Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

Soupy exotica that calls to mind William Burroughs’ descriptions of Tangiers winds slowly from the speakers as people filter in, greeting one another in the chat section and the visuals alternate between the event poster and the running order. There’s something quite distinctive about Theo Gowans’ events, and he’s done an amazing job of recreating the vibe of Leeds DIY venue CHUNK on-line. A lot of it’s the culture and the people, of course, and CHUNK’s ethos of accommodating and encouraging the most far-out and fringe makers of music (while having a clear stance against fascists and bigots) is nurturing and community-spirited.

I’m oddly nervous: this will be …(something) ruined’s first on-line airing, and while I’m sort of comfortable shouting at people against a backdrop of extremely loud noise in person, knowing that we’re going to unleash probably our harshest, most experimental piece to date is an unknown.

In an attempt to better replicate the pre-gig experience, I’ve drawn the blind and cracked open a can of 8.5% Belgian lager – a kind of tradition developed when …(something) ruined took to the road (albeit briefly) in February. I manage not to pace the room anxiously, though, which is probably for the best, although it does mean I’m not working toward my daily 6,000 step target.

It’s a prompt start, and BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER pile in hard and strong with shuddering, juddering crackles and blasts of noise that shard from atop a booming, rolling bass. It’s apparently a saxophone, but fucked about with to be a potent, disorientating noise assault, building later upon later of interlooping shrieks of nail-scraping shrillness as the piece progresses. It’s rendered all the more tension-inducing by the cyclical visual consisting of just three rolling gifs. In a gig setting, this by way of an opener would clear the room before it even filled up: in the event, viewers steadily increase… 29… 34… 36…

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Ordinarily, that would be an act you’d not want to follow, but Expose Your Eyes up the noise stakes with thumping percussion and buzzsaw churning electronic noise, some heavy synthy drones with serrated edges bristling all over, intercut with murky pulsations and looped snippets of dialogue. The accompanying videos appear to be clips shot at random while out and about, with the lighting adjusted for maximum dramatic effect, giving the whole thing a horror movie suspense vibe. Only much, much noisier.

The change in style that Labas Krabas being is welcome: the Newcastle duo deliver otherworldly vocal warbling accompanied by disjointed double bass, and we get to watch them perform, albeit with blocky, buffering movement. Said warbling builds to crazed, banshee wailing and shrieking. It is, however, a long set, and it’s perhaps because of its force that it becomes draining some time before the end.

There isn’t a lot to THF Drenching’s set: the beardy avant-gardist shows various artworks close to the camera against an audio backdrop of trilling, twittering and occasional toots, bells, and whistles.

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Carnivorous Plants Trio bring more fucked-up noise-churning double bass action, compacted into a claustrophobic space with experimental guitar sculptures and random percussion. The technique of slapping the bow against the strings produced some interesting sounds, while the guitar work is very much about texture rather than tune. The layered visuals, which place all three musicians in the same space but as ghostly forms, are interesting, and work well.

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Worship My Panther plunder deep drone, which is supplemented by footage of rabbits, mostly: rabbits hopping, fighting and being hunted by birds of prey. Sonically, it’s dark and ponderous and the contrasting visuals add a different dimension.

I can’t really review my own set, but it’s quick and brutal and Paul Tone’s noise and visual collaging feels like a creative success, and I read the silence in the chat comments as positive, like those present being stunned into silence instead of sending virtual missiles and ‘you’re shit’ comments our way. The Whining crowd may be respectful and nice, but they’d say if we were shit. YOL slammed in immediately after with a short sharp shock of a set that was seemingly a guy having a breakdown while straddling a bass drum. I have no real clue what it as about, but it was intense.

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Heavy Lifting’s real-time programming yields tone-shifting phased synth wave sounds reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the vocals. This is a good thing, because the vocals on most early Whitehouse releases were pretty corny, while blasts of distortion and feedback never get tired.

