Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 3rd December 2021

This is a show I’d been revved for for quite some time: on their last visit to this venue, back in 2017, noise veterans Part Chimp blew me away with the sheer quality of their performance, as well as their sheer volume, prompting me to ruminate on how ‘they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore’ and how ‘the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt.’ Experiences like that are rare, but also addictive: as a gig—goer, you want every show to replicate that level of thrill, that mind-blowing intensity, and it’s a dragon you’ll chase and chase but rarely capture. There’s also a thing about seeing a band for the first time, when you don’t know really what to expect, and then whatever your expectations may have been, they’re confounded tenfold. Second, third, fourth time around, it’s unlikely you’ll feel that same sock in the face.

Anticipation for the evening stepped up a few notches on disclosure of the support act, Objections, being ‘a pair of Bilge Pump’s and a Beards’. ‘Formed in 2007, dispatched in 2018’, the latter splattered their way onto the scene with their sound defined by the explosively angular racket of their debut album ‘Brick by Boulder’, and during their existence, proved to be a stunning live proposition. Meanwhile, the former, revitalised in 2019 after almost a decade’s silence had been reaffirming their status as Leeds legends prior to the pandemic halting their live activity.

Objections is Bilge Pump’s Joe O’Sullivan and Neil Turpin with ex-Beards’ Claire Adams. Claire covers bass and vocals, while Joe’s weapon of choice is a 12-string, which brings some real depth and density to their brand of sinewy post punk. It’s goth meets math rock, and at the same time combines the best of both Bilge Pump and Beards. The guitar provides texture and tone rather than tune, sculpting shapes, and watching O’Sullivan is always a joy, not to mention exhausting: the man is a relentless blur of energy (and impossible to [photograph without better kit than mine), and plays every chord with his entire body, leaping, lurching, and perspiring heavily every whichway. Adams’ bass is stop/start, lumbering, and the choppy, angular songs with their variable time signatures are held together with precision percussion from Turpin. Oftentimes, a relentless repetitive rhythm grinds a backdrop to peeling shards of guitar splinters, and chunk funk bass drives a collision between Shellac and Gang of Four, leading towards an ultimate space rock finale. They are stunning, and the place is busy, and the reception they receive is well deserved: this is one of those occasions where you could leave immediately after the support and feel that you’ve easily had your money’s worth.

DSC_1127DSC_1123

Objections

But then, it’s Part Chimp headlining, promoting their latest album, Drool, their sixth proper in their twenty-year career and the follow-up to 2018’s Cheap Thriller, and it’s the final track from this album that they power into a blistering set that’s a massive barrelling noise of relentless riffery from the off. They’re out as a three-piece sans bass tonight, but make enough racket for infinite members, with enough downtuning to cover the low end. And when I say that they’re loud, I mean they’re seriously fucking loud. Standing front row stage right I’m overwhelmed by the speaker shredding backline of Iain Hinchliffe’s guitar but it’s magical – obliterative, immersive, cathartic.

At this point in their career, they’re no longer young, and they’re not overtly cool, with their beanstalk singer and somewhat squat and unsvelte guitarist, but it’s the music that matters and makes them the coolest guys around: they make the best fucking noise, and may have just released their best album, which occupies half the set and reveals its range magnificently. Battering away at a couple of chords blended with all the distortion and feedback, the vocals buried in echo, and there’s a sample that runs between the songs throughout set in a fashion that’s reminiscent of the loop that runs through Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric. With guitars like bulldozers blasting out rifferama ear-bleeding volume – did I mention that the volume’s up to twelve or thirteen?

DSC_1143pc...

Part Chimp

There are occasional hints of Hawkwind happening, but overloaded with distortion and howling feedback at a thousand decibels and there’s some bad trip psychedelia slow and hypnotic in the mix. But Once again, it very quickly becomes a haze, and it’s impossible to do anything but yield to the wall of sound and enjoy. Live music fans live for moments like this, and it’s clear that everyone in the room was in the same space. If there is a heaven, it has to be this.

Christopher Nosnibor

The last time the once-ubiquitous Blacklisters graced us with their presence in Leeds was back in 2017. A lot has happened since then, including some substantial geographical ones for the bandmembers. In fact, there was a time when it seemed as if the band was no more: following the release of Adult in 2015, things went quiet, bar the unexpected release of the Dart EP in 2017 via Too Pure. The arrival of Fantastic Man in 2020 came as a surprise. A welcome one, but a surprise nevertheless. Consequently, tonight’s double-header with associated / offshoot ace USA Nails is a cause for excitement: their fifth album, Character Stop, released just last month is a truly outstanding example of the angular / mathy / noise genre. And what a lineup!

In a late change to the advertised schedule, Care Home’s debut is shelved, with the band replaced by Hull noisemakers Cannibal Animal. Sound-wise, they’ve changed a bit from when I last saw them back in 2018 – less swamp-gothy, more post punk in their leanings, less claustrophobic and with more breathing space in the songs. Yet for all that, it’s very clearly the same band.

Cannibal Animal

Cannibal Animal

The set lands with a throbbing drone before they power into some hefty chords. They’re not pretty, sonically or visually, but Christ, they kick ass. Strolling basslines and wandering spacious guitars shifting into ball-busting riffs. Busting bad moves throughout Luke Ellerington makes for a compelling and charismatic performer as he leads the band through a set that sounds like a collision between Pissed Jeans and The Fall.

The guy from BELK seems to have got his dates wrong and has come dressed for Hallowe’en – or at least made-up for Hallowe’en. The Leeds act are a screamy thrashy guitar and drum duo. They’re as heavy and fuck and there’s a mental moshpit from the off. Shifting pace and dynamics nonstop, it’s primitive and brutal with full on frenzied riffery and screaming vocals. Everything about their sound is abrasive, jarring, angular, although at times it’s a shade thin, and they possibly would benefit from some bass.

