Canadian inidie rockers The New Pornographers waltzed into the grand designs of London’s Koko to blast out their power pop to waiting fans. The Vancouver band, who have now released four albums – the latest being Challengers (Matador, 2007) — are much celebrated in Canada and tonight was the chance for me to not only see the band for the first time, but also hear their sound.
The crowd for the headline act were a mix of US ex-pats singing along to all the words and interested newcomers. Menomena opened up their first ever show in 2001 with a cover of The Flaming Lips’ “The Abandoned Hospital Ship”, and though far from similar (far less spectacular for one, but then this venue only holds a few hundred), this seems be pretty apt place to start as this low-key show displayed both bands’ shared core of sonic experimentation, a fierce rhythm section and technological savy.
Four years between albums and slipping out of public consciousness, Kosheen burst back into the UK live music scene with a show including their classic drum and bass infused hits with material from new release Damage. It was a case of gone but never forgotten as the old songs were greeted with the same vigour which made them dancefloor favourites while the fresh tracks exposed a dark, brooding and atmospheric direction for the band.
TDK Cross Central bowed out of its Kings Cross venue with a packed-to-the-rafters finale. Famed for its trend-setting mentality, the Sunday was predominently for the techno, electro and house fans looking for their fill of beats, bleeps and uplifting melodies. It made for a highly-charged atmosphere of anticipation that became strained under the mass of bodies everywhere despite being spread across three clubs and 11 stages. Even so, it was a fitting send off that will ensure the event remains one to watch when it returns to a new venue in 2008.
It was literally a case of welcome to the sauna as Bedouin Soundclash treated Brighton reggae fans to a blisteringly hot night of meaty tunes to cap off a rare sunny day in the UK this summer. The heat cooked up inside Concorde 2 came courtesy of the Canadian trio’s ability to get their fans singing, dancing and clapping to produce an carnival atmosphere of good time vibes.
The word Om appears simple and straightforward, yet in reality, or spirituality, offers a profound resonance (pun intended). Similarly, Om the band appear so simple and straightforward — just two people, and two people who play ten or twenty minute pieces essentially formed of just one riff — however, living up to the power of the word taken as their name, Al Cisneros and Chris Haikus (formerly of Sleep and previously the recently reclaimed Asbestosdeath) have perfected the art of the musical mantra, taking the spiritual power of repetition to the noise-loving masses.
Although the smoking ban has unfortunately revealed Camden’s hallowed rock/metal pit The Underworld to be smelling as foul as the mood of the music often gracing its atmosphere, it remains one of the capital’s most choice venues within which to descend and embrace all things dark and heavy. It also seems formally most fitting for a band who have a penchant for delving forth into Hellenic mythology as do Chicago’s Southern Lord artists Lair of the Minotaur.
Back again for a surprising second appearance in London in just over six months, Neurosis came out to a full cheering crowd, all ready for the barrage and return to noise that is Given To The Rising, alive in the flesh. Without the desire to disappoint, in burst its opening manoeuvre the title track, with a typically huge, deep riff, swirling around with keyboard atmosphere in amongst the distortion and meaty vocal attacks.
Pelican have made a trajectory which is appealing to some but not quite so for others. Starting out as a deep, brooding, sludge-strewn instro-metal band the first EP and debut full-length Australasia delivered a fascinating and exiting array of progressive doom riffs and booming post-metal breakdowns. The follow-up The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw took the same recent move as fellows and influences Neurosis and Isis and developed the dynamic aspect more without disregarding the heavy but focusing more than previously on the post-rock-esque soundscapes and builds.
Once again Southern Lord have bestowed us with a astonishing line-up for The highly awaited 777 West Coast Tour. Headlining the spectacle were legendary drone metal bands Sunn o))) and Earth, accompanied by Weedeater (ex Buzzov-en) and Wolves In The Throne Room. Both Opening bands having received a remarkable response from metal enthusiasts, and of course the headliners being the phenomenon that they are, this was a show not to be missed, and definitely one that should be attended with the appropriate mind set. That mind set being quite high in the clouds.
The air grew dense while the floor got packed when headliners, Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) took the stage. The army of sixteen year olds girls and gay men went ape shit when lead voice tress LoveFoxxx danced onto the stage in a sequined figure skating suit, tossing handfuls of confetti to her adoring crowd.
This first show in London followed Band Of Horses’ live UK debut in the previous weekend’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties vs The Fans’ festival in Minehead, Somerset. These shows, part of a short tour, were a break from Band Of Horses’ recording of a new album.
The band’s spacey, ethereal take on folk music fits with late sixties/early seventies acid/psychedelic trends and also stands suitably near to the work of major British groups like Pentangle and Fairport Convention. The groups very impressive second studio album II provided almost all of the material performed here, the band promising to provide some newer material next time that they’re over. It is perhaps understandable that their is a lack of new material in the time since that record’s release last year due firstly to touring time as well as the fact that members are involved in other projects (main vocalist Meg Baird for one as well as the work with Sharron Kraus discussed above has a solo album coming out next month) but there was no complaints from any crowd members at hearing the II tracks.
The glamourous indie-queen Feist was obviously the major draw here though — the fact that the gig was actually a seated affair seemingly much more down to her wide appeal than to that of the comic opener. Touring to promote the recently released solo The Reminder Leslie Feist is famous as much for her early punk outings but even more so for the recent stint in Broken Social Scene, though her solo efforts have produced two studio albums in 1999’s Monarch and 2004’s acclaimed Let It Die. The singer/songwriter was on impeccable form both vocally, instrumentally (on her guitar) and also as an entertainer — leading the band and the crowd with jokes, banter and bringing out audience-wide singalong harmonies too.
