Posts Tagged ‘York’

The Fulford Arms, York, 14th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Two weeks into the year and I haven’t had a single night off writing CD reviews to drink beer and check out some live music. The simple fact is, times are hard and I’m in the mod to hibernate. But tonight’s extravaganza is one of four nights of epic showcase events to mark the fourth anniversary of the current management – Messrs Sherrington and Tuke – taking over the venue. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

Time was that there was nothing much to be found in York apart from acoustic blues. York became synonymous with blues. You couldn’t walk into a pub without some bloke with a guitar doing blues. Some of it was good. Some of it was extremely good. Some of was less good and the less said about the remainder, the better. It’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing, let alone a middling samey thing. The Fulford Arms, as was, was integral to the scene for a time. Then, everything changed. Under new management, The Fully Arms really started putting on proper gigs. Taking chances with less obvious artists. Sorting out proper lighting. And with a decent PA, upping the volume.

Tonight is one of four gigs showcasing the expansive range of local talent which is anything but centred around gentle acoustic blues. Of the four nights, this is perhaps the most eclectic, with everything on offer from quirky, theatrical avant-art folk pop to droning psyche, via hard-groove electro and post-punk pub-rock.

Having still been cooking with my own fat spatula at 6pm, I’m too late to catch the band Fat Spatula. Shame, because their brand of US-influenced alt-rock / indie is rather cool. I was also too late for the electro pop of Short Dark Stranger who I heard good things about. I suspect he was the gut standing to my left in the conspicuous silk shirt while I supped my first pint to the strains of Jonny Gill’s acoustic alt-rock which furnished the space between sets ahead of the arrival of Percy. These guys have been knocking around since forever, and still hit the mark (E. Smith) with their post-punk, Fall-influenced sneering takes on the workaday life.

In fact, the first time I heard Percy was circa 1998, at a pub just over the river. They were on the same bill as a band called Big Vicar, who were fronted by AB Johnson, who now forms one half of tonight’s headliners, Viewer, who meld sociopolitical lyrics and indie sensibility to driving dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of Tim Wright, who in another world is the seminal TubeJerk.

There’s so much more than blues, and so much more than Shed fucking Seven going on here. Meabh McDonnel’s self-effacing kitchen-sink folk tunes are good fun: she’ll probably not take the compliment, but her voice is superb and her lyrics are funny and often poignant, and unstintingly honest and direct. The delivery is an integral part of the charm of her performance: it’s not about polish, but relatability and being real.

Soma Crew’s set is abridged due to apparent technical difficulties but out front their psych-drone attack had been sounding good, while Naked Six – the closest to blues it gets tonight – crank out the kind of vibrant, full-tilt set melding AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with a grunge twist that they’ve made their standard.

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Naked Six

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Viewer, seeing as they called it a day before re-emerging as Stereoscope a while ago – and playing in darkness for the majority of their set, or otherwise illuminated only by stark backlit images. I’ve watched – and reviewed – these guys more times than I can recall, and not because I invariably drink too much beer at their shows (AB is one of those guys who is just the best for sinking pints and talking bollocks with – but, miraculously and ever the professional, he always manages to deliver the lines, cast the poses, and, just as miraculously, stay upright during their sets). They’re late starting, but this seems to work n their favour: the audience is even more buzzed up and ready and they groove hard as Johnson throws his shapes and wry commentaries into the space before him. They get down, albeit a bit tipsily – to Wright’s insistent beats and grinding synths. And Viewer were – are – ace because they straddle the line of playing dumb and acting up to dumbness.

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Viewer

Every single last one of the acts playing on tonight’s bill could go far given the right breaks and adequate effort. But this is the time to simply celebrate a landmark moment for a venue that’s spent the best part of its four-year existence punching well above its weight (Ginger Wildheart? Wayne Hussey? The March Violets? to name but three) while providing a space for some far-out and emerging acts. Hell, they’ve even had me on, more than once. But this is what small independent venues are for. It’s so hard to get a break these days, and it’s venues like this, with open doors and open minds, which keep new music alive.

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20th December 2017

There’s something uniquely enjoyable about watching a band develop from their most formative stages to become the act they aspired to be, and showed the potential to be. I first encountered Seep Away on a bill of noisy shit around Christmas in 2015, soon after they came into existence.

They describe their sound as ‘raw and punkish,’ and not that ‘there’s not too much melody, a lot of anger and a tonne of noise’. Their performance was ragged, and it was clear they were very much in development, both musically and as an act. But the sheer passion and raw energy they poured into that set was something else. They would stop and gasp for breath between songs, having played each one like it was the last song they would ever play.