BELK

BELK

USA Nails don’t only benefit from some bass, but place the bass at front and centre to powerful effect. And that bass has that ribcage-rattling tearing cardboard sound reminiscent of Bob Weston. The emphasis may be on attack and hard volume, but they fully exploit the dynamics of these. The two guitars are often still for the verses bar feedback, bursting into life for the choruses. Along the way there are some expansive bass-led spoken word stretches that call to mind The Fall, with frequent forays into hardcore punk. It’s a strong set that flips between sub-two minutes and longer workouts, and it’s all killer.

Nails 2Nails 3

USA Nails

With the last train to York departing at 23:13 and Blacklisters not due on until 11pm, I was presented with the option of disappointment or sleeping on a bench. I gather that they were good, though, and just hope we don’t have to wait another four years.

Christopher Nosnibor

That there is a shortage of grass-roots venues is a widely-reported fact, and the last year and a half has only exacerbated what is, put bluntly, a crisis in the music industry. At the heart of it all, the problem is is that we exist under capitalism. Art and capitalism simply aren’t compatible. We therefore have a model whereby venues need to book acts who will bring punters who will pay for tickets and spend money over the bar. But how do acts who simply don’t have an established audience, or are unlikely to ever attain that kind of audience reach whatever audience they may have? How do acts who need the exposure get the exposure in the first place? The system is flawed. However, recent years have seen the emergence of a different kind of venue, with rehearsal rooms doubling as gig spaces. They maybe small, but that’s for the better – gigs with an audience of maybe 20 people don’t need a lot of space. Unlicensed, BYOB means no overheads or costs there, and because these spaces make their money by other means, any takings from gigs are simply a bonus. They also tend to benefit from being on industrial estates, meaning there’s less risk of neighbours complaining about noise, meaning the only downside is that they’re not so often in prime city centre locations. But how many small venues are these days?

Places like CHUNK and Mabgate Bleach in Leeds and Hatch in Sheffield have led the way, and now Tower Studios in Stone, a little way out of Stoke-on-Trent, presents a ‘proper’ gig following one shot for online streaming as part of the last FEAST event (with FEAST being very much something born out of lockdown with a series of streaming events).

For a place a bit off the beaten track, it’s stunning. Scratch that: by any standards, it’s stunning. A rehearsal space with a stage and meticulously maintained, it’s something else. The PA speakers are halfway down the room in the main room and face the stage, doubling as monitors, meaning the band get to hear the ‘out front’ mix instead of the monitor mix. There is a second, smaller room, but we’re in the main room tonight for a lineup of noise and experimentalism, and if the audience isn’t huge, at least they’re receptive.

Omnibael open with an ear-bleeding blast of space rock feedback with industrial percussion worthy of Godflesh. Jase plays pedalboard predominantly. Brief moments swerve into black metal, but it’s mostly just a relentless barrage of noise. The third track goes a bit Sunn O))), with big hefty power chords paving the way for more raging metal noise. The duo’s experimental explorations may yet to have found a firm stylistic footing but this outing is perhaps their most focussed and most intense live workout yet as they continue to evolve.

DSC_0831

OMNIBAEL

The second act, Vile Plumage, make like performance art, but struggle to keep straight faces, like they know this is audacious and preposterous. The gloved hands over faces cover grins disguised as menacing smirks. Stop start blasts of noise judder and thud. A rattling bean tin. We got given pebbles to toss into a bowl, and it was all quite bizarre and confusing, but entertaining in a strange and ritualistic way.

DSC_0832

Vile Plumage

I must have zoned out or blanked out for the next twenty minutes. Something about some guy cranking out electronic noise reminiscent of early Whitehouse while shouting torrents of vitriol and profanity through squalls of feedback, I don’t know much and I can’t comment on whether or not it was any good. But I think it happened.

Garbage Pail Kids is an experimental duo which features Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing – meaning that anyone familiar with the scene will have an idea what to expect –namely anything as long as its experimental, noisy, and improvised – and Basic Switches, the experimental side project of Leeds indie act Cowtown. Weirdy drones and feedback strongly reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle dominate the set. There’s echoed vocal oddness and endless pulsations with phasers set to warp and stun. Crazy headgear is of course a signature, and the headgear is particularly crazy here. The ‘anything goes’ oddity is nonstop, and at one point we find Theo playing keyboard barefoot while ululating wildly. It’s a complete headfuck, but a brilliant one.

DSC_0836

Garbage Pail Kids

Final act Ashtray Navigations are far easier on the ear. Predominantly dominated by dark, ambient sounds and gentle ripplings, although these are ruptured by dense synth bass and crushing beats. They venture deep into prog and space rock with vintage drum machine sounds: the snare is pure Roland 606. The set builds with some bumping bass that’s more akin to Chris & Cosey’s Trance era works. After a guitar string change that does slow the momentum just a little, the last piece combines the throb of Suicide with extravagant prog guitaring. It works primarily because of the blistering volume that’s utterly gut-trembling.

DSC_0847

Ashtray Navigations

It makes for a great end to a great night, offering a selection of sounds that have enough in common to be complimentary, but different enough so as to snag the attention. With any luck, this will become the blueprint for nights to come.

Christopher Nosnibor

The clue’s in the name: Bdrmm started out as a bedroom-based solo project for Ryan Smith in 2017, but soon transitioned to being a proper gigging band. Like so many bands, their progress was severely hampered by more than eighteen months of no live activity, something that seems to have hit bands in the early stages of their careers the hardest, since they rely on performing in grassroots venues and supporting larger bands to build their fanbase.

This was one of many shows that got booked, rescheduled, and rescheduled over the course of the last eighteen months, during which time they’ve maintained a steady flow of releases, including their debut album and an attendant set of remixes and a number of singles, which have clearly done no harm to their profile, garnering glowing reviews from across the spectrum from NME to MOJO via Line of Best Fit. The Fulford Arms, then – sold out, although still operating at reduced capacity for ticket sales – is pretty busy even early doors.

It’s an interesting demographic, too, probably around a 60/40 split of twenty-somethings and forty-somethings – which isn’t entire surprising given Bdrmm’s referencing of the music that the older fans were listening to when they were around the age of the younger ones.

Having just two bands on the bill works well – not only allowing time to ventilate the room between acts – but to give the punters and their ears a rest, time to recharge glasses without a crush at the bar, and an early finish. After so much time out, it might take some time to rebuild the stamina for late nights for a few of us, and for those slightly further afield, public transport isn’t what it was a couple of years ago (or more).

Manchester’s crush – another band who, having formed in 2018 have a lot of early-days ground to recover – are on first. I was pretty sure there have been other bands called Crush, and it was only later I recalled Donna Air and Jayni Hoy’s short-lived pop career and the early 90s project featuring John Valentine Carruthers (formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson . The young four-piece are nothing like either. The set makes a shuddering launch into mid-tempo post-rock shoegaze with two guitars. Their sound is reminiscent of melodic 90s indie with a dreamy style, but still some drive too. There’s lots of texture and occasional bursts of noise. They may be lacking that slickness that playing often develops, but they can really play, and the closer comes on like Dinosaur Jr being covered by Slowdive, and it’s ace.

DSC_0793

crush

Crackling distortion yields to a driving motorik riff to announce the arrival of Bdrmm, and it’s immediately apparent that they’re a cut above, and that any hyp is entirely justified. The sound is immense. The drums are half-submerged beneath a heft wash of guitar. It’s a dense, throbbing, shimmering wall of sound. The percussion is a mix of traditional and electronic drum pads, and everything comes together magnificently. New single ‘Port’ drops early as the third song and it’s a brooding synth-driven beast, part My Bloody Valentine, but probably more A Place to Bury Strangers. There’s all the reverb, and all the volume: in fact the sound is great, and sound man Chris Tuke gets a deserved shoutout from the stage during the set. Because while it’s nice on record, and all the comparisons to Slowdive and early Ride are entirely appropriate, live, it really needs to be heard – and felt – at organ-trembling volume.

DSC_0812DSC_0813

Bdrmm

‘Happy, is a synthy swirl meshed with a gritty bass, and as the set progresses, we see the band peeling off blistering sheets of noise. Bent over, guitars practically scraping the floor, they don’t only do shoegaze but they also properly rock out. Near the end of the set they treat us to an immense, slow-building crescendo climax worthy of I Like Trains.

DSC_0796

Bdrmm

They leave us overheated, breathless, and stunned by the sheer power of the blistering noise of the guitars that howl and melt. No way should we have been able to experience this in a venue with a capacity of around 130, and I rather doubt we will again. Bdrmm are a Brudenell band at the very least: they have not only the songs, but that indefinable ‘fuck yeah!’ quality that comes from the wild exhilaration of seeing a band who simply blow you away.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a long time coming. Not only was Long Division postponed from 2020, but the usual may / June date pushed back – and back – to the penultimate weekend in September. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate Long Division over the more renowned Live at Leeds, which increasingly feels more mainstream-orientated and generally more commercial, while the smaller event has retained its predominantly local focus (plus the now-obligatory Scottish contingent, who are always welcome) and a sense of catering to a broader demographic, with up-and-coming talent sitting comfortably along well-established and even what I suppose you might consider more heritage acts. In short, there’s something for everyone, and with Wakefield being a compact city, none of the venues are more than a few minutes’ walk from one another.

An indication of a well-planned festival is the breadth and depth of the bill, where it’s possible to spread the quality over the course of the day instead of flopping listlessly around in the early evening before all five of your must-see acts all playing between half eight and eleven, and arriving early doors meant being rewarded with The Golden Age of TV being first on at WX – a new venue, and a good one, right next to the wristband exchange. WX is spacious – by which I mean huge., but has good sound, and band seem to enjoy the big stage. The band have evolved significantly during their time away, and if Bea’s oversized jacket has a touch of the David Byrnes, vocally, she’s transitioned from Florence Welch to Siouxsie Sioux as she leads the band through a tight and energetic set of guitar-driven post punk infused indie rock. They’ve certainly set the bar high for the rest of the day.

DSC_0470

The Golden Age of TV

Solo artist Mayshe Mayshe’s sparse, minimal ethereal synth pop provides a strong contrast. Although with no obvious or radical changes, with the hair dryer still a feature of her set, she conjures magic with vocal loops and atmosphere, with an array of heavily-echoed modes of percussion and some shuddering bass frequencies. There’s some really deft and dextrous pedal work and real-time mixing, and it’s a captivatingly understated performance.

It’s back over to the WX, where Hands Off Gretel open with ‘Milk’, and Lauren Tate is straight in with a full-throated roar and all of the Cortney Love guitar poses with her foot in monitor. ‘Bigger than Me’ from the new Angry EP is a rager: there’s no question they’re at their best when they really let it all rip, and less so when it comes to chat between songs, while Lauren has trouble with a bottle of water for much of the set. New song ‘War’ is also a stormer, and ‘Don’t Touch’ from new EP also has bite, if very strong hints of The Pretty Reckless. They close with a passable but middling rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’, and the lasting impression is of the style and the delivery rather than the songs.