I kinda got distracted for a time in the aftermath of the …(s)r set: for some reason, people wanted to talk to me over various messenger services, but Swarm Front grabbed my attention with a politically-charged mash-up combining no-fi docu-drama and power electronics. Mashed loops played at hyperspeed stutter and whip in between more performance-based segments. The effect is somewhat bewildering, and at times, it’s hard to determine the sense of narrative.

Phil Minton is perhaps the noise equivalent of beatbox master Kevin Olusola, or at least an aspiring equivalent: his vocal gymnastics almost inevitably call to mind Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice recordings, as he replicated the sounds of howling wind, explosions and dark ambient rumbles with his lugs and larynx alone. And it’s pretty impressive.

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Finally, we get to see Mik Quantius do some JG Thirlwell-inspired growling and playing a keyboard with his feet and shake his jowls frantically in front of a mic. Some of it’s ok, some not so much, but the sound quality is pretty poor. And I’m weary and beery. And it feels very like a gig. Only, I’m not rushing for a train at 11pm and after 5 pints or more. Which is one positive over real gigs, I suppose…

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Christopher Nosnibor

Having declared Evi Vine’s last album ‘a masterpiece’ and vowed to watch her and her band live whenever the opportunity presented, this live stream seemed like the best opportunity I’d get for a while. Lockdown may be loosening, but the prospect of proper gigs seems a way off yet.

While a lot of live streams have simply been solo bedroom shows, or bands playing from separate Zoom screens, have had a certain novelty, I’ve simply found them uninteresting and not even a remove substitute for an actual concert. It begins with a stream of something ambient and an empty space: yes, actual build-up and anticipation.

What’s more, Evi performs with bandmember Steven Hill providing additional guitar, heavily layered in spectral shoegaze effects as a backdrop to her hypnotic Dylan Carlson-esque picking, creating a much fuller sound that’s a closer approximation to an actual show.

Playing in a bay window facing out onto a luscious garden, the sun descending behind and casting the duo in silhouette, and with white fairy lights drapes thick on her amp head, the appearance is somewhere between a conventional stage and a garden party.

The nature of the songs – here, often rearranged – means they’re well suited to this more minimal kind of performances, sans percussion, and Evi’s voice is always the focal point anyway and it drifts in washes of reverb-soaked guitar as if in a dream. Sound and volume to matter, and they’ve turned things up. Consequently, I actually find myself feeling something, something other than simply watching music on telly.

If the accompaniment of Loki the dog’s barking and my buffering broadband (which means I miss out on minutes at a time, even causing me to miss ‘Sabbath’ in its entirety…. ) are impendences of varying levels to the experience, then the slightly blurry camera and the fact Evi’s dialogue between songs is difficult to make out really aren’t, and remind of common real-life gig issues.

It’s a captivating set, and ‘In this Moment’ is truly magnificent as sculpted contrails quaver and taper like smoke. They even manage some lighting action for a solo instrumental from Steve, which is immense, and after a haunting, elegiac close, there’s an abstract ambient track playing while they retrieve the dogs from the garden and pack up. It’s an alternative version of stage-clearing while the audience thins and people mill about finishing their pints, but it’s somehow a fitting end to the show.

Vine

Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

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Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

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Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

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TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

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Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

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Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

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Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

The Crescent, York, 14th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It doesn’t seem real now. It was the night before everything changed, before everything changed again a couple of days later. While cancellations were accelerating, advice and clarity was sparse, and what constituted ‘the right thing’ was very much a matter for debate. The Crescent were very much doing ‘the right thing’ based on the advice: punters were steered to washing their hands on arrival at the venue: those without e-tickets advised to pay by contactless card, while also paying contactlessly at the bar, being served by staff in gloves, pints being served in cans or single-use plastic vessels. Social distancing wasn’t yet a specific thing, and there was scant information which suggested that in excess of 15 minutes in close proximity may increase the risk of transmission. We greeted with elbows and nods. In the main, we respected the guidelines.

I’d be interested to know how many of those who attended have subsequently fallen sick with Covid-19. Not all of us were in the ‘young’ demographic; none of us was being wilfully irresponsible. The virus has become divisive in the way that Brexit was: on social media, in particular, anyone leaving the house risks being subject to vilification, abuse, and even police interrogation. We now live in a climate of fear – an unprecedented climate of fear, dominated by an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’.

The middle of March: a mere month ago, but another lifetime. Gig attendances were already beginning to drop off sharply as the fear spread. And with everything amping up, there was a certain sense of occasion about this: I sense that many of use attended as much out of a sense of solidarity and support: solidarity and support for the bands, the venue, the local scene, and one another. And because we knew, if only subconsciously, that the opportunities to convene like this would be numbered. Gatherings like this are what keep communities together, and keep many of us sane. I’m elated to see numerus friends, including some I’ve not seen in far too long: we catch up about parenthood and our concern for our elderly parents under the creeping shadow of the virus. We drink beer, and we watch bands.

Viewer haven’t been out in a while, and apart from time down the pub, have almost been on a self-imposed isolation for I don’t know who long. I’m not even sure Tim Wright would notice a 12-week lockdown. But here he is, hunched over a laptop, cranking out beats and backings and migraine-inducing visual backdrops while AB Johnson – still suffering the effects of concussion and sporting a black eye and struggling to remember the lyrics after a recent accident involving his face and the pavement – pours every ounce of energy into his performance. They’re the primary reason I’m here, and given the quality of the songs, the visuals, and the people they’ve dragged out of the woodwork, every moment is a joy. Johnson’s lyric sheets are scattered around the stage and his difficult relationship with mic stands is evident tonight. But despite any shakes or glitches, they remain one of the most essential acts around, and just need for the world to catch up.

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Viewer

Soma Crew are showcasing (another) new lineup tonight, with a minimal drum set-up and lap steel dronage and slide bringing new dimensions to their deep psych chugging repetitions driven by varying between two or three guitars. My notes begin to descend into sketchy incoherence around this point, but the memory-jogging ‘RRR’ reminds me that they’re masters of the three ‘r’s – repetition, repetition, repletion, and they slug away at three chords for five or six minutes to mesmeric, hypnotic effect. It seems that every time I write about Soma Crew, I remark that they’re better every time I see them. And yet again, it’s true. They’re denser, more solid, more muscular, and tighter than ever, and on this outing they feel like a band who should be playing to way bigger crowds, capable of holding their own at the Brudenell or the Belgrave.

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Soma Crew

Leeds’ Long-Legged Creatures are new on me, and they impress, with a fluid bass and big washes of texture defining the sound. An eletro/post-rock/psych hybrid, they lay down some hypnotic grooves, and my sketchy, increasingly beer-addled notes remind me that their performance is frenetic, kinetic, with some strong – and complex – drum ‘n’ bass / jazz drumming driving the songs.

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Long Legged Creatures

Things take a major left-turn when some poet guy steps up to the mic and spews lines and rhymes like John Cooper Clarke on a cocktail of drugs. A spot of digging suggests he may be Joshua Zero, but I may be wrong. He’s a compelling presence, though: he’s wild, he’s crazed, and his staggering vitriolic attacks are in stark contrast to the coordinated post-rock jams of the band. It’s as exhilarating as it is unexpected. It’s great.

Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you were better avoiding it. But I’ve no regrets. I miss gigs, I miss pubs, I miss live music, and I miss people. At least my last experience of all of these was truly wonderful and encapsulated everything I love about this.

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having seen The Sisters countless times since their 1990 comeback at Wembley Arena, and despite their performances being spectacularly patchy (true also of their early years and even cult heyday up to ’85, if you believe the evidence of the bootlegs over the fans who were present but often under various influences) and often disappointing, I was still mega-revved to see the band that, when push comes to shove, will always rank as my favourite act of all time. I make no apologies for this.

The city’s half-deserted – which was also true of York on departure – even in rush hour in these COVID-19 paranoid times, but the O2 is packed with goths and lesser goths of all ages, shapes and sizes.

