Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably not much to say or write about Lydia Lunch that hasn’t been said or written before. A cult legend in her own lifetime – a rare thing indeed – she remains one of the most formidable performers around. Tonight – performing the only northern show of three UK dates with Weasel Walter with her ‘Brutal Measures’ spoken word show (why said show happened to be in York… Those present weren’t merely grateful, but overjoyed, but those present were depressingly few in number), she’s uncompromising from start to finish.

Before Lydia and sidekick Weasel Walter who drums and generates all mind of noise to accompany her take stage, Leeds punk foursome Flies On You deliver a visceral, in-your-face set of primal punk songs. It’s a challenging and emotional show, a mere fortnight after guitarist and lad songwriter Andy Watkins’ sudden and unexpected death. Front man Doug Aikman clearly struggles at times, but still pulls of a storming performance. And while the basis of what Flies on You do is meat-and-potatoes old-school punk, there’s a distinctly post-punk vibe that borders on goth in their rattling basslines and screeding reverby guitar peels. Moreover, it’s delivered with passion and a certain degree of wit – and the refrain ‘Katie Hopkins in human form’ is a great line whichever way you look at it.

She may have mellowed with age, but Lydia Lunch is still infinitely more fierce in every way than pretty much anyone. It’s all relative. And she may not be large in stature, but her presence fills the room. Her voice is a cracked rasp for the most part, but she uses it to compelling effect. It’s not about being seasoned, either: this is her nature, who she is. Raw, real. Intense. Intense. Intense.

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‘Brutal Measures’ is an extended spoken-word piece set in a number of movements, split by segments of hefty percussion and augmented by extraneous noise passages. Or, as Lunch’s bandcamp page describes it, ‘a longform composition featuring tense spoken word versus manic free drumming outbursts, glued together by cryptic electronics’. Recorded live, there’s an improvisational aspect to the musical accompaniment to Lunch’s words, which she delivers alternating between two mics, one clean, one heavily reverbed. The twenty-minute recorded take stretches to a full fifty-minute set live. And yet there is no filler: the drum solos breaks are tight, taut, concise and blistering. The instrumental electronic passages and the extraneous noise which both accompany and intersperse the chapters are intriguing, and the beer barrels Lydia uses as a table for her notes double as percussion instruments in the sometimes cacophonous batteries of sound between spoken word passages.

She does get slightly pissed off when the stand for the clean mic slides down and is uncooperative, and the venue techs are slow to react – but then, who wouldn’t be? But she doesn’t make a deal of it, and continues her narrative stream regardless. She’s a performer, not a diva.

As a spoken word performer myself, I am in awe. For me, it’s a challenge, and one I sometimes struggle with. Even the good nights are challenges. Lydia is in a league of her own. She holds the room, even with a whisper. She silences the chatting tossers at the bar. Not because she’s dictatorial: she does it for everyone who’s paid to hear her and Weasel and the chat at the back.

Words fly every which way as Lydia sparks in all directions: she’s a relentless conjurer of images and ideas, with a perspective on everything. Even delivered slow, mean and low, it’s often hard to keep up with her endlessly swerving trajectory, but it all comes together to present a version of her world-view. And yes, it is pretty brutal, all told.

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It’s an early finish – but then, it’s a Monday night – but what the set lacks in duration, it more than compensates in intensity – did I mention intensity? If some spoken word performances leave the audience departing wilting because they’re a trudge, tonight is very different: Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter create something utterly compelling, that leave the audience wilting by virtue of its immense force. Spoken word at its best.

Gizeh Records – 2nd March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Tomorrow We Sail are a classic example of the kind of band who exist outside of their geography. Based in Leeds, the six-piece aren’t generally renowned as part of the local scene or prominent gig-wise, but have a reach that exists in the ether of the virtual world and into mainland Europe. Four years on from their debut, the collective have evolved their brand of folk-infused string-soaked post-rock into something even more unique.

Subdued, strolling beats and rolling piano provide the rhythmic backdrop to the nagging strings and aching vocals on the opening song, the six-minute ‘Side By Side’. It breaks into a sustained crescendo after just a couple of minutes, but it’s more a case of upping the volume and the intensity than hitting the soaring peaks which characterise so much ‘classic’ post-rock. And perhaps this is the key to the differentials which separate Tomorrow We Sail from their peers, and indeed, any other act. The Shadows is a careful and poised album which exploits the dynamic tropes of post-rock but in a contained fashion. There’s certainly nothing as expansive or sprawling as 2015’s ‘Saturn’, with its twenty-minute duration, or even the single ‘Rosa’ from the first album with its thirteen-minute running time. The Shadows is altogether more concise and all the more intense because of it. Moreover, the context feels different, the slant altered somewhat.