Last time I saw Cud was 1992, and I had wondered just what kind of interest there would be in them in Wakefield in the middle of the afternoon. They’re one of those bands who were never cool, but then didn’t much give a fuck, and it seems little has changed, really. Carl Puttnam has still got the moves, and the look of a chubby pimp with lounge style vocals. They’re well-received, with a lot of middle aged people dancing down the front, especially to ‘Rich and Strange’ and the baggy groove of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ during which some guy in a ‘Child of Cud’ T got on stage and did a Bez. And you know what? Maybe nostalgia is what it used to be, and they were good fun.

DSC_0489

Cud

Remaining in the WX, it’s not quite as busy for Brix and The Extricated, who power through a lively set. She’s got all the energy and positively full the state with presence, a restless force and a whirl of red sequins and platinum hair. The Fall’s ‘Feeling Numb’ lands fairly early on, and after ‘Dinosaur Girl’, they’re into the timeless classic that is ‘LA’. It doesn’t get better than that.

DSC_0502

Brix and the Extricated

Only, perhaps it does: Big Joanie have got The Establishment rammed to capacity, and it’s remarkable to see how they’ve gone from supporting Charlie Bliss at Headrow House in Leeds just a couple of years ago to playing one of the buzziest sets of the day ahead of a tour supporting IDLES in 1,500 capacity venues. This, of course, makes this afternoon’s set all the sweeter, and what’s so pleasing to see is that the band themselves haven’t changed. They still stand out, with their standing drumming as the sparse power trio deliver simple chord repetitions with instant hooks. Less is definitely more and they looked to be really enjoying themselves, too, and if you‘re looking for examples of strong role models with a positive message as well as great tunes, they deliver, while being completely devoid of cliché.

DSC_0507

Big Joanie

Watching Lanterns on the Lake’s mellow, expansive post-rock with some smooth textures and dynamic drumming, I realise that I’ve witnessed – quite unintentionally – a day of music with predominantly female-fronted acts, and it’s incredibly refreshing considering just how depressingly testosterone-led most festival and gig lineups are. Equally, the stylistic range is remarkable. Lanterns are easy on the ear but by no means dull, with hints of Portishead, and they end the set with guitarist Paul Gregory with a shredded violin bow after a truly epic crescendo. The experience is subtly powerful and ultimately quite moving.

Skipping across town, we find Idlewild front man Roddy Woomble in a church laying an (almost) solo set. We’re seated, in pews. The same pews we saw Scots troubadour RM Hubbert a couple of years back. Place is tight for the performers, and Woomble paces a tight spot as he really inhabits the songs, where a retro drum machine and washes of synth back his voice.

Making a swift and sadly premature exit, I scoot (not literally) to dive bar Vortex for Weekend Recovery. A band who’s ever-evolving, they have a different lineup post pandemic, and tonight stripped back to trio, their sound is a lot harder, heavier and darker. Lori’s looking a bit Susie Quatro. ‘In the Mourning’ crashes in second in and drives hard. With Lori on sole guitar duties, it’s down to the dirty fat bass to fill out the sound, and it certainly does. ‘There’s a Sense’ soars and slams and nags, while ‘Yeah!?’ takes a slower, more sultry turn. The set closer and upcoming single single sees shared vocal duties with bassist and further accentuate the harder sound, and it’s a cracking close to a sweaty set.

DSC_0529

Weekend Recovery

We’re spoilt for choice of headliners, and while I’d have loved to have stuck around for The Lovely Eggs, trains make this unfeasible, and so I go for Hull’s brightest new hopes Low Hummer, a band very much on the up, and fast. Just a week after the release of their debut album, they’ve been booked to replace The Anchoress supporting Manic Street Preachers on tour in a week or so, they could well be on the brink of being big, and deservedly so. They may be a comparatively ‘new’, and youthful, too, but they exude a stong assuredness and they sound amazing, and so tight. Blasting in with ‘Take Arms’ and they pack the songs back to back with no pausing for breath and no messing about. The songs are built around steady repetitions, and they’re simultaneously dynamic and nonchalant in their delivery.

DSC_0539DSC_0544

Low Hummer

So while the rail network is shaky and world continues to go to hell, it’s beyond uplifting to be able to forget about it all for a bit and lose yourself in a day of quality music. It’s an incredibly welcome return for Long Division, who’ve not only done a great job with the lineup and scheduling with spacing between bands, but also wonderful to attend an even with such a great atmosphere, free of dickish behaviour – and with a general sense of community. Things are a long way from being back to normal, but Long Division provided the perfect escape. A triumphant return.

Christopher Nosnibor

Last week, there was a brief buzz around the Internet observing that on 1st September 2021, 1980 was as far away as the start of World War 2 was in 1980. It’s one of those startling perspective moments that takes some computing. Being five in 1980, WW2 felt like ancient history, despite the fact my father was born before the end of the war. To me, the music of the 1980s still feels comparatively recent, and I can recall events from the 80s – The Falklands War, for example – with remarkable clarity. And yet I have colleagues who are adults who weren’t even born until the late 90s, who feel the music of the 80s is as relevant to them as I find most music of the 50s and 60s.

It seems crazy to think, then, that The Sisters of Mercy’s last studio album was released a few months before their tenth anniversary shows in Leeds in February 1991, and now, here we are, belatedly marking their fortieth year in existence. Not that no new album means no new material: they may still play a lot of old favourites, but The Sisters are by no means a heritage band (seemingly to the annoyance of some of their older fans who lament the fact they don’t still sound like it’s 1985).

This trio of dates sees a different support act each night, and if the return of previous recent supports AA Williams and I Like Trains makes perfect sense, Jesus Jones being tonight’s openers seemed like an odd choice.

The last time I saw Jesus Jones was supporting The Cure as part of Radio 1’s Great British Music Weekend in December 91. I’d never really been a fan, and the highlight of their set for me was the dreadlocked guitarist falling off the stage. Still, they were fun enough, and the same is true thirty years later. As they kick off with the indie rave bleepfest of ‘Zeros and Ones’ I’m immediately reminded that while the guitar sound was alright, they were just too melodic and lacking in nuts for my taste. ‘Right Here, Right Now’, with its baggy beat sounds both dated and a bit thin. Bassist Al Doughty throws Peter Hook shapes, while Ian baker nominally plays keyboards, spending most of the set charging around the stage and lurching his keyboard around on its stand. It was annoying back in the 90s, and it’s perhaps even more annoying now. Interestingly, for a band with a lot of hits, they tend to focus more on material from the rather edgier first album, with ‘Info Freako’ being a clear set highlight.

DSC_0261

Jesus Jones

There’s some grand JG Thirlwell-style style dramatic orchestral ambient cross played over the PA between bands, and with lights moving a curtain suspended from the incredibly high ceiling, the sense of theatre, and of occasion, are considerable, not least of all the nod to the band’s legendary ‘Wake’ performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1985. Tonight, the curtain comes down rather than up to reveal the band in positions, from which they step forward and positively burst into ‘But Genevieve’. It’s immediately apparent that the three of them have been itching to get out to do this, and the rare level of energy Eldritch had shown on the last tour, just days before lockdown in March 2020 is exceeded here. Effusing welcomes and greetings with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s uncharacteristic to say the least, but it’s a joyous reunion that’s massively appreciated by the gathered crowd, which spans a notable demographic, including a lot of people, both male and female, who were probably barely born around the time of the twentieth anniversary show, let alone the tenth. And why not? For all the ‘goth’ copyists who’ve emerged through the years, there is only one Sisters.

They’re straight into ‘Ribbons’, and it’s stonking, delivered with real zeal, before steaming into a full-throttle ‘Crash and Burn’, which has long been a standout among the post-studio year. If tonight’s set list is remarkably similar to that of the Leeds show last year, it’s hard to find fault in the song selection: there will always be songs that would have bene nice to hear – ‘Better Reptile’, for example, or, indeed anything from the Reptile House EP, but you have to hand it to The Sisters for remaining true to their lack of compromise. Any other band with their catalogue would have dug up ‘Body Electric’ and more earlier songs for a truly career-spanning set to mark the occasion. But that simply isn’t how they work. Deal with it, or don’t.

DSC_0278DSC_0288

The Sisters of Mercy

Being the first night, a few minor slips were probably to be expected – there were missed cues for both guitarists, wrong chords and wrong lyrics, but these were all part of the buzz: for so many years, The Sisters have been accused of going through the motions or otherwise playing safe. Tonight, they’re giving it everything and more. That it’s not always pitch-perfect is part of the appeal, and reminds of the Sisters of old, with a particularly interesting / old style vocal performance on ‘No Time to Cry’, a song Eldritch has always seemed to struggle with by writing lyrical lines too long without a pause for breath. He does, however, manage occasional sups from a bottle of something that most certainly isn’t water between songs and sometimes verses, and this seems to keep him buoyant and energised.

After blasting through strong renditions of ‘Alice, ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ and a brooding ‘Show Me’, Andrew gets to take a break – and no doubt have a quick fag – while the guitarists get to play rock gods and race about the stage as they showcase a new instrumental.

‘Marian’ and ‘First and Last and Always’ are dispatched at pace, before Dylan switches to acoustic guitar for ‘Black Sail’. ‘When I’m ready, motherfucker!’ Eldritch admonishes him as he strikes the first chords prematurely, but it’s good-natured banter, and it’s a strong rendition. I’m vaguely amused by the prospect that this was written while Eldritch was loafing around watching Netflix’s airing of the raunchy pirate series prequel to Treasure Island. Heave away, indeed. It’s followed by a personal favourite of mine, ‘I Was Wrong’. Eldritch was always a deft lyricist, and ‘I can love my fellow man / but I’m damned if I’ll love yours’ is a classic.

DSC_0275

The Sisters of Mercy

It paves the way for a truly searing rendition of ‘Flood II’, with ben Christo’s guitar blistering and burning from the very first howls of feedback, and Eldritch again finds his full voice. He may not hit all the right notes on a technical level, but is unquestionably at his best when he just fucking goes for it and sings up instead of mumbling and growling. So, to be clear to the detractors: missed notes and off-key but performed with passion beats grumbling low in the mix while trying to hold the tune. That said, his voice sounds stronger now than at any point on the last decade or more, and it seems fair to say the Sisters aren’t done yet.

After the first encore of a mesmerising ‘Neverland (A Fragment)’ and the throwaway, truncated ‘Lucretia’, I’m forced to skip for a train back to York, missing the second encore – but I’ve left happy. We can’t realistically expect as fiftieth anniversary show, but for the time being, it’s a joy to see The Sisters of Mercy emerging from lockdown energised and sounding solid.

Christopher Nosnibor

The return of live music remains on a balance beam of managing finances and staff / punter safety, especially in terms of what people are comfortable with. Every gig, therefore, is a gamble, and tonight’s is no exception: for while The Fulford Arms had spent lockdown not only working on making nots own space as safe and accommodating as possible, as well as campaigning hard for other local venues and live music in general, they’ve used the time to make improvements that had been longer-term plans, they still face the challenge of bringing punters in.

Tonight’s event benefits from a Lottery-funded two for one offer on tickets, which has encouraged a respectable showing for a wet Thursday night. It’s all good, but PINS have been struck by (non-Covid) illness and are two members down, and so are playing a stripped-back set as a foursome without a drummer. But they’re troopers, and so the show goes on, and Tides walk on to crashing waves and crystalline ambience, before launching into a set of jangly, melodic indie with a distinctly late 80s / early 90s vibe. The foursome are young, and while not especially outgoing in their performance, play with an assurance that comes across well, and they’re tight and solid, but still with much to learn.

