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.

75220781_540974880031612_4404610269104308224_n

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.

75443135_1156956231162197_8258115284250918912_n

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.

73404081_598709020876275_509431852004540416_n

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.

75561419_722237111629672_1741998697572466688_n

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 .

DSC_2524[1]

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.

DSC_2525[1]DSC_2529[1]

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.

DSC_2540[1]

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.

DSC_2557[1]

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.

Christopher Nosnibor

So I’ve been following – if that’s quite the word – Suburban Toys since the early 90s. Vicky McClelland is (I think) the fifth female front person I’ve seen them perform with, and I’ve missed some in between. She’s strong. She’s fiery, but also understated, and gets on with singing songs and sometimes playing guitar without fuss. She sounds good, and is good to watch.

DSC_2272[1]

The Suburban Toys

They showcase some new (to me) songs, still solid pop-tinged punk with dashes of reggae and cues from ‘The Passenger’. The throw in a ripping rendition of ‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex mid-set. It suits Vicky’s vocal range and delivery. Older songs like ‘With You’ have been radically reworked (again), and this is probably the most attack I’ve seen them play with in all the years since the early 90s. They finish with ‘Sonic Reducer’ played at breakneck speed with bassist Vin on lead vocals. It’s good fun. And fun is important.

The kids – fans – are less than half my age and wearing threads that were all the rage when I was 10, 34 years ago. It’s alarming. The drummer’s facial hair is heinous and the guitar straps are so short they could strim the strings with their chins… But there’s an appeal to their raw, ragged choppy guitars and I get the impression that despite the cheap sunglasses and quirky fun elements, Perspex are a serious band with some neat post-punk and 90s alternative reference points – think Pavement, think Trumans Water. And they’re technically proficient, nailing some tidy grooves and taking the set to an accomplished climax with some uptempo space rock motorik riffology. 6th formers on the piss. One girl’s got plastic beads and a very 80s blouse, while one of the sportswear cunts is sporting a Factory T. What hell is this?

DSC_2283[1]DSC_2284[1]

Perspex

I’ve seen Percy even more times than the Toys, and over a comparable time-span. The West Yorkshire Superheroes (who hail from York) have been around forever, and subscribe to the tradition of hardworking northern bands like The Wedding Present and The Fall, and Half Man Half Biscuit who just keep on plugging away, solid and dependable. They always look like they’ve just knocked off work and stopped off for a pint: singer/guitarist Colin Howard always has about 4 days’ stubble and they seem genuinely comfortable being middle-aged workers doing the band thing on the side. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I won’t say it here because I’ve other reviews to write and a day-job of my own, and it’s too much of a digression.

There’s actually a guy here in a Percy T-shirt, which is a measure of something. But they’ve not got the college cocks’ backing, sadly, and the room has thinned a bit. The benefit is that I’m less worried about having my toes danced on by some 6ft teenager.

Bailing in with the Fall-like ‘Hep’, they’re bring a clanging attack of furiously thrashed jangling guitars that are nearly in tune and provide the backdrop to sneering, spitting monotone vocals. And, like The Fall, they may have only recently released their first album proper 20 years into their career, but half the set consists of unreleased material. And, also like The Fall, they kick out a fair rockabilly ruckus and reference The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’

DSC_2306[1]

Percy

‘Rubbernecking in the UK’, pushes the synths to the fore, and it’s exhilarating and also pure early 90s indie. Magnificently atonal guitar provides a skewed backdrop to sneered lyrics about the mundane everyday. Masters of four-chord chugs, ‘Unicorn’ is fierce and noisy by way of a climactic closer.

Having seen three decent bands for free and supped decent beer at £3.60 a pint I’ll say it again: pub gigs and small venues are where it’s at.

Christopher Nosnibor

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the done thing to review a show you’ve performed at, let alone one you’ve had a major hand in organising and promoting, but what’s not done sometimes just needs doing.

This was a lineup I’d been excited about – seeing it take shape around the initial basic concept of curating a show and giving …(something) ruined – a platform while showcasing other acts we like.