Press sheets for CocoRosie’s new album The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn tell a tale — “From her humble beginnings in the South of France, the saga sailed the Seven Seas all the way to Reykjavik. Upon return to her Parisian homeland, she shared a mystical rendezvous with mystical sailors…” — offering example of the sister’s Casady spinning a magical yarn around themselves and delving out from normal existence into strange realms, where an evening at Shepherd’s Bush Empire doesn’t quite seem to fit. Luckily the music is the perfect musical embodiment of this and captures the listener off into it’s spirit…
The Crystal Rainbow Pyramid Tour is an apt name for two psychedelic bands on tour in the United States. Mammatus, a recent addition to the revival of psychedelic, progressive loudness are from Santa Cruz, California. Their first record, featuring artwork from Arik Roper, is a stumbling cohesion of early Dead Meadow and Sleep. Pure fantasy is summoned in four long, down-tempo psychedelic allegories; swords, dragons and the epic all notably included.
Restlesslist’s development has seen them expanding from roots in bedroom lo-fi as a two-piece (Matt Twaites and Ben Elliot) creating collages from calculator keyboards, guitars, found sound samples and broken beats, into a full band (adding Tom White and Crispin Cairns) to build soundtrack-style instrumentals, skewed carnival themes and walls of atmosphere. The groups first EP as a four piece, Eyes Are On Your Hands, found a point at what could easily be termed ‘mid-fi’, the original lo-fi ideas being brought out into more rounded songs with a much higher quality sound production, though not quite hi-fi. Last year’s Butlin Breaks 7” continued a trend upwards in catchiness, at least in the upbeat title-track A-side which opened with theatrical jazz-hands and moved through western guitar twangs and rousing Bond-esque cornet. The flip side, “The Cowboy Song”, fittingly showed a different side to the band in an atmospheric, almost post-rock number.
Roots and Crowns, Califone’s latest album, was released on Thrill Jockey at the end of last year to great acclaim, cementing an already strong position in Chicago’s music scene as well as wider experimental and folk circles. The band started off as the project of one man, Tim Rutili, but grew into a band with four steady members (the others being Ben Massarella, Brian Deck and Tim Hurley — the four of them having already performed together as Red Red Meat in the 1990s), however, at the last jaunt zap! bang! attended, immediately post-_Roots and Crowns_, they performed as a two-piece, and here they numbered three (Tim Rutili and present members Joe Adamik and Jim Becker — Massarella being absent), testament to the way that the band appears to develop, being open to change and re-interpretation, new ideas and influence (the band’s debut full-length apparently featured an open-door recording policy leading to additional performances from members of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day among others).
Straddling that limbo land between classical and popular music, New York collective Bang on a Can All-Stars brought with them a real treat with a live performance of Brian Eno’s seminal ambient work Music For Airports this February. Particularly lavish was its execution in the best concert hall in the country: Birmingham’s Symphony Hall — one of only two dates in the UK.
This was the first Mojo Fins performance for a while, the band having taken a little time off coming up with some new material and importantly, a record deal. Picked up by Brighton’s Amazon Records the band have a single out in April and album plans for later in the year, and having also played a live radio session on Brighton’s Juice FM it seems it’s actually been all go despite the live lull.
Some good conversation led to Colin from TST colluding with The Albert to come up with a fantastic idea which might just work — afternoon gigs. Sunday afternoons, from about 2pm til 5pm playing light, Sunday afternoon-accessible music. Well that worked well enough and so they’ve even started Saturdays as well, but those ones are loud. But this one was a Sunday, with perhaps the quietest vocalist of them all, Southampton’s Mat Sweet, appearing here under his Boduf Songs moniker, which has been built up into a three-piece band for live performances, though keeping true to the aching simplicity which is at the heart of the project.
Bedecked all Christmaslike, the festive season adding an extra tint to the glam aspirations the venue, Brighton’s Sussex Arts Club played a welcome host to the Brighton’s Finest Songbirds Christmas Special. Due to the unavailability of billed support act Jane Bartholomew the night kicked off with the middle act songbird Cordelia Fellowes, who was quick to point out that her set was not in fact her set but a performance of a band of which she is just one part. She is undoubtedly the frontwoman of her group though, the Gypsy Squat Pop Project, as her stong voice and presence powerfully leads the songs forward.
Both last year’s 12 Stone Toddler EP and the recent Rabbit single have been met with great reviews and the band’s fan-base continues to strengthen and find new inductees. Live performances over the years have been preciously rare and therefore always anticipated and consistently packed out, as with the night in question.
Clark’s reputation has been steadily building from an Aphex Twin wannabe following his debut Clarence Park (Warp, 2001) to being hailed as an electronica innovator after the release of Body Riddle (Warp) this year. Tonight he brought his new live show to London, with live drummer Alvin Ryan to beef up his trademark hard-hitting big beats. It was a powerful and confident performance that showcased his talents for haunting melodies and driving bass.
William Elliot Whitmore opened for Lucero on a rainy Sunday at the Bowery Ballroom. In a very un-New York fashion, people came out early, packed the room, and shut up while Whitmore sat on a stool on a stage full of other people’s equipment while playing either his guitar or banjo.