They land the slowie early, with the emotive ‘You’ being third in an eight-song set. Revelling in their poppier leanings is a cover of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’, and it’s well-played, but bland, although well-received by their friends down the front. But two covers in such a short set isn’t best form: either they’re yet to accumulate enough original material or lack the confidence in what they have, but the less said about their competent but characterless rendition of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ the better, as well as the sixth-form handbag dancing it inspired. They feel like a band who haven’t fully decided their identity yet, swinging between a slick contemporary pop and more of a female-fronted Smiths or Wedding Present. Given time, they’ll hopefully figure out how to combine the two, but in the meantime, they prove to be a fun and competent support act.

DSC_0219

Tides

PINS are one of those bands I feel I should know but simply haven’t got to for various reasons, and so I won’t claim in any sense to know the tracks from their three albums – but the strength of any band is to deliver a set than has the capacity to not only please established fans, but to convert new ones from among an impartial crowd.

Admittedly, I took little convincing: the first song of the set lifts a 3-note motorik looping bass groove from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they hold that insistent repetition into the second. It’s an instant grab. It actually sounds a bit like 90s indie / shoegaze / goth act Sunshot, who I revisited just the other week. It’s certainly no criticism, so much as an indicator of their post-punk/ shoegaze / crossover sound, propelled by sparse percussion with a vintage drum-machine sound. Landing in at the third track in the set ‘Bad Girls Forever’ brings a country / gospel vibe to the thumping new wave sound that’s counterbalanced by an abundance of electropop sass, while ‘Ponytail’ sashays and swishes through an easy pop that carries a sentiment of girl power 2020s style. They do political, too, with the stomping ‘serve the Rich’ snapping and sneering over a thumping bass groove.

DSC_0229

PINS

In terms of performance, PINS are the epitome of cool, with Faith Verne’s oversized shades positively screaming ‘pop icon’ and Lois MacDonald guitarist affecting the best bored face as she treads on the spot throughout the set.

DSC_0222

PINS

If the sound itself is a well-realised take on preexisting forms, it’s the multi layered vocals that really make PINS stand out here, and it all makes for an engaging show. The women who’d spent the set dancing down the front were up on stage for the final song, and there sense of togetherness was palpable. If any reminder was needed that there really is nothing like live music to nourish the soul, then PINS provided it here tonight.

Live music is back. People are rejoicing. Coming together and feeling the togetherness, the community, the connection has been so sorely missed by many, and for reasons far beyond the industry itself. It’s a way of life and an integral social agent. But it’s clear that coming out of lockdown and navigating the lifting of restrictions is not going to be a quick or easy process: whereas lockdown hit hard and fast, coming out – or, indeed, going out – feels like venturing into unknown territory. Anyone who talks of this being society ‘getting back to normal’ has either forgotten what normal was like before, or is simply trying to convince themselves that we’re anywhere near because it’s preferable to facing the reality. Is this the ‘new normal’ that was mooted back in the strong and summer of 2020?

It’s clear upon arrival that many of us are varying shades of apprehension and social and musical rustiness, and I will admit here a heightened anxiety over making my first journey by train in over a year, ahead of my first outing as a solo performer. Arriving at a familiar venue comes as a relief, but there are numerous elements of unfamiliarity: signs about the venue about the wearing of masks, the bar behind Perspex, and having to show proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours on arrival all combine to present a scene straight out of a movie or series set in a dystopian future – only, it’s not the future, it’s now, and this is real. Plenty find comfort and security ion these measures, but as the messaging has shifted from ‘beating’ the ‘invisible enemy’ to ‘living with covid’, then the question of this being the forever future is a difficult one, as it certainly feels as if something has been lost in the eighteen months since we last had ‘proper’ gigs.

Tonight’s event was also operating on a reduced capacity, but as it transpired, it was far from packed making social distancing no issue, and one suspects that while so many have lamented the absence of live music for so long, fear continues to keep them away.

The joy of EMOM night anywhere in the country is their sense of inclusivity, a broad church for outsiders from a vast array of genres, and the premise is straightforward – short slots, one act setting up while the one before plays, keeping the music going more or less continuously through the evening, and tonight’s brought the eclecticism in spades.

How to Use this Manual was up first. The style is gentle, textured instrumental with nice beats, by turns easy and sturdy, with a dash of funk in the mix. It’s easy on the ear, and deftly executed, and there really isn’t anything to fault here. These nights never fail to amaze with the sheer quality of music and clear talent of the performers.

DSC_0082

How to Use this Manual

There’s always one who has to be difficult, of course, someone who disrupts the flow and uses the tools and forces for dark ends. I think my set went well enough. It was short and harsh, as intended. My head was swimming, I couldn’t see the screen of my notebook clearly and I may have fluffed few lines of lyrics, but no-one died, not even me. I think there was even some applause at the end, which may have been appreciation or relief. Certainly, the latter for me was immense.

The spectrum of electronic-based music never fails to yield new and unexpected permutations, and Chaos Lol spans an immense spectrum, and is rare in the way vocals are such a prominent feature of the set – a set that starts out black metal then gets symphonic and beyond. It’s an unusual hybrid of sounds. Heavily echoed vocals are enmeshed in a swathe of sound and are paired with some bulbous beats that venture into drum ‘n’ bass territory in places. It’s hard to form an opinion or decide whether one actually likes it or not, because it’s like being slapped around the face repeatedly and in quick succession, and you simply have no time to compute. But there are no two ways about it: this is technically accomplished, ambitious, audacious, and gutsy. Kudos.

DSC_0085

Chaos lol

Quiet Fire, aka organiser Joe Kemp, who’s up next, treated us to more mellow, more conventional instrumental with electro vibes, pleasant but undemanding – which is probably what everyone was ready for after the last couple of acts. His sound is softer, leaning toward the accessible, bouncier side of electronica – not quite dance, but danceable, and unquestionably with mass-market potential.