I’m here as a paying punter, and I’m here on my own, and manage to see almost none of the many people I’m connected with via social media who are also present as I hunker down in my usual spot in the front row by the speaker stack to the left as facing. I’m determined to guard it so fiercely, I adopt the resolve of the Birmingham NEC ‘92 gig: no beer, no nipping off for a pee. Pee trips can take 15 to 20 minutes in venues like this, and the beer is dismal and expensive, so screw that, although the three pints I had in a pub up the rad beforehand begin to press harder about halfway through the set.

Having not had much time to investigate beforehand, A. A. Williams is something of an unknown quantity beyond being a purveyor of ‘doom gospel’. Going on the presentation and first few bars, I was expecting her to be an addition to the bracket occupied by Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but as the set progresses, it’s apparent that Williams is less given to pushing the weightier end of things. She leads her band – a standard enough rock set-up with a second guitar alongside her own to fill out the sound and add depth and texture – through a proficient and suitably dark-hued set. But without any significant dynamics, sonically or in terms of performance, it all feels a little flat, samey, and contained, lacking in drama. I want MORE!

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A. A. Williams

The Sisters do give us ‘More’, and lots more besides, and while ‘More’ is reserved for a blistering hit-filled encore, the set packs plenty of bangers and more energy than we’ve seen in some time, elevating this well above what’s become something of a standard semi-obligatory exercise in merch-pedalling and showcasing a new song or two.

Having watched the latest new songs ‘Show Me’ and ‘Better Reptile’, aired on the mainland leg of the tour a few months ago, countless times already, to the extent that they’re both etched into my brain, am I keen to hear them for the first time properly? Hell yeah. But that doesn’t blunt either the anticipation or the thrill, and while there’s no ‘Better Reptile’ tonight, the buzz of a set that launches with a new song is cerebral and physical but not necessarily one ready articulable in words. After an atmospheric intro, ‘But Genevie’ slams in and is an instant classic, and better still, the mix is crisp and clear and Eldritch’s vocals aren’t only up in the mix, but he’s singing up with a vocal strength that’s not been displayed in far too long.

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The Sisters of Mercy

While he doesn’t sustain it throughout the entirety of the set, reverting to the subsonic grumbling, growling thing he’s become prone to over the last decade for many of the songs – and at times very much to their detriment – there are moments where he really does go all out, not least of all on an extended ‘Flood II’ that has to be up there with any performance since their return to the live circuit in 1990.

The standard of the new songs – with ‘Show Me’ being aired along with ‘I Will Call You’, ‘Black Sail’ and instrumental number ‘Kickline’ – is up there with the reinstated ‘rash and Burn’, and it’s elating to hear – although the elation is tempered by the eternal frustration of a continued lack of studio activity.

The vintage cuts – ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘No Time to Cry’, ‘Marian’ are played at breakneck speed, but instead of feeling throwaway or like they wanted to get them over with, as has been the case on some previous outings, they feel energised and urgent, and their brevity leaves room for an extended ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ in a hit-packed encore which saw the band really cutting loose with ‘More’, ‘Temple of Love’, and ‘Lucretia’ before wrapping up with ‘This Corrosion’.

After 18 songs performed by a band on renewed form, not to mention a rare showing of ‘I Was Wrong’ (a personal fave) we can probably forgive the absence of ‘Vision Thing’.

Writing this after the fact, in the knowledge that it proved to be the penultimate show of the tour only heightens the appreciation of the event. The later-day Sisters shows may be divisive in fan communities, and it’s a fact they can be variable, but this home outing proved that on a god night, the Sisters have still got it.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the work / life balance, right? That’s what I tell myself, and my colleagues, an anyone who will listen. The truth of maintaining a work/life balance often – at least in my experience – means killing yourself to meaningfully fulfil the life element. Because life isn’t about resting, it’s about doing the things that matter, pursuing your passion, not binging on Netflix. That isn’t life, that’s hiding from work, finding a mental space in which to escape and decompress. But no-one ever lay on their deathbed saying ‘I wish I’d watched more TV’. I haven’t watched a single episode of ‘Love Island’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘X Factor’ and am fairly confident my life isn’t in any way deficient because of it. Being a writer is more than tapping out a few jolly lines while sitting on the sofa watching a nice rom-com with the wife after the kids have serenely taken themselves to bed straight after dinner, and being in a gigging band, however infrequently you may gig, takes some serious effort, especially in addition to full-time dayjob and family commitments and all the rest.

And so I disembarked in York, where I live, after a two-day work trip to Norwich, and seven minutes later was on a train to Leeds. Some people are accustomed or otherwise adjust readily to travel: I’m not among them. People laugh at me when I use the term ‘train-lagged’, especially when in the context of a day-trip to Sheffield from York, but believe me, I feel it on a molecular level or something.

Another thing I’ve discovered recently is that reviewing and performing are very different disciplines, more so even than leading a meeting and taking minutes – which is pretty much what I’m attempting here.

Performing requires beer, and I had a couple on the train, and a couple more while grabbing some food and plotting a vague strategy for mayhem before going to set up. Unusually, we had a proper soundcheck, although I hate vocal soundchecks. As long as things work, I’m more concerned about volume and tonal impact than mix, given that what happens during the performance rarely resembles the soundcheck anyway, and the while white noise and shouting only works at speaker-shredding, tinnitus-inducing volume. You don’t need to hear the words, you just need to feel the force, ad anything less than freight-train impact falls short. We made noise. We nodded, retreated to the back with more beer.

The Truth About Frank’s set started unusually gently, with an ambience that wasn’t even particularly dark, before murk and muffled samples edge in. Before you know it, the PA is blaring a surging swell of beats and a wash of noise, oscillating washes of discoordinated sound layers meld with off-kilter techno. This is one of TTAF’s more structured-sounding sets, and it builds well and culminates in a fragmented flurry of fractured noise.

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The Truth About Frank

…(something) ruined crash-landed by happy accident, and once again, in the squall of brutal noise, I ruined myself. This simply seems to be how it is. This was probably our strongest and most brutal, tinnitus-inducing set yet. I told the sound guy during soundcheck that I wasn’t fussed if my vocals got buried in the barrage of noise, and unlike some, he respected that. There are fantastic audio and video recordings of the set: I’m barely audible for large portions, but Paul Tone is on absolute A1 peak form for brutal electronic noise, and the volume, it would seem, was pretty much excruciating. So I’m happy.

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…(something) ruined

My sketchy notes state that Black Alert play Tangerine Dreamy Krautrock with samples. It’s an evolutionary electro set that’s heavy on vintage synth and drum sounds, with the drums pumped up in the mix. It’s a nice contrast, and the emphasis on melody is welcome at this point in the evening.

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Black Alert

And then there’s Un Sacapuntas. The solo noise project of Alice Nancy, this performance – and it’s all about the performance – is something else. There’s a reason I prefer to play early, an acts like this are all the reasons why: you wouldn’t want to follow this. Alice is mesmerising and intense as she fastens a contact mic to her throat while unlacing her shoes. What follows is an intense and hypnotic show, both sonically and visually: burrs of treble and shrieks of feedback break through a dank rumble while she shrieks unintelligibly and wafts around the stage, a ghostly presence.

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Un Sacapuntas

It’s a superb end to a great night which is exemplary of the Hogwash experience: Dave Procter’s curation is both considered and intuitive, bringing together a road range of unusual non-rock acts from near and far. With a respectable and enthusiastic audience, Leeds underground scene is very much kicking.

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m here for the support. So much so, I’m here as a paying punter wearing a PIG T-Shirt. One of those bands who’ve existed on the fringes for over 30 years now, and have fared better in Japan and other territories than domestically, they’re an act which has evolved while retaining a unique and singular vision, with a particular slant on the whole ‘industrial’ thing. Raymond Watts may have taken his early cues from JG Thirlwell and KMFDM, and various collaborations have proven remarkably fruitful, but ultimately, PIG are special because their sound and style is possessed of a certain flair, an irony and self-awareness that’s atypical of the genre.