Over the course of the next two years, they didn’t just get better, they got awesome. Tighter, louder, harder, harsher. Jay Sillence swiftly evolved into one of the most compelling front men you could hope to see: fearlessly in your face, anarchic and unpredictable, and it was clear watching them play that they were loving every minute.

It’s therefore sad that The Blackened Carnival of Societal Ineptitude is a parting gesture. But it’s also a cause for elation that they’re signing off with a collection of songs that encapsulate the sound – not to mention the brutal, ferocious, energy of those later live shows. Circumstance and geography may be behind the band’s demise, but better that than acrimony or creative collapse, and they’re departing on a high. The Blackened Carnival of Societal Ineptitude contains eight tracks and clocks in at around twenty-two minutes and condenses all elements of the essence of Seep Away into that.

‘Rot’ is all about the churning, pulverizing riffage, the ribcage-rattling bass and snarling vocal attack. For dingy, murky, metal-done-dirty, it’s up here with Fudge Tunnel at their best. Single cut ‘Matchstick Man’ throbs and rages. Their rendition of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ has long been alive favourite, and the studio version captures the spirit of their interpretation perfectly. You’ll be leaping round the house hollering ‘baby I like it rrrrrrrrrrroooooaaaaawwwwww!’ for a week after hearing it just once.

The album’s second cover, a take on Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’ sees Sillence come on full Marilyn Manson, and they ratchet up the sneering sleaze to eleven. It’s a showy, metallic-grinding wheeze, brimming with sadistic malice. It’s also a sackful of deliciously manic and suitably irreverent fun.

‘Joie de Vivre’ returns to the snarling, churning, grunt and chug of the heavy grindy / metal / hardcore amalgam that defines the band’s sound, and it’s hard-edged and gnarly in the best possible way. It packs in all of the band’s intensity and full-throttle attack into under four minutes (and is the longest track here).

Closing the album (EP. whatever) in quirky and irreverent style, ‘The Awkward Handjob’ is a piece of silly fairground japery about, er, wanking, of course. It’s fitting that of any band, Seep Away should end their all-too-brief career with a toss-off track about tossing off.

Instead of bemoaning unfulfilled potential or mourning their departure, we should focus on the positive: Seep Away have delivered a blinder of a set here.

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Seep Away - Blackened

York-based hardcore punk band and Aural Aggro favourites today announces its death with a new free-to-download eight-track album, The Blackened Carnival Of Societal Ineptitude (which has already clinched the AA album title of the year award), on December 20, 2017.

   Of the record’s development, drummer, Dom Smith comments,  “This is a dedication to all of the bands we’ve played with, and all the people who have supported us through our existence.”

He adds: “Life is bleak, loads of terrifying, dark shit happens with brief moments of pure and absolute wonder, and then you die. Thank you, and goodnight.”

The band encourages hateful goodbye messages via Facebook: www.facebook.com/seepaway

Here’s a track from the forthcoming album, a cover of ODB’s iconic ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’… Get it while it’s hot.

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Seep Happy

Christopher Nosnibor

A few weeks ago, before the start of a spoken word night, another performer approached me and opened with the line ‘these people hate you.’ She went on to explain the specifics of why they hate me, citing a piece that was – but wasn’t – about suicide that I performed in August, and how the ferocity of my sets in general were not appreciated at this particular night. I was taken aback, shaken, and rather wounded. My confidence was rattled. It took me some time and reflection to realise that not only did I not care, but was actually pleased – elated, even – that people could react so strongly to my work. After all, it’s not hate speech or anything nearly so insidious, and ultimately, if you’re pleasing all of the people all of the time, you’re not making art, but entertainment.

The reason this is relevant is because Arrows of Love make art. They refer to themselves as art-rock, but there’s nothing pretentious about them or their music. In person, they’re some of the friendliest, most approachable and generous people you could wish to meet. On stage, they’re as challenging a band as you’re likely to see – or half-see: tonight, they play in near-darkness to a depressingly small crowd, moving shadows cranking out a fearsome wall of angular noise that straddles grunge and goth-tinged post-punk. And they don’t care: if anything, they revel in the perversity and play as hard as ever.

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Arrows of Love

With more time than usual on account of the original co-headliners cancelling, they dig deep to deliver an attacking extended set which features the majority of the new album, Product. As well it should: while its predecessor, Everything’s Fucked was a snarling, sprawling squall of an album, Product is more focused, denser, more intense, and even more pissed off. The first song of the set is also the album’s opener and single cut ‘Signal,’ a sinewy slice of tension that explodes in every direction.

‘Desire’ is deep, dark, and brooding, and The Knife