Flaves proves to be the evening’s greatest revelation. This guy has got some serious chops, and brings freeform dubby hip-hop using the most minimal setup of the night – literally an iPad. And it’s sparse but seriously banging. There’s a lot of detail and depth to the arrangements, and a lot of seriously heavy bass. The final track of the set is dark and noisy, borderline industrial, and it’s an absolute killer.

DSC_0089

Flaves

I’d chatted to Matt Wilson earlier in the evening as he’d lugged his suitcase of children’s toys and assorted random kit into the venue, and is so often the case, the nicest, most down to earth people make some of the weirdest, most demented music. Using a sackful of educational toys and the like, he gets down to whacking out some mental circuit bending noise was utterly brain-bending. Circle! Square! Yap! Yap! A primitive drum machine thumps out a simple beat, and it all harks back to the sound of early 80s samplism and tape looping. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up in impact.

DSC_0090

Matt Wilson

It was around this point I came to realise I can only take so much impact, and having performed myself I was fully out of steam and hit my limit, mentally. While hearing music is usually my priority at the exclusion of all else, I caught up in the bar with a friend I’d not seen since February 2020. Ordinarily, I’d feel guilty or even skip posting a half review, but then I remember – since it’s impossible to represent everyone’s experience, the job it to ultimately document mine. I can aim to be objective, but criticism can only be so balanced, and perhaps my job is to more document what I see as I see it in the moment. So here we are. And if live music is about music, it’s also about connecting with friends. Maybe this, then, is how we will find our way back to normal. Meanwhile, we all just continue to fumble our own individual ways.

Christopher Nosnibor

Having established the FEAST nights as a coming-together of noise and experimental artists during lockdown, burgeoning label NIM BRUT has expanded its remit for this fifth event, with a live show in front of a live audience in Derby on August 1st, and streaming the performances alongside contributions from those who were unable to make it to play live for tonight’s online stream – making this something of a hybrid gig, especially as the event also doubles as a listening party for the release of Zero Gap’s eponymous debut. A collaboration between Ryosuke Kiyasu (the ‘Japanese snare drum guy’) and (James) Watts, growler for Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife, and most of the other gnarly acts circulating the Newcastle scene, it’s out at the end of the month, and segments from the album got spun between acts.

Walking in (virtually), I’m assailed by a whole load of messy noise that bleeds into some disorientating ambience. This, of course, is very much designed to set the mood, and in no time, Lost Music Library are pumping out spurts of mustard gas ambience, accompanied by oddly animated and eerie images shot in a children’s playpark. With no children (for probably obvious reasons) the scenes take on an uncanny aspect, with empty swings swinging, while randomly struck xylophone notes plink and plonk in a childlike fashion. It’s inexplicably moving as slow-drawn strings taper down through the emptiness. It feels like something is wrong, something has been lost. It feels apocalyptic, but also rather close to home and the scenes of the last year or so. At the end, everything blurs and fades.

The collaborative set between Thurmond Grey and Aged is an interesting dark hip-hop effort that harks back to the turn of the millennium, but with the steady beats and keyed-up rapping duelling with some grating electronic noise. The vibe is very much ‘in the moment’, and first take – which works well, as it adds to the ‘live’ feel. Grey’s vocals at times sound like mark E Smith, and not everything is completely finished, and that’s ok: like the BBC radio sessions in the 80s, this is an ideal platform to test material out to a select audience.

Thurmond Grey

Thurmond Grey

OMNIBAEL have been using these sessions to evolve their sound. Tonight’s effort is a gnarly whorl of abrasion: Kester’s vocals are mangled by a rack of effects against a grinding tumult of nasty synth abrasion, and it hurts – so much anguish, so much pain – so much noise, so much Throbbing Gristle. When the guitar enters the mix, things reach a whole new level of punishing overload, and the volume is absolutely fucking brutal.

OMNIBAEL 3

OMNIBAEL

Leeds-based noisecore duo Rejection Ops, who’ve recently (lathe) cut a 10” with Territorial Gobbings were there on the night a week ago. With guitarist / synth player / shouter Colin Sutton wearing a wedding dress and veil – and finished off with a head torch, they’re quite a sight, and the duo’s frenetic grindy noise is simply explosive from the first bar. It’s a relentless barrage from beginning to end, and with the addition of electronics, this set is all about the noise. It hurts: there’s no form, no obvious structure, but a relentless assault driven by a nonstop drum attack. It’s free noise in full effect, and it’s not for wimps. And it builds to a sustained crescendo that’s pure tinnitus.

Rejection Ops 5

Rejection Ops

So where do you from there? To some harsh noise dialled in by a couple of clowns operating as …(something) ruined, of course. It’s impossible for me to review this objectively, but suffice it to say we were pretty happy with the latest instalment of anti-corporate power electronics that looks like featuring on an EP pretty soon, and those present seemed to dig it.

SR2

…(something) ruined

Neuro… No Neuro present a short, shifting wave of glitchronic ambience, before six-piece This Sun No More packed onto the tiny venue stage and slugged their guts out with a set of riff-slinging post-metal: expansive, textured, they really flex some muscle. The structures are tight, well-arranged, and well-executed. When they hit a crescendo, they really kick, and there are – occasionally – some howling vocals half-buried beneath the tempest. They may be very much school of 2004-2006 in nature, but they hold up in comparison to masters of the genre like Pelican. Live, they’re tight and super-solid, and they look like a band to see in the flesh.

