Posts Tagged ‘London’

Christopher Nosnibor

Heaven may not be a venue one would immediately associate with heavy, heavy noise, but tonight it’s packed with a broad demographic that only a show as genre-smashing as the line-up would be likely to draw.

Bong are only just setting up their kit five minutes before they’re due on stage, but despite the absence of a proper soundcheck, they sound every bit as mighty as they ought. The Newcastle trio take their time, grinding out power chords with endless sustain without mercy during a half-hour set that contains just a single track. Epic is indeed the word. For all the leaning toward the doomy, droney low end, the guitar packs a crackling treble hit, which balances the sound against the shuddering, throbbing bass and the megalithic drumming, each thunderous beat registering individually on the Richter scale, crashing heavy through the 20bpm dirge with stutters and pauses to maximise the impact of each stroke. Their thirty-minute set consists of just one song. And this is precisely the way it should be: the band use the allotted time to fully demonstrate the expansive nature of their sound and compositions. This is heavy, grinding two-chord dredging pushed to the max and is designed to simultaneously batter and hypnotise the audience, and they deliver it beautifully.

Bong

Bong

If the reality of the studio realisation of Concrete Desert, the collaborative project which saw The Bug’s dubby dancehall stylings drawn out into infinite regressions of reverb as they collided with the dark drone of Earth’s earlier works felt somewhat restrained, and at times bordered on the ambient, in a live setting, the dynamics prove to be altogether different. Perhaps The Bug’s input felt somewhat muted on the release, as Carson’s murky, chiming ambient drones dominated he sound. Sure, the stealthy, bulbous bass and clacking beats, paired with quavering guitar notes which occupy the album’s grooves are atmospheric, but it often feels somewhat cautious, even subdued. Live, however, it’s an entirely different proposition and it feels far more like an equal partnership.

On the surface, the pair exist – and perform – in entirely separate, personal spaces, despite sharing a stage. The Bug – aka Kevin Martin – and Dylan Carlson, representing Earth, stand apart, separated by a wall of equipment: Martin is surrounded by banks of electronic gadgetry and stands focused on his Apple laptop for the majority of the set, while Carlson stands, side-on to the audience, one eye on Martin as he cranks out deep, seething drones and sculpted feedback squalls of noise.

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The Bug vs Dylan Carlson

Volume matters, and can so often prove to be integral to the live music experience: and this is loud. Proper, seriously, loud. Martin begins by sending bibbling waves of electronica out in juxtaposition to Carlson’s screeds of guitar: before long, it’s a veritable sonic tsunami as thunderous bass and violent blasts of percussion crash against a wall of relentlessly dense multitonal noise bleeding in every direction from Carlson’s fretboard. The bass frequencies – and gut-churning volume – are something else. Confetti glued by static electricity or other means to the venue’s high ceiling after being blasted out during the venue’s famous club nights shower down on band and audience alike as the thunderous vibrations rattle every molecule of the building’s interior fabric as well as my nostrils, my trousers and every inch of my flesh.

Many of the compositions are unrecognisable in relation to their studio counterparts, so radically reworked and so much more up front are the dynamics. This is no stealthy, sedate recreation of the album but something way more attacking and pure in its physicality. This is one of those sets which builds in intensity – and seemingly in volume – as it progresses, and toward the end, the pair drop a colossal slow-burner with slow, deliberate drops of bowel-shuddering bass frequencies: a single note resonates through the floor and the solar plexus for what feels like minutes, and the effect is utterly immersive and all-encompassing. The security guy in front of me, blocking the stairs (Heaven has a very strange arrangement of stairs up to the stag and only limited security at front of house, which is welcome), is clutching his ears despite waring plugs, and while it’s an uplifting euphoric experience which plasters a huge grin on my on face, it’s not hard to fathom why this much bass, and this much guitar, at this kind of volume, would cause discomfort. Because actually, it hurts. And that’s the best thing about it, because this is how it’s meant to be.

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Tape Records – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Fuck yeah! Purveyors of premium quality grungey no-wave noise Arrows of Love serve up the second taster of their second album, Product, and ‘Beast’ is appropriately titled. A sprawling, squalling mess of chaos, it sums up everything that makes Arrows of Love the band they are.

Now, I was hooked on AoL from the moment I heard the opening bars of ‘Honey’ back in 2012 . That low-slung, dirty bassline and the fizzy guitar racket was one of the most exhilarating things I’d heard in years.

Granted, it’s live that they really come into their own, but their studio recording are a pretty accurate reflection of their wildly unpredictable, full-tilt, performances, and Everything’s Fucked was one of the most courageously raw albums -debut or otherwise – of 2014.

Beyond the music, Arrows of Love have a social and political conscience, too, as the band members’ Facebook postings and the press release in support of the single attest: ‘During the last few months Arrows of Love stepped away from their album recording process to fight a campaign against the ex-Olympic Authority LLDC. With their own warehouse community threatened with demolition as London continues to lose parts of its soul to gentrification, Vittoria Wharf hit local and worldwide news when residents stood up to fight closure. The band and a slew of local artists spearheaded the defence of what i-D called “a thriving centre for cultural and artistic output” during the #savevittoriawharf campaign… ‘Beast’ is a song built for speed. Its anthemic forward march is a sensibility that runs counter to the over-stuffed, of-the-moment world we live in and its context runs parallel with the bands defiant nature. “A lot of people have asked me if I’ve written any songs about this fight with the corporation” says Nima, “This song was actually written over a year ago, but as we’ve been playing and recording it this summer the lyrics turned out to be prophetically relevant”. Proving that Arrows Of Love are one of a rare breed of bands that stand by what they preach when the moment calls.’

All the more reasons to love the band: they’re not your regular egotistical musos, but a gang who give a shit about stuff that matters at a grass-roots level.

Produced with a suitably light touch by Mikko Gordon (Thom Yorke, Gaz Combes), and mastered with a full appreciation of the band’s intent by Bob Weston of Shellac, ‘Beast’ is a bass-driven sprawl of angular racket which indicates that Product will be even more gnarly and uncompromising than its predecessor. I for one am very excited by the prospect. You should be too.

Jess Robinson

So, Camden Rocks was good this year wasn’t it?! After almost thirteen hours on my feet, I have blistered soles, a tight back, and by the Goddess I swear my eye-bags could double up as a freakin’ Deliveroo tandem. Totally worth it though.

My musical day-trip started with The Kut at The Crowndale at noon, I feel like I should describe them as shouty and feisty and grrrr, but they really weren’t. In the best way, they were actually genuinely lovely. Personable, proficient, and clearly over the freakin’ moon to be able to play two extra tracks as part of the soundcheck – a soundcheck so damned good it swelled the crowd from a piddly eight people (understandable, given the time of day) to something nearer 50. The Crowndale itself felt something like an abandoned funeral parlour, complete with huge floral tribute on the corner of the bar, but sonically it worked nicely, and it was great to see that the bar staff (definitely not undertakers) were enjoying the music, taking phone pictures of the band at work.

The Kut’s songs are a mix of punky-punkrock-grunge-rock. Yeah that’s a mishmash, but it’s a good one, tunes are raw, unpolished yet without flaws. The punkier elemns of ‘I Don’t Need Therapy’ fed brilliantly into ‘Bad Man’, a track that’s a sublime blend of everything I loved about both Nirvana and Hole – the guitars and sneering Cobainesque vocals work so well with the Courtney Love based lyrics. Vocalist Maha was determined to get us dancing, kicking up the beat with ‘Hollywood Rock ‘n Roll’. Bouncy! Great fun.

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The Kut

My next mission was to find my way into Dingwalls (having basically formed an infinity symbol in footsteps the previous day I decided to start my mission afresh on Saturday). Surely with the music in full flow, and with festival punters making their way into the venue, it wouldn’t be hard to work it out… oh how wrong I was. See, the name “Dingwalls” is marked out in an arc above the doors on the canal-side. So you walk down there, aaaand the doors are locked. You continue alongside the building, drawn to the music audible at the far end. You see the band through the windows, but you can’t get in. You walk around the building, nope, still no doors evident, unless you fancy trying to barge into the back area of the stage mid-set. No. Walk up to Lock 17 (directly above Dingwalls), where there are stairs pointing down to ‘Club’ (i.e. Dingwalls). Lovely bar staff explain we’re not supposed to go down there, and to use the door outside. I remained confused, all the doors are locked! So I take my chances and go down the forbidden stairs… Lovely security guy (who later explained that the name wouldn’t be above the door any more, if only they could physically remove the lettering) told me how to – correctly – enter the venue. So off I trot, to find that the letters above that magical entranceway in actual fact proclaim “The Comedy Loft”. Of course! I mean, it’s so obvious when you think about it….

Once I made it inside Dingwalls, I discovered two stages, and I managed to catch the end of Heels’ set on the larger of the two – thrashy, shouty, femme-fronted, male-backed metal, are Heels. Not really my taste, but they seemed to be on form. When they finished I nipped to the ladies, and it was like that cringey moment in that IT Crowd episode, the one where Roy and Moss crash Jen’s theatre ‘date’ with the gay man, go to the gents during the interval and there’s a toilet attendant man there, who puts them off their stride so badly that they can’t even piss yet they each pay him a tip anyway. Yeh? This.was.worse. The lady, surrounded by myriad bottles of dubious looking perfume, bellows a cheerful “Hello!!” to me and the grrls following behind, so I say “Hi”, but evidently I’m too quiet, for as I my feet carry me to a toilet cubicle while my mind screams “no, run away, remember the IT Crowd episode!!” she glares right at me and booms “When a lady says ‘hello’, you say ‘hello’ back!”. That’s me told then. Except I did say ‘Hi’… does that not count? Does it have to be ‘Hello’? Please don’t hurt me/hate me toilet attendant lady….

I escaped Dingwalls, and after a chippy lunch on the hoof, I landed at The Cuban for the first of Ginger’s three sets. Expecting it to be busy, I got there early but it was still rammed. And I mean rammed. Somehow I tagged on to a quad of hardcore fans and wound my way between jam-packed bodies, following them as far as the sound desk. My view of the stage… was non-existent. Bugger. What to do? Well, I decided to make the best of it and just listen. It was still live music, right?! I was in the building, woohaaaaa! Then… HERO…! the guy doing the lighting took pity on me and let me stand on the bench behind him. Well, I am tiny, so thankfully I don’t take up much room! In return, I fanned him now and again with a Camden Rocks Fest postcard. Oh yes, things were going well.

Ginger and his guys had a few technical difficulties at first, something up with a guitar… It was cool though, he bantered his way through it jovially (no prima-donna stropping) and refused to cut the set short because of the delay. Bet that pleased the organisers… We were melting but we all clapped in time and ‘oooooh’d’ (off key) when Ginger asked us to ‘ooooooh’. “That was definitely the best sing along I’ve ever heard. Not technically brilliant…” ~cheeky grin and wink~ “…for sure, but definitely the best” The highlight had to be ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’, of course it was. We all loved it.

Peckham Cowboys followed. They were rockin’, like, well, like cowboys who double up as a rock band. A solid performance, much enjoyed by the remaining crowd.

So then. Onwards. To The Underworld. To Heck. Umm, intense doesn’t quite cut it as a description… It was intense, it was also insane, and it was utterly perfect. Invigorating and terrifying almost alternately, Heck are fuckin nuts, man. Perfect choice of venue, kudos to whoever placed Heck there. It was dark, it was cavelike, it was deliciously claustrophobia-inducing WALL-TO-WALL NOISE AND CHAOS. I’m glad I’d been forewarned of likely antics. Although there was no escape (guitarist stomped on my foot at one point, singer plonked his mic stand down right in front of me, proceeding to sing and play guitar whilst deluged by photographers), I did select a location where I was largely safe. Basically, if you don’t wanna be involved, don’t go see Heck live. Stay at home, listen to the records, watch them on YouTube to see what you’re missing. But naaah, you should probably go anyway, at least once; absorb the wonderful screaming vitality of them.

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Heck

I was so spaced after Heck, I decided to abandon my plan of Vukovi at the Bloc Bar (I know, I know, I’m slightly ashamed!) – I just needed a little time, outside, getting some air, resting my beaten senses!

Popped back up to The Cuban where Starsha Lee gave strong rock vibes; blasting guitars and sci-fi tinged cartoony vocals, boy they were good and crazy. Crazy good. I overheard someone say “I liked the music, but I just couldn’t get on board with that voice…”. Slightly harsh, but each to their own!

Deadcuts was the last band I saw at The Cuban, gothy layers mixed with New Wave. A little Joy Division-y with their music. None of that is my bag, but Deadcuts were clearly on their game and crowd pleasers nonetheless.

A return to Dingwalls, for LA act Queen Kwong. I absolutely love these guys, and the fact that the overall lineup switches around and morphs between tours does nothing to diminish the power and sheer brilliance their songs, I urge you to see them next time they are in your area. Tonight’s set was marred only slightly by the dim lighting, which I suspect was set at low level on instruction from Carré herself, but it did mean that she couldn’t be seen too well, and I think sadly, those that didn’t already know the music struggled to engage with the show. Having said that, for those of us familiar with the luminosity of tracks like ‘Cold Daggers’, ‘Bells On’, and ‘Purrfiction’, it was awesome.

I’ll admit I was flagging when I left Dingwalls, and, knowing I likely wouldn’t physically be able to see (yep; the short-arse problem again!) much of Black Spiders at Proud, I rejected all headliners and made my way to Camden’s Cavern at Belushi’s bar, where I stayed the rest of the night. To be honest, at a festival where there are over 200 acts to choose from, why stand crushed seeing two or three bands that you could see on numerous tours, when you could find something fresh and exciting, up close in a smaller venue?

What’d you seeeee!?! I hear you cry, ha, well, let’s think back… I just about missed Wars but caught Making Monsters (hooks and riffs, baby, hooks and riffs), As December Falls (polished and young), and lastly Seán Grant & The Wolfgang who made their way to the stage area for a midnight display. And wow! They were so worth waiting for. Seán and his (wolf)gang served up a full-on juicy slab of a set that included ‘Curtains’, ‘Best Of Men’, ‘Brother’ (dedicated to one overjoyed pal in the crowd), and the most excellent ‘Take A Man’s Body’. Meaty, pounding, brilliantly executed music combined with gorgeously bittersweet lyrics that draw.you.in! A superb end to my Camden Rocks experience.

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Seán Grant & The Wolfgang

Huge, huge thanks to all those that brought the music and the vibe, and to those that kept us safe and happy, right down to the not-so-scary-really, toilet attendant lady.