Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Words: Christopher Nosnibor

Pics: Chris Power

Sometimes, the everyday and the ordinary are just so difficult to navigate. Stuff that the majority of the time is just what you do becomes suddenly too much. For some, it’s going to work; others, it’s worse even than that, like leaving the house to go to the corner shop. We all have our limits, and they can change unexpectedly, and seemingly inexplicably. For me, the onset of darkness as the clocks changing hurls us into the late autumn / winter spell does it every time and the urge to hibernate or hang myself becomes stronger than the enthusiasm for going out and watching live music.

Sometimes, it’s easier to crawl out to someplace where you know you won’t be known, so it’s possible to concentrate on the music and not have to deal with conversation. But sometimes, there has to be an end to avoidance, and the only way forward is to do the thing, however hard. There’s no snapping out of it, no flicking a virtual or metaphorical switch. There is no one single means of dealing. For me, it’s about a self-created nudge. Because no amount of external nudging has any effect – although, arguably, Hogwash was a successful external nudge here.

Wharf Chambers is one of those places that doesn’t make a twitchy, lone drinker feel awkward, and the vibe is never anything but welcoming and inclusive. This matters, a lot: I don’t feel like anyone thinks I’m a weirdo or inadequate when I fumble around with change, or as I sit in a corner with a pint to read – Lee Rourke’s Vulgar Things – and do the constant phone-checking thing that’s become habitual, by candlelight while waiting for doors.

So why am I here? Well, the Facebook event suggests folk may be ‘baffled and/or enticed by’ the eclectic lineup, consisting of Claus Poulsen // Stuart Chalmers, Eskimoomin, Two’s Company, and Inhuman Resources. I’m here for the music. Also, people: much as I feel a compulsion to avoid them, there’s a comfort in knowing there will be people there that you know, who are there for the same reasons.

The latter is up first, and it’s another of the infinitely-numerous project by event organiser and master purveyor of weird random noise, Dave Procter. Playing in a Parka with the hood up, he churns out a wall of blistering electronic noise that gets louder and more brain-melting as the set progresses. Reminiscent of Whitehouse without the vocals, here’s some classic power posing happening behind the trestle table laden with gear, and it’s a quality example of contemporary power electronics, with a self-awareness that carries an ironic twist in the posturing. Oddly, I find this all a source of immense joy: I find myself relaxing, and smiling to myself. This is exactly what I came for, and this is why live music is a holistic form of therapy: it offers escape, external stimuli suggesting routes inwards to explore and also let go of things.

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Inhuman Resources

Eskimoomin play warped synth pop. She plays synths and sings. He dances like Bez, wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt with some kind of shark design and meerkat mask or something. It’s brilliantly bizarre, visually and sonically, and as quirky as fuck, but also accessible with some pumping beats. Bewildering, baffling, a but wrong, but also a whole lot of fun. The world needs more artists who give this much effort and this little of a shit what you think of it.

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Eskimoomin

Claus Poulsen and Stuart Chalmers do what I might reasonably describe – according to what I’ve tapped in onto my phone – as ‘some kind of Eastern / pan pipe percussive string-scraping shit. Bow against the side of a table. Clattering percussion gives way to trilling organ tones’. It’s immersive, although I suspect it’s the beer rather than the music that’s proving soporific. The pair work their respective segments of kit intuitively and coordinatedly, and it’ a pleasure to watch.

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Claus Poulsen and Stuart Chalmers

Headliners Two’s Company deliver fractured, droning noise, and I’m way in the wash of atmosphere. Nothing seems entirely real right now, and I like it like that. I’m, primarily in the moment but if my sketchy notes are to be believed, the ‘synth guy in coat has William Bennett trappings, while guy sitting down has lounging cunt all over. Beat-heavy electro with a hard and challenging edge’. I could, and maybe should, expand on that, and attempt to convey the real, lived experience. But ultimately, you had to be there to fully experience the physical and psychological effects of their textured soundscapes in a darkened room. And being there next time is a must.

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Two’s Company

Christopher Nosnibor

Some bands, you only dream of seeing. Others, not even that: the possibility doesn’t even exist as a bubble of thought, for one reason or another. As one of the most wilfully obscure acts to emerge from the early 90s scene, Trumans Water have forever existed in the latter category.

After achieving a certain cult cred in the music press with their first three releases after John Peel went ape over their debut, Of Thick Tum, which he played in full in release in 1992, they seemed to deliberately sidestep the limelight with the series of improvised Godspeed albums on minor labels, and after departing Homestead after 1995’s Milktrain to Paydirt album, they more or less seemed to vanish into the underground of their own volition. There’s a certain logic to this: their last album was released nine years ago on Asthmatic Kitty Records, and probably sold about as many cops as my last book., even though Drowned in Sound were nice about it. And so they’re playing at Wharf Chambers in Leeds, which has a capacity of maybe 100 while they tour for the first time in ages to support nothing as far as I can tell. It all seems quite fitting.

It’s a killer lineup, too.

Husband and wife duo Pifco crank out noise that’s pure Dragnet era Fall, and they’ve got the 3R’s (that’s Repetition, Repetition, Repetition) nailed, with dissonance and scratchy guitar clanging over motorik but hectic drumming .

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Pifco

This is the third time I’ve seen Bilge Pump this year after the Leeds legends returned to the fray after some time out. They haven’t been anything less than outstanding on the previous occasions, and it’s a record they maintain tonight. It’s no their first time supporting Trumans Water, and they’re very much a complimentary act that sit between the cyclical repetitions of Pifco and the jarring angularity of the headliners. They also play hard – guitarist Joe’s shirt is saturated by the time the set’s done – and they’re also an absolute joy to watch, a cohesive unit firing on all cylinders.

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Bilge Pump

Trumans Water are also tight and cohesive – remarkably so, in fact. But they hide it well, sounding like they’re completely out of tune and out of key and often playing three different songs at the same time. Some of that’s down to the simultaneous vocals that don’t exactly combine to create conventional harmonies, while a lot of it’s also due to the unusual guitar style: I’m not sure of half the chords are obscure or made-up, but every bar conjures a skewed dissonance. But they are tight: the constant changes in tempo and off-the-wall song structures are brain-melting, and how they not only shift instantaneously, but play an hour-long set of sprawling freeform angularity without a set-list is remarkable.

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Trumans Water

Trumans Water have never really sounded like anyone else. Pavement comparisons don’t really cut it on close inspection: whereas Pavement were genuinely slopping in their playing early on, Trumans Water would probably align more closely to freeform jazz and Beefheart at his oddest.

It’s a riotous blur of jolting, shouty, brain-melting racket that runs into one massive sprawl of crazed anti-music. And it’s an absolute joy.

Christopher Nosnibor

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Helmet are playing thirty-song sets in thirty cities. It feels like an immense privilege that Leeds is one of them, and the fact it’s the 150-capacity Key Club even more so. With only ten tickets remaining for sale on the door, for a cult band who’ve only released two albums in the last decade, they’ve retained a hardcore following, not all of who, are old buggers.

With no support act, they take the stage at eight sharp, and immediately start with the riffs. Not a word at the start, nor between songs for the first half dozen at least. Instead, it’s all about the riffs.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The extended freeform solos drift into the background while the rhythm section thunder on relentlessly: the floor-shaking, gut-churning bass, the rhythm guitar that blasts out concrete slabs of noise.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The blunt, bludgeoning weight of thick, stop/start chunks of noise that became the defining feature of Nu-Metal are Helmet’s staple, but they did it first and did it best. Helmet were also one of the first off-the-street jeans ‘n’ T-shirt bands, and Beavis and Butthead were on the money when they observed that “That drummer looks like a regular guy,” and “If you, like, saw these guys on the street, you wouldn’t even know they were cool.” And yes, they are cool. Seriously cool. Their influence clearly extends far, far beyond their fanbase and commercial reach, which peaked in the early ‘90s. But being cool is also about pushing on, and Helmet’s achieving radio play and MTV exposure around this time was a matter of coincidental timing rather than strategized mass appeal.

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There’s no messing, no posturing: Page regales us with an amusing anecdote about being rehearsing in a space next to Buck Cherry, who commented on the fact the band load their own gear, and who they heard rehearsing their between-song banter. But I never mentioned that. It’s one of only a few moments of chat we get but what’s keenly apparent is that these are nice guys, with no pretence or rock-star delusions, and with their major-label years long behind them, no industry bullshit surrounding them.

They play songs in small venues.

They play hard.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Song number thirty is ‘In The Meantime’. It’s blistering. But then, so were the preceding twenty-nine songs.

And long may they continue to knock out the riffs.