Neuro

Neuro… No Neuro

Aged’s solo set in unnerving because it’s is so literally in your face: Nate Holdren’s bearded visage looms and while the drones and hums trickle and trail. He can be seen talking to himself, stroking his beard, immersed in either making of the sound… but as a work of droning ambience, it’s a solid one.

It’s a truly packed bill, and Error Control, – performing live from the venue – wearing a blindfold, delivers a set that, predictably, hurts. It’s a lot of mangled noise. And more than being ‘just’ noise, it’s bursts of noise. This somehow accentuates the impact, the harshness, and man, it’s fucking ugly. But it’s also ace. Blackcloudsummoner makes some dark noise accompanied by some eye-bleeding, brain popping visuals,

Gobbing

Blackcloudummoner

Headlining, Territorial Gobbing is mental as ever, as you’d expect from a guy who’s performed sets from bouncing a basketball and playing a cabinet he’d liberated from a skip on the way to the venue one time. Theo Gowans is truly the king of noise improv: he will render sound from quite literally any object, and will select that object on a whim. Clatters and clumps, bumps and wails, his is a world of off the wall mental shit, and the only thing you can predict it that it’ll be unpredictable and bewildering.

It all adds up to another great night of ultra-niche obscure noise: the amalgamation of life and dialled-in works well, and could well be a format that will be the shape of things for a good few months yet. It’s good to see things evolving in keeping with shifting rules and attitudes, and this is certainly an event that continues to accommodate all. Here’s looking forward to the next one.

Christopher Nosnibor

And here it is: live music, as it was. Not seated, no tables, so no table service. Too soon? No. Certainly not. So many have been affected in so many ways by the closure of venues and the suspension of live music, and while we all get the why, questions remain over why so many other ‘crowded’ places were allowed to reopen before pubs and gig venues. But those aren’t questions for now: we’re here, and The Fulford Arms is a venue I’ve long considered a home from home, and not just because it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home house.

During lockdown, proprietor Christopher Sherrington has poured all of his energy into campaigning for grass roots venues, and not just for the benefit of his own holding, but nationally, as well as working to support other venues in York and Leeds, creating the sense of a network of venues, instead of their being in competition with one another. This has been quite a revelation in a sense, although the sense of community among gig-goers has long been strong.

The last ‘proper’ live show I attended, on 14 March 2020 felt plain fucking weird, like the end of the world. On that landmark night, where hand sanitiser in the door was a new and strange thing, and bar staff worse surgical gloves to pull pints, Soma Crew were on the bill, so making them my first ‘normal’ gig back felt somehow significant on a personal level.

Some things are different – the box office being outside, the signs encouraging mask-wearing, the now-standard sanitisation gel, the bar behind Perspex, the removal of all furniture to create more space for the audience, which is at 70% capacity max to allow maximum space, the opening of doors to ventilate between acts – but overall, it feels the closest to normal I’ve seen anything since I can’t quite remember when.

Playing minimal music in low lighting, John Tuffen’s Namke Communications set has a subtle start – so subtle a lot of people don’t even realise he has started, but they’re gradually drawn in as he builds the set, a single, continuous piece of gentle krautrock tinged electro improv work that sits comfortably alongside Kraftwerk, worriedaboutsatan, and Pie Corner Audio.

DSCPDC_0001_BURST20210730200241788_COVER

Namke Communications

Tremulous Monk – the current musical vehicle for Christopher J Wilkinson, who’s previously worked as Dead Bird and was a member of psychedelic shoegaze droners Falling Spikes – offers another shade of electronic music. His is altogether song-based, serving up some mellow retro minimal electropop. The last song has a sort of Inspiral Carpets vibe, with a dash of psychedelia in the blend.

DSC_0876

Tremulous Monk

It would appear that that last time I caught Black Lagoons was back in the summer of 2017, when I remarked that the band – at the bottom of the bill – were headline standard. Seems they’ve just continued to get better in the time since, too, although if they’ve matured they’ve certainly not mellowed. The gritty blues-based sound has evolved into a kind of grainy Country/grunge crossover with snaking, twangy reverb-heavy guitar driven by a stonking bass and crashing drums. Bringing on the sax, the frenetic attack is more Gallon Drunk than Psychedelic Furs, and it sure as hell ain’t jazz. The set just builds and builds to a blistering, sweaty climax and a slow blues post-climax that winds down to the finish. And a hat makes for a great silhouette against a smoky backdrop, making for memorable visuals to accompany a memorable sound.

DSC_0881DSCPDC_0001_BURST20210730214640246

Black Lagoons

And so it is for Soma Crew to do their thing. And thing about Soma Crew is that whoever’s in the lineup, whether they speed things up or slow things down, they always sounds like Soma Crew. This is a good thing: they’re like The Fall or The Melvins of psychedelic drone. Christopher J Wilkinson, is filling in on drums tonight, for part two of Soma Crew’s album launch for Out Of Darkness / Into Light (which makes sense since the new album is really two albums). He provides a suitable no-frills motoric style of drumming that suits the band perfectly.

DSCPDC_0003_BURST20210730223903386_COVER

Soma Crew

It starts with a blast of off-kilter guitar noise in a soupy sonic haze, and the set is vintage Soma Crew – at times a bit loose, a bit off-key, a shade ramshackle, but perfectly in keeping with the slacker / stoner vibe of their slow-twisting psychedelic drone. Besides, it’s a dependable fact that once they find a groove, they absolutely nail it, and merrily plug away at it for four or five or six minutes, three chords, no drum fills, no wanking around, just 12-bar blues and a massive fuck-off rack of effects. And it works every time. Elsewhere, they build layers incrementally while plugging away at a single chord… Which also works a treat with their execution. We got what we came for.

A whole bunch of people – mostly women, and Black Lagoons – properly got down at the front during the encore, and the looks of enjoyment were a joy to witness. We’ve missed live music, and it’s so, so good to be back.