…(something) ruined coalesced into a formal unit following a one-off experimental collaboration back in May following a shout-out on Facebook from racketmonger Foldhead for recommendations for someone to provide vocals to compliment / contrast his wall-of-noise power electronics. My name was put forward by a handful of sonic sadists, and so it came to pass we brought a new level of brutality to an unsuspecting audience at CHUNK in Leeds. The idea for a showcase came before we’d decided anything else. Orlando Ferguson were top of our wants list, and promptly agreed, before we’d even decided exactly what we were doing, both for the gig and as a band. We didn’t even have a name. Truth is, we were deafened and buzzed on adrenaline and beer and before we’d even dismantled the kit, had decided it was going to be a thing.

The rest of the lineup coalesced largely through Paul (Foldhead’s) immense network of far-out acts. This was always going to be niche, an event that was about putting on a gig we wanted to see, regardless of who else’s tastes it would likely appeal to. This is where venues like The Fulford Arms are vital to the arts, and are sadly few and far between. Midweek in York, as long as the cost of paying the sound guy is covered one way or another, anything goes. Selling some pints beats no pints. As a totally underground, completely DIY operation, it’s only this kind of opening that makes catering to more outré tastes and providing a space for artists with a minority appeal.

So we went up first. I was only our second show after all. We’d failed to get the Paul’s visuals projected behind us, so they played on the screens at either side of the stage. Not ideal, not the impact we’d been hoping for, but sonically, it came together, probably.

…(something) ruined

How did we do? Alright, for sure. We’d spent five minutes planning the shape of the set and how it would build over the first few minutes, and Paul’s awareness of my delivery led to a set given to more undulations in comparison to the blazing wall of noise that was the first outing. The broad consensus was that we were brutal, but loud enough? The majority seemed to think so, but no-one fled the venue crying or with their ears bleeding, and I could even hear my own vocals in the monitors for 70% of the set, albeit only when I shouted so hard I felt like my throat would erupt – so probably not. Then again, could we ever be loud enough? Again, probably not. But I did shift a hell of a lot of books.

Primitive Knot, over from Manchester, are showcasing material from the latest release, Puritan. I use the plural because Primitive Knot is a band, although on this outing, it’s just front man Jim doing the work and creating the sound of a full band. It’s impressive to witness him playing synths and churning out grinding guitars over sequenced bass and drums, while also performing vocals.

DSC_2199[1]

Primitive Knot

Said vocals are often single words, shouted, with heavy echo, reverberating into a churn of metallic overdrive, repetitive cyclical riffs, strongly reminiscent of the industrial grind of Godflesh, complete with thunderous mechanised drumming. It’s dense, oppressive, harsh, relentless. And as the only guitar of the night, PK’s set provides an essential contrast, standing out for all the right reasons.

Continuing to forge further contrasts, standing starkly against the regimented, heavily rhythmic attack of Primitive Knot, Territorial Gobbings’ freeform improvisational irreverence is different again, and then some. The new album, Sausage Chain, is a mess of random noises, but doesn’t really prepare the recipient for the crazed performance art that is the live show. Theo Gowans is nothing if not a showman, and one who doesn’t care about popularity or reception: tonight’s set begins with swinging mics and clanking beer bottles and concludes with cables and kit and the artist in a messy heap strewn across the stage. People watch perplexed, uncomfortable. Good. Art should challenge, be awkward and uncomfortable. And this is extremely awkward and uncomfortable – which is precisely why it’s ace.

DSC_2203[1]DSC_2212[1]

Territorial Gobbing

John Tuffen and Ash Sagar, of more bands than I’ve had pints on a big night, are Orlando Ferguson. They sit twiddling knobs and looking intently at their kit, and don’t actually look like they’re playing chess this time around. It’s the bigger table and side-by-side positioning.

DSC_2214[1]DSC_2220[1]

Orlando Ferguson

Tonight’s set is so much more than electronic drone, and the long, sweeping notes that provide the foundations create an expansive field in which they conjure an atmospheric soundscape. Sonically, they explore an array of textures and tones, and their improvisation is magnificently intuitive. It’s a pleasure to watch, and an even greater pleasure to hear, and following the raging tempests of weirdness and noise from the preceding acts, their altogether more tranquil approach provides some welcome calm and relief to round of a varied yet complimentary array of far-out music. And if you missed it – as most did- you missed out.