In some respects, the context is that this doesn’t feel like a ‘Leeds’ album. Even when the city was post-rock central a decade or so back, with iLiKETRAiNS (as they were then styled), Vessels and adopted Leeds friends Her Name is Calla all over everywhere, there was nothing this folksy or parameter-pushing as The Shadows, an album which expands the limits of post-rock. ‘The Ghost of John Maynard Keynes’ really pitches the folk aspect of the album to the fore, with a chorus of voices giving the almost shanty-like folk tune a lilting aspect.

There is unspeakable, throat-tightening beauty in the piano-led minimalism of ‘To Sleep’ which calls to mind the very best work of the now-defunct Glissando, and at the same time harks back to their debut.

The Shadows is a well-balanced collection: understated, delicate, melodic, it exists, as the title alludes, in the spaces between light and dark, exploring with deftness and sensitivity the infinite shades between.

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Bearfoot Beware have come a long way from their scrappy, DIY beginnings. They’ve shared stages with luminaries like Future of the Left, played on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds, and toured all over mainland Europe. Now, after years on the road they’re back with their most coherent sonic manifesto in the shape of second album, Sea Magnolia.

Eschewing for the most part their crossover punk-meets-math of their early recordings and debut LP, Sea Magnolia is a much more heavy-hitting release that doesn’t feel the need to overcomplicate for the sake of egos. “The heavier tunes are where we had the most fun” they say, linking this change in their sound to “a lot of the music that surrounds us down at CHUNK [collective, a space which the band co-founded] and in the Leeds Music Community.”

Lyrically, this aggression is felt as well. “It’s angry but not hateful,” they explain, “anger is a tool you can use to express yourself but hate is a weapon.” The simple fact was that “creating something way more direct and focused this time meant this time the lyrics felt like they needed that too.”

They’ve unveiled ‘Point Scorer’ as a taste for Sea Magnolia, and you can listen to it here:

Sea Magnolia is out on 16th March via Superstar Destroy Records.

Bearfoot Beware

Candlelight Records – 23rd February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Having caught Black Moth live early on, before the release of their debut, I’m in a position to attest just how far they’ve come and how much they’ve grown. And third album, Anatomical Venus shows their trajectory continues upwards and outwards: with each release, they’re bigger, and simply more.

If debut The Killing Jar was a rock-solid heavy rock album that revelled in the vintage riffery of Sabbath and its successor, Condemned to Hope was the sound of a band coming into their own and filing out their songs with heavier, denser chuggage, Anatomical Venues combines the strongest elements of its predecessors and brings an even harder, heavier edge, while at the same time bristling with even sharper hooks and stronger vocal melodies.

‘Buried Hoards’ blends grunge and goth to forge a dark grandeur, while the six-and-a-half-minute ‘Severed Grace’ finds Harriet bring a certain sneer and tantalisingly teasing edge to her delivery, which weaves its way around a serpentine lead guitar and super-dense bass throb. And across the album, Back Moth bring groove galore. Anatomical Venus leans toward the quicker tempo: ‘A Lovers Hate’ is less Sabbath and more Motörhead, a punk attitude informing the driving guitar-based assault. Compositionally, it’s stripped-back and simple, something that’s been core to Black Moth’s work from the outset: namely, that the riff is king. Front and centre, the riff. Simple, but effective, four chord workouts lie at the heart of most of the songs. In the world of both rock and pop, less is invariably more. Back Moth know this and exploit it well.

There’s no substitute for a beefy bit of guitar you can get your head down to. Not that they lack technical prowess: the solos are killer, but never overlong or excessively flamboyant. There’s simply no fat to be found on Anatomical Venus.

The album’s last track, ‘Pig Man’, lands somewhere between Lydia Lunch and Melvins, with a churning sludge metal riff and a sassy, semi-spoken verse… and noise. Cathartic, chaotic noise building to a climactic crescendo.

Black Moth’s strength has always been their knack for solid, hard rock that fundamentally plays to the rules – by which I mean, their focus has been quality over innovation. This is actually an admirable quality, because they’re a band who grasp what makes rock music rock. But Anatomical Venus sees the band extend their horizons, without losing sight of any of the qualities that made them in the first place. And in bringing everything all together, and making it tighter, tauter, and as dense and heavy as ever, Black Moth have delivered their strongest, most focused album to date.

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South London duo VLMV (FKA Alma) have announced their new album ‘Stranded, Not Lost’ will be released on Fierce Panda on the 16th Feb.

They’ve shared this exciting news with new music in the form of beautiful single ‘All These Ghosts’ with an accompanying live video shot at The Nave in Leeds.

VLMV is made up of Pete Lambrou of Codes In The Clouds & Monsters Build Mean Robots and Ciaran Morahan, also of Codes In The Clouds. They’ve describe themselves as "ambient-ish, post-something” their music is beautiful and spacious ambient post-rock.

‘Stranded, Not Lost’ is a gorgeous and moving record replete with the kind of brooding, ambient soundscapes, soaring vocals and crashing intensity that have earned the band a small legion of dedicated fans and recent tours supporting the likes of post-rock stalwarts Nordic Giants.

You can see the video for ‘All These Ghosts’ here: