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October 26 2009 2 26 /10 /October /2009 12:21

Stars Like Fleas

Witloof Bar, Botanique – 16th October 2009

Mail through Facebook from the Botanique offering free tickets to Stars Like Fleas. Never heard of them. And if there’s “free” places, it implies that the pre-sales have been so crap that the venue is getting desperate for enough people through in the hope they buy a beer or 2 and double the takings.


However obscurity is no gage of quality. Their eclectic experimental pop on MySpace is enough to rouse my curiosity.


I got there for about 9pm (I have kids...) and they were already in full flow. The audience of about 30 people all sat on the floor digging the dimly lit atmosphere with minimal lighting and candles onstage. No queue at the bar though, so I join them with a beer. There’s a drummer, a harp, violin, guitar, and they’ve dug the Witloof’s grand piano out of the corner. First date of their European tour, and they are sounding somewhat jetlagged. Some of the vocals, particularly the bearded guy in the white kaftan who passes as the lead singer are rather out-of-tune, as if they’ve just got off the plane and it’s still morning. Things do improve – still very experimental – reminding me at times of Grizzly Bear or the Guillemots, and finally they do something quite good with 5 of the 6 singing, creating quite a pleasant textured and fairly intense atmosphere.


And that’s it. I’ve not even finished my beer, and they’re off stage by 21:20. Disappointingly early start (no support band), and I didn’t really see enough to decide whether or not this is cutting edge experimentalism or self indulgent clap-trap. If you fall in love with their MySpace stuff, you’ll love it, otherwise I’d avoid.

 

King Terror

Le Dada, Rue de la Violette

Now what? I don’t get out much, so I might as well make the most of it. Off to the DNA to see if they have anything on. Nope – no bands on a Friday night. Off to the Dada then, where I come across something that looks like a Metal band just starting to soundcheck.


Turns out to be King Terror, who are a punk-metalcore bank from up north somewhere. Most of the audience must have come for the previous 2 bands on the bill, as they are outside smoking, so there’s only about 30 people left paying any attention (as conversation is difficult to say the least)


This is loud, fast, very tight (these guys are great musicians), and highly politically motivated. The drums are pounding, the bass is driving, the guitar is loud, and remarkably subtle for what it is, and the vocals are screamed at top volume.


The Stig explains what the songs are about, and sometimes the explanation is longer than the songs themselves. A good job too, because the chance of working out what the lyrics are is remote to say the least. “If you are in a band, then tell us WHY you are angry”. And they do. The themes of racism, voicing your opinion, domestic violence, the hypocrisy of the music business, war, peace and religion are all aboarded. All in the space of about 30 minutes. According to the guy next to me, they were not on top form and have been known to be “better”, but I thought they were great – there’s a real sense of fun and enjoyment about what they do, and they obviously believe that what they have to say deserves to be said.


We have no records or shirts in the back. They do have a leaflet with the set & lyrics printed out, with some explanatory notes, which I thought was a very nice touch indeed.


“Hardcore Punk without content is like beer without alcohol. It’s about awareness and small scale action. We can claim a place for ourselves, for free thinking and discussion and other small-scale initiatives”. And I for one liked what they had to say and how they said it, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if I came across them again on a random night out.

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October 14 2009 4 14 /10 /October /2009 15:35

Modern Cubism + Perverted by Language

Soirées Cerise, Ixelles, 4th October 2009

Perverted by Language

No, I’m not going to review myself. Make your own mind up. We bootlegged the gig and it’s available on Last.fm here:

http://www.last.fm/music/PervertedByLanguage/Live+at+Soir%C3%A9es+Cerises


If you’re in a hurry, listen to Pewter Eyes, All of my Mother’s Favourite Nightmares and The Box.


As usual, Fred is a great host, and it's a great venue. Starting to get a wee bit on the small side though - this was a capacity crowd, with almost as many people here to see us as to see the headliners.


 

Modern Cubism

This is a Jean-Luc De Meyer (Front 242) side project. This time backed with synth & drum team Jean-Marc Melot & Gaston Hollands. Yes, that same Jean-Marc who is Robert Smith (see here) with Cure tribute band A Final Sound (with GH), Csygnus (also with GH), and a couple of other projects.

The idea seems to be the interpretation of some of the greats of French poetry to an electronic backing. I’m not up on that part of French Literature, so if you want to find out more about the detail of the texts and the life & works of Charles Baudelaire, you’ll have to google it yourselves.


Minimalist kit on stage – small electronic drum kit on one side, a couple of synths and a laptop on the other. Jean-Luc in a white suit, the other 2 in black with dark shades. And 8 slide projectors.


We get off to a false start, as one of the cables seems to have decided to die between the sound check and the start of the gig. 5 minutes later, we’re off again. A reminder that nobody is immune to the gremelins of live music.


It’s not really my thing, and I didn’t get into it. I think it’s the strict meter of the poetry that doesn’t allow the same level of freedom and interpretation that you get from “proper” lyrics. I personally think that with poetry, to do it properly, it’s a lot closer to acting, where the interpretation depends on the speed, volume and intonation of the words. And I’d do that without any musical distractions at all. Also, the way that Jean-Luc uses his voice is closer to rap than conventional singing. I like a bit more melody.


Having said that, the beats are strong, the sound is excellent, the band are tight as tight can be. I have to admit, despite not buying into the concept myself, that the delivery is immaculate, and it’s done probably about as well as possible.


The one thing I did think was excellent was the spectacular light show. There are 2 people operating the banks of slide projectors on each side of the stage. Not photos, but handmade gel slides that provide colour and texture to the lighting (there is no other lighting). Making Jean-Luc turn all sorts of colours, changing patterns, textures (remember Jean-Luc is dressed all in white). The light show is phenomenally effective, and as much part of the performance as the music is. Its effectiveness is helped by the theatre being all black with no decor up – an almost perfect setting.


Overall, I wouldn’t go again – once is enough for me. But I am in a small minority – most of the audience were quite convinced, and based on the finishing and attention to detail I’ve seen tonight (and what I’ve heard on MySpace) I’d definitely go to see other things they’re involved in. Like Parade Ground, Csygnus, Crash 32, and there are others – both Jean-Marc and Jean-Luc are serial collaborators. One previous one that’s worth a mention because it’s both good and different from what Jean-Luc is known for is C-Tec, featuring my old school-mate Ged Denton!


One thing I am particularly fond of from Modern Cubism is this video (helps if you understand the French), from the album “Les plaints d’un Icare” on Brussels label Sleepwalking Records. I laughed my nuts off!

 

http://www.myspace.com/pervertedbylanguagemusic

http://www.myspace.com/moderncubism

http://www.myspace.com/soireescerise

http://www.sleepwalking.be/

 

Modern Cubism - Picture: Bernard Feron / Action Lightning : Pierre Mansire

Perverted by Language - Picture: Marc Durant

 

 

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October 9 2009 6 09 /10 /October /2009 13:26

Sophya + The Eden House

Le Fantastique, Botanique, Brussels 3rd October 2009



I’d been looking forward to this since Fred le Fantastique had posted a video on Facebook just after this year’s WGT festival in Leipzig and had second guessed that The Eden House would be coming to Brussels quite soon. It didn’t take much research to start getting very excited indeed, with the prospect of most of The Neph and Julianne Regan in the line up, this was looking (and sounding) very special indeed.

 


But let’s deal with support act Sophya first.


No drums, but a sort of flashing head thing greet us when they come on stage. One of the Netherlands’ premier goth acts, and booked at fairly short notice due to Drakes Hotel not being able to make an appearance, we were treated to a very good set, with programmed backing, some lovely analogue synths, decent guitar & bass, and an excellent singer. The head thing turns out to be some sort of harmonizer device – a nice touch to Sonja’s already excellent performance.


Despite the drums and some synths coming out of a laptop, it really doesn’t sound out of place at all. It’s very well crafted, and I got the impression that we were being treated to a slightly more up-tempo set than is represented on their MySpace.


While they are very good indeed, I get the impression that most of the audience are anticipating what is to come, so the atmosphere is polite, and they don’t quite get the enthusiasm that they otherwise deserve, including from Yours Truly. It’s a good job that some loud mouthed git decided very vocally that they wanted to see some more when they went off stage, otherwise the applause would have faded out and we would have missed out on Transmission, and that would have been a great shame. Listening to the stuff on MySpace, they’re definitely one of those bands who deserve a decent local following, and I think I really ought to get more familiar with their stuff, so an album might be on order


They deserve a more enthusiastic review, but that just wasn’t the mood of the evening. Next time.

 


The Eden House.


To cut a long story short, this is nothing short of a new gothic supergroup, with a core songwriting line-up of Stephen Carey (guitar) and Tony Pettitt (Bass), both of whom have a fairly illustrious track record, and other musicians (including the entire lineup of Fields of the Nephilim) as required to sort out the rest. I don’t see the point in repeating what others have already put quite eloquently, so if you can’t be arsed to Google for them , here’s a decent review of Smoke & Mirrors on Dutch website Gothtronic for starters.


Tonight, we are treated just to core singers Amandine Ferrari and Evi Vine, Bob Loveday on violin, and a drummer and additional guitarist whose names I missed and can’t work out correctly amongst the many collaborators to the album.


The set starts off with some atrocious sound problems, something crackling, frantic activity by the sound engineers, some strange grimaces and waving from the stage, and an absolute belter of an opener. Right the first few bars, Bob Loveday’s soaring and heavily processed violin charms us with beautiful melodies, as does Evi Vine’s wonderful voice.

Tony’s bass work is just fabulous and omnipresent, but it’s not until the 3rd song that the whole thing starts to transcend into the upper reaches of the sublime when the sound is sorted out and Amandine Ferrari is gently prompted out of hiding for a duet with Evi. The contrast of Evi’s confident platinum blonde and Amandine’s shy and petite figure is quite marked, but once she launches into the upper reaches of her range, Amandine casts an unbreakable spell over entire venue. And so it goes on for a set which I think covered the entire album – alternating between the two singers.


Comments included “I’ve not had my spine tingle like that in a very long time”, “I could just listen to that bass all night” and “The blonde is good, but the other one is just …”.


Here’s me thinking this has got to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, when Evi apologizes for the lack of Julianne Regan. I can’t say I was bothered at all, but evidently, the band seem to hold her in very high esteem, so maybe it could get even better than this. In fact, it most certainly could. The Witloof Bar is a difficult venue, as its large brick pillars and low ceiling make it difficult to get a decent sound. I think that was reflected by the guitars being a little bit subdued, and the sound certainly wasn’t as good and as consistent as it deserved to be. I was towards the back with a pillar obscuring quite a lot of the stage in an attempt to hear the thing better. I’d love to see this again in a better environment, somewhere like the Ancienne Belgique, where the full sensitivity of Evi’s voice and the lower reaches of Amandine’s can be properly appreciated (not to mention the guitars).


The first batch of CDs had run out by the time I got to the merchandising stall via the bar. Fortunately, someone went back to the hotel to get another load. I’m glad they did – the album, Smoke & Mirrors is excellent.


I came tonight with the highest of expectations. They were exceeded.


 

 

And on top of that, the company was great, as always, and I don't know who ended up DJ'ing, but we got an absolute treat of a set with early electronic classics that I'd not heard for years.


 

http://www.myspace.com/sophyamusic

http://www.myspace.com/theedenhouseuk

http://www.myspace.com/fantastiquenights

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September 24 2009 5 24 /09 /September /2009 14:58

Ext'inT + IKKo + Antilux @ Soirées Cerises - 20/09/2009

 

Antilux

2 guys, a couple of Korg Electribes and a few gadgets. I just caught the very end of the set. Pleasant ambient electro, with a melodica processed through a Korg MS20, and some other unusual looking implements. I pretty much like the stuff on Myspace - shame I missed it – looked (and sounded) interesting.

 

IKKo

One guy with a mike and a Roland SP909. Hum. I could just make out he was singing in French, but it was only apparent that he’s also got stuff in English from his MySpace. If you can call that singing. More of an attempt at a heavy-metal whisper. I didn’t think the use of sounds was particularly well thought out either – very run-of-the-mill programming. I think he needs to concentrate less on sounding “dark” and more on the sound/music/performance aspects. Nope – sorry – thought it was utterly unconvincing. Sort of talking just to hear the sound of your own voice without actually having anything to say.

 

Ext'inT

One guy with a mike, a Korg Electribe and a Roland SP404, and a bass player. Now this is very different indeed. Firstly, the bass is processed to hell & high heaven. It is really very effective. It creates a sort of ambient soundscape gliding over the minimal electronic beats and sparse bleeps coming from the gadgetry. The beats are quite complex at times, and are rarely accompanied by more than a couple of well chosen loops, but the real star of the show is Maxime’s voice. It has a very fragile, ethereal quality. It reminded me at times of some of Thom Yorke’s solo stuff, and at others of snippets of things I’ve heard from Alan Lomax’s work recording folk singers in darkest corners of the United States, with a bit of Tibetan chanting thrown in for good measure. And despite being very heavily processed through the SP404, he’s managed to keep his voice clear enough so that you can understand what he’s actually singing (that’s partly down to good technique)

There was one song in particular where the gadgets were left out and it was just voice and bass. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful. This guy has a really special and unusual sense of melody. It’s well worth checking out what he’s got on MySpace. I particularly recommend a listen to “I offer you a new plant” – it gets 2 minutes in before anything other than a beat, voice & very simple bassline kick in. The sense of space is just phenomenal – the music just has so much room to breathe.

Let’s not ignore the visual aspect either – there’s a 3rd person looking after the projection backdrop with various patterns and photo montages. And Maxime himself floats around the stage in the same way as his voice haunts the room, not entirely sure if he’s just there dancing with himself in his own enclosed universe or if this is supposed to be part of the performance.

I spoke to him afterwards. He said he’d only started performing relatively recently, despite having been a bedroom bleeper for years. All I can say is keep at it, and spread the word. He’s on in St Gilles at the Maison du Peuple on 30th October. Don’t miss it.


 


Ext'inT - http://www.myspace.com/extintmusic

IKKo - http://www.myspace.com/ikkorr

AntiluX - http://www.myspace.com/antilux

Soirées Cerises : http://www.myspace.com/soireescerise

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