This is only their second UK tour since they supported Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in ’94, and I wonder how any people in the room can claim to have seen all three of their tours? Half the audience probably weren’t even born in 94, but for once, rather than bemoaning my age, I get to pity them for being born too late.

Having slung out a slew of new prime cuts in recent years, with a new covers album hot off the press and hot on the heels of Risen in 2018 and an attendant remix album and a Christmas EP last year, one would have been forgiven for some heavy pluggage, but tonight, PIG- featuring a lineup including the near-legendary En Esch on second guitar.

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PIG

After an opening salvo of recent material including ‘Mobocracy’, a grating thrashgrind of a number, they delve into the rich pickings of the band’s extensive back catalogue, dredging up the cabaret sleezegrindgroove of ‘Hot Hole’. ‘Find it, Fuck it, Forget it’ and ‘Painiac also get unexpected airings, and Watts is on magnificent form, a fluffy of fake fur and pelvic dynamism: it’s a small stage and he’s a tall man, but it’s his presence that fills every inch of the space as he works the room. ‘Pray Obey’ thunders in before they close with 1997 single cut ‘Prime Evil’. It’s far too short a set, but it packs some punch and slams some ham and that’ll do nicely.

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PIG

3Teeth are a band who’ve completely bypassed me before this tour was announced, which probably says more about how poorly I’ve kept abreast of the contemporary industrial scene than anything. They’re from the industrial metal strain that revels in the S&M aspect of the imagery (which explains all the leather jackets, fishnets, and mesh tops out tonight) and they push it hard, so hard that Alexis Mincolla’s presentation swings into the territory of camp machismo, and musically, they represent entire Wax Trax! catalogue compressed into one band. And perhaps that’s the issue and the reason I haven’t kept up to date: there doesn’t feel like any real progression has taken place in the last quarter of a century or so.

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3Teeth

They come out strong with gritty metallic riffs and hard rhythms. With a 5-strong bass and 7-string guitar setup, there’s a real density to the sound, and they’re all about the crisp chug, and they display no shortage of hooks.

What struck harder than the music was Mincolla’s observations on the proliferation of CCTV here in Britain is more pronounced even than back home Stateside. It’s a sobering thought that stays with me while they power through a solid set during with they showcase new additions to the live repertoire from last year’s Metawar in the form of ‘Sell Your Face 2.0’ and ‘Time Slave’ about the corporate grind. It’s relatable.

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3Teeth

Running close to the curfew, they manage to just squeeze an encore, Mincolla returning to the stage in a suit and red lizard mask for ‘President X’.

It may not be revolutionary, but it’s well executed and played with passion, and the audience reception is definitely deserved.

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds’ DIY scene is becoming increasingly adept at turning poky rehearsal spaces into gig venues: it makes sense from a funding perspective, but also means that while conventional scenes are struggling to stay open for various reasons (as often redevelopment as being squeezed financially) and new and niche acts are finding it increasingly difficult to get gigs, the Leeds scene is thriving and as diverse as ever.

I’ve previously sung the praises of rehearsal-room-turned venue CHUNK, and it’s Theo Gowans, who does a lot of the stuff there, who’s behind this evening’s show. Tonight, Mabgate Beach (or Madgate Beach, as the poster has it), tucked away in a corner of an industrial estate in an obscure corner of the city plays host to a brace of Newcastle noisemongers, supported by a brace of very different local supports.

I’d been forewarned that the room was small, but that’s something of an understatement.

Intimate isn’t even close.: it’s about the size of my living room, although it’s still probably a few feet bigger than The Hovel in York’s South Bank Social, which has a capacity of maybe 16. The drum kit and back-line fill most of the room, after which we manage to pack in maybe 20. And the lighting is as minimal as the space, only less consistent.

The Truth About Frank have been knocking around for over a decade now, and Alan Edwards’ sets don’t get any more mellow over time. Kicks off the bill with a riot of samples, the set comprises a single continuous improvised soundwerk, a jarring audio cut-up through which murky beats fade in and out through an ever-shifting collage of noise, creating what cut-up originator Brion Gysin would refer to as ‘a derangement of the senses’. Playing in near-darkness with a pencil beam of light emanating from the arm of his glasses to illuminate his minimal digital kit, Edwards’ stubby nicotine-stained fingers manipulate shapes on a touch screen and jab buttons, and with each prod and poke, more strange sounds emerge, and it’s brilliantly bewildering.

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The Truth About Frank

Things start to feel quite cramped when a full band with bass and two guitars play, and I’m less concerned about site lines for photographs than being smacked by the bassist’s headstock, meaning I’m happy to settle for the second row to observe Loro spin a set of mellow post-rock. It’s kinda standard circa 2004 fodder for the most part, but it’s nice, and with twists of mathiness and jazz without being indulgent.

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Loro

Penance Stare prove to be an absolute revelation. Their recent recordings are a hybrid of ethereal shoegaziness with black metal production values, and while those elements are very much present here, witnessing their colossal noise in such an enclosed space is an incredibly intense experience. There’s ferocious reverb on the vocals, and murky as fuck guitar duels with thunderous drumming. The duo explore some deep, dark atmospheres, too, and coupled with Esmé’s brutal anguished shriek, there are comparisons to both Amenra and early Cranes to be drawn here. Some of the soft instrumental segments are achingly beautiful and affecting, and are invariably obliterated by devastating distortion and howling agony. This is music that reaches deep inside and leaves one feeling somehow altered.

James Watts has more bands and projects than I have albums in my review pile, and having met him and performed alongside Lump Hammer in the summer, I was keen to see how things worked with a different slant and lineup, and an absence of knitted head/face garb. Whereas Lump Hammer ae sludgy and repetitive, Plague Rider mine a seam of pounding math metal, with Watts’ vocal veering between shrieking demonic and guttural taking a shit deep grunt. And what the fuck even is his two-string instrument with some kind of touchscreen attached? In the less-than—half-light, I’m struck by how much Watts resembles a young Alan Moore. It’s so dark, I can barely see the rest of the band to know what they look like, but they relentlessly kick out juggernaut riffs that hammer hard.

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Plague Rider

Technical difficulties struck 15 minutes in, with a power outage on the guitarist’s pedal board bringing a halt to the set, but after a brief intermission they resumed as loud and punishing as before, and then some.

In such a confined space, the effect is staggering: every beat, every chord, lands like a punch to the gut. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

Christopher Nosnibor

In what has been a difficult time for small venues – meaning it’s also been a difficult time for bands who aren’t massive to get gigs – The Fulford Arms in York has gone from strength to strength and while other venues have – sadly – come and gone in the city they’re not only still here, but have built an admirable reputation.

The fact it’s independent and well-run (that is to say professional but also wonderfully friendly), has great sound, and decent beer at the more affordable end of pub prices counts for a lot. That they cater to a remarkably broad range of audiences is another key: it’s easy to stick to tried-and-tested crowd-pleasers like tribute acts or be a ‘rock’ venue, but often to diminishing returns. It’s the only venue in the city you’ll find oddball electronic nights, big-name acts, local acoustic artists, and spoken word events in a single week. Their accommodating approach to new and unusual acts has made the place a real hub for the city’s music scene.

Tonight’s show marks the sixth anniversary of the venue being taken over by its current owners, Christopher Sherrington and Chris Tuke, and it’s very much a celebration of everything that makes The Fulford Arms a great venue. The lineup is very much focused on local acts, and celebrates the diversity of bands active in and around York right now.

Early doors, Miles. sees multi-instrumentalist Michael Donnelly follow the trajectory of his previous band, Epilogues, to a more minimal end. Oh stage, he’s a striking figure, with floppy fringe, specs, above-ankle trews: he’s an 80s/90s hybrid visually, but musically, his delicately-crafted songs are of no specific time, and are perhaps even worthy of being described as timeless. Subtle ambient drones and throbs provide depth to his understated picked acoustic guitar and magnificent soaring vocals on introspective, emotion-rich songs.

Miles

Miles.

Kids today! With their shit clothes and shit music, not like in my day… You hear it all the time, and not just from crotchety old bastards who remember when punk broke, or even slightly less old bastards who remember when grunge broke, but from people barely in their 30s. That may be true of the crap that gets played on the radio, but beyond the mainstream, we’re in a time where the guitars are getting louder, heavier, denser than ever. And REDFYRN go all out for loud, heavy, and dense, with a breathtaking juxtaposition of floating ethereal folky vocals and punishing sludgy/grunge riffs, with comparisons to Big | Brave and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard not being unjustified, although there’s also a more direct grunge-orientated aspect to their sound, which is more than straight stoner / doom / sludge and all the better for it. Apart from the bassist, they look pretty straight, especially the drummer, but looks are deceptive. They’re heavy and mega-riffy from the first chord, and when they announce the third song as being heavier, they’re not wrong: the bass positively barks and snarls its way through a grating grind of guitar before spinning into an extended blues jam by way of a midsection.

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REDFYRN

Percy don’t piss about. They’ve been at it long enough that they can pretty much plug ‘n’ play, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get from one of the most consistent bands on the circuit: workmanlike is by no means an insult in context of their Fall-influenced kitchen sink grouchfests. Does the delivery help or hinder? It’s probably appealing and offputting in equal measure – like they give a fuck. In so many ways, it’s business as usual for them: tight even when loose, scratchy guitars clang over busy rhythms as Andy Wiles, centre stage on bass throws all the Peter Hook poses. And they’ve got some cracking tunes: in fact, the current set is bursting with them, and it’s apparent that something has changed in the Percy camp of late, and they’re producing the best songs of their career right now. They really step up the intensity on the Fall-does-dance Middle Class Revolt style ‘Rubbernecking in the UK’ followed by the fiery politicking ‘Will of the People’, which ends in a squeal of feedback. They seem more energised than at any point in the last 20 years, and this is probably the best I’ve seen them in all the years since I first caught them back in 97 or 98.

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Percy

My Wonderful Daze take the stage with the guys looking doomy in smeared makeup. My notes for the evening peter out rapidly at this point as ‘m lost in the performance: the band have an incredible dynamic. Amalgamating some hefty grunge with a deftly accessible side, with bursts of noise and fury erupting from simmering tension they’re in some respects quintessential alt-rock, but don’t sound quite like any other band around. Raw but melodic, and with a compelling focal point in the form of Flowers who channels a gamut of emotional range, they’re solid and exciting at the same time.

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My Wonderful Daze

Cowgirl are a fitting headliner, and so very representative of the core of the York scene, featuring the ubiquitous local legend Danny Barton (who must be in or have been in at least two dozen acts who’ve garnered some appreciation in their hometown and beyond) and another former Federal Sam Coates. He’s sporting some heinous tassels on a fawn suede coat, and a bootlace tie. Who on earth wears those these days? The look is somewhat at odds with the band’s Pavementy slacker indie rock, but they’ve got the tunes and the knack of delivery. A lot of it’s the confidence of seasoned performers, but equally, a lot of it’s down to tidy songwriting, and these guys can kick ‘em out effortlessly and copiously. The penultimate song of set is an extended psych workout that’s not only a departure but the highlight of the performance because it’s good to see them cut loose.

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Cowgirl

What do you say to round off a night like this? There should probably be a pithy one-liner, but I’m all out: the Titanic Plum Porter is top-notch and I tumble out into the cold January night with its full moon, happy that things are good on the scene in York, and that while there may be infinite shit to wade through in life and in 2020, The Fulford Arms will continue to provide an oasis of musical joy.