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.
From the respective receptions given, most people were here for Thrill Jockey’s psyche-blues peddlars, Califone (particularly as they do not often grace this intimate a venue), but for me there was also another draw — Denison Witmer — an acolyte bandmember of Sufjan Stevens. This was the second in a short (4 date) London-only jaunt as rotating headliners to support their new LP releases — Califones Roots and Crowns and Whitmer’s Are You A Dreamer?.
The rising popularity of Canadian reggae outfit Bedouin Soundclash was laid bare at Brixton Academy where the trio received a rapturous reception. Well, I say reggae, but at times you could be forgiven for thinking you were caught up in the middle of a stadium rock act’s homecoming such was the unbridled joy many members of the crowd were experiencing. With their tender vocals backed up by rumbling bass lines and tight drumming this was a performance to be proud of for the Soundclash boys.
This was the second of a two night stint at the Roxy in lieu of the release of the Rx Bandit’s fifth album, …And the Battle Begun, which I recently received the pleasure of reviewing, and to celebrate the band played the new album in it’s entirety. The musicianship was mind-boggling and the crowd was electric, but the predictability of the set list hampered my enjoyment a bit. The Bandits seem to be much more in their element when they’re councing back and forth between their much varied ouevre, which we received a little taste of with an encore of “Overcome” and “Decrescendo” from 2003’s The Resignation. The audience didn’t seem to share my gripes though, going off the wall with energy throughout the entire set, and even beginning the lyrics to the encore before the band returned the stage.
When AIS came on, I was expecting a 5-piece to appear; only three people walked onto the stage, but if I’d had my eyes closed, I’d have been forgiven for thinking it was ten. Again, the sound quality was impeccable: the bass drum and toms were as well-defined as most bands’ snare drums; their snare cracked like a bull-whipped ping-pong ball. No matter how deep the bass sank, or how dirty the riff, it was always possible to distinguish every last semitone.
Stones Throw Records are probably best known for holding two of the biggest jewels of the hip-hop crown in Madlib, aka Otis Jackson, and MF Doom, aka Daniel Dumile. These guys are responsible for dismantling years of suppression by swaying many an indie kid from his tight trousers into some baggies and the rest. High on jazz and the personal touch, and less of an eye on the money shot Stones Throw Records has built up a large cross-over fan base since Peanut Butter Wolf first decided to set up the label following the death of fellow producer Charizma in 1996.
Sitting down in a pub to enjoy a varied range of music from lives acts would usually be interrupted by glib comments to friends, trips to the bar and a general distraction from other noises around you. The third installment of Southampton’s Charged night invited guests to become immersed in its performer’s sounds by only allowing you to listen to the music through headphones: a gimmick which nevertheless proved to be the perfect way to indulge in the many talents of the five acts at the Platform Tavern. Sitting cosily around tables with our headphones plugged into adaptors on tables with our own individual volume controls, it was an intimate yet extremely personal way of listening as a group.
Alton Ellis is known as the Godfather of rocksteady and reggae and it quickly became clear at his performance at Camden’s Jazz Cafe that the reason for this may well be no simpler than that he actually fathered god — he is that good. In his early seventies now, almost old enough to have made the previous statement believable, Alton Ellis has been recording and singing live for six decades.
New York’s Grizzly Bear struck a few chords which continued the mood from Brosseau’s set, both often giving off a beautiful sense of peacefulness and calm, but the headline act were in many ways a different concept all together. For a start they are a four-piece band, and accordingly the scale of the pieces and the instrumentation involved in their performance is increased, but even more than usual, Grizzly Bear take a decidedly experimental approach. Only one of the group’s members stuck to one instrument, but he also sang, the group all taking on various vocal duties at different points. The floor and other surfaces were littered with a variety of effects pedals, electronic equipment and acoustic instruments — the usual range of guitars plus a clarinet, flute and even an auto-harp.
Architects’ two guitarists were never to be caught just knocking out the same riff as each other to fill in gaps — every segment and moment of each of their songs had been painstakingly arranged. Nor was there any suggestion of a ‘lead/rhythm’ division — as they yo-yoed up and down the fret-board counterbalancing each other, the freely moving parts worked together like a Brazilian goal.
To celebrate the release of the Trencher/Phil Collins 3 split 7” the sweaty pit that is the Engine Rooms was duly filled with people and bands for a couple of hours of extreme heat and extreme noise. Brighton’s seen a load of great line-ups, and I always go on about them in reviews so i’ll try and supress that statment again here. But…
The present Tortoise line-up is not quite the one that recorded the album ten years ago but remains as it has been since Dave Pajo left just after the recording of TNT in 1998: John Herndon, Doug McCombs, John McEntire, Dan Bitney and Jeff Parker. Pajo had been in the group for the recording of Millions Now Living but Parker only joined the group in 1997.
Following Saturday night’s tribute to legendary jazz guitarist Derek Bailey, avant-garde composer and musician John Zorn continued his weekend residency at London’s Barbican and also his acknowledgement of his major influences with a programme influenced by Aleister Crowley. The evening consisted of the performance of two compositions based on the work of the British occult master, and also a screening of the film The Man We Want To Hang, directed by another follower of Crowley’s, Keneth Anger, shown with accompanying sounds played by Zorn.
This gig was a rare appearance of The Dodge Brothers in Southampton, one of few outside Lymington, away from their residency and core fanbase at the Thomas Tripp. And the intimate Platform Tavern on Southampton’s Quayside rose to the occasion, filled by an incredibly receptive audience, who at points even flowed onto the pavement outside.
This was much more than a gig, or a concert it was an event. For a start we’re talking the Royal Albert Hall, not just any old venue. We’ve got a huge crowd and you’d expect nothing more — this is Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil leading a band playing some of the most powerfully complex compositions of his father, one of the defining figures of twentieth century music. This was not any old band either but included legendary Zappa collaborators Napoleon Murphy Brock and Steve Vai!
The marketing-dream prophecy that the world would end on 06/06/06, or at least serve up some spawn of Satan for mankind to battle, provided the perfect excuse for Planet Mu heavyweights to unleash an unrelenting barrage of gabba on Brighton, providing its sinners with a fiendish night of hellish fun. This was not for the feint-hearted as the robe-wearing electronic music artists did their best to bosh dancers into submission.
These two NYC bands have toured together consistently, share a label (in the UK), guest on each other’s records and they seem quite close emotionally and sonically. TV on the Radio were the headliners in this case, but both complemented each other and members of each band cross pollinated with percussion and vocals throughout.
Their recent limited 7” single collection Fab Four Suture gave forth three tracks, the perfectly crafted introspection of “Whisper Pitch”, “Eye Of The Beholder” with it’s urgent thrash of a chorus and “Excursions into Oh A Oh”. On record “Excursions…” is a neat slice of sixties psychedelia but live it becomes a sort of cosmic disko, bringing an addictive bassline and twin horn attack of trumpet and trombone (it was preceded by Laetitia asking “Are you ready to dance?” We were very soon).
It was a great showcase for the band’s varied style that got some people jumping in delirious fashion. Mimicking Ninja’s call backs earlier in the show, the crowd demanded an encore with a chant of “G-O-T-E-A-M”. Ninja duly continued when the band returned to stage, asking “Can we use that on the new album?”. I think the Southmapton fans will be the first at the shop door if they do. Finisher “Ladyflash” enabled an emphatic rock out for all in the room as arms once again raised to the roof. Go The Go! Team!
Cult of Luna have taken their music through various explorative journeys throughout their career and new album Somewhere Along The Highway, their fourth full-length — out on Earache, holds true to their reputation for powerful and punishing epics which embrace the most ultimate of both beauty and brutality — in a similar way to fellow luminaries Neurosis and Isis.
Throughout Twin Zero’s set, almost half of The Engine Rooms’ standing area seemed taken up by the band and this was for two reasons, firstly, as mentioned before, there’s more than your average number playing in the band and, secondly, because Boris’ huge drum kit (in size of drum, not amount of drums), and mulitple stacks of amplification took up the entire small stage meaning that only the Twin Zero keyboardist could fit on it and the rest of the band played on the floor. Boris could only just fit on the stage themselves but did, and the floor slowly filled up in front of them. The support band’s line-up and sound is big and in comparison Boris’ line-up is small — but their sound was (as one of their own song title suggests) Huge — the venue felt near bursting to contain it, with those crowd members who’d situated right at the front only about a metre or two away from the speaker cabs bearing an almight brunt — and probably listening to the Japanese band’s drones for at least the whole of the night and next day because of it.
The Organ were one of the so-called ‘buzz’ bands of the recent indie-industry backslap SXSW festival in Texas. This buzz must have stowed away in their guitar cases or somethig as they’ve only just released their debut (Grab That Gun) on a minor indie label but the Garage was sold out. This was possibly due to the relative hype built up around SXSW, but despite the album not been out too long here even the non-single/non-myspace tracks were afforded recognition and grand responses. So they must be doing something right.
The Concretes can be described by using many similar words to Euros Child’s: folk, indie, pop, quirky, nice… but though the acts share some sensibilities and compliment each other perfectly on the bill, the Swedish headline group are quite different. They sparkle with their special mix of traditional folk sounds, waltzes and ballads and have a great presence with their eight members. The Concrete’s sound drifts, rolls, drives and shuffles through various moods, often very emotive and rousing, sometimes haunting yet always quite comforting, the group even make a disco beat sound like it’s not really a disco beat, catching it up within their beautiful, orchestrated pop.
Anticipation seemed to be fairly high for this one — Mogwai touring Mr Beast — the album that was meant to be truer to the volume and intensity that the band’s gigs offered but album’s didn’t anymore, so what did they do? They stepped up, in green Team Mogwai tracksuits, and ploughed through most of said new album — as loud, heavy and emotive as needed, when needed — and backed that up with some classics, like the true pros their reputation suggests.
Stepping into the Concorde 2 on a rainy, wind-swept night it was not the dry and warmth that hit me, but the bone-shaking power of the dub vibes being laid down by warm-up an Iration Steppas dj set. With foundation shaking basslines rippling through my body it was useless to resist swaying to the laid back tunes the formidable soundsystem was launching out at full blast. This was to be a gig that summoned the rhythm from inside you and got everyone dancing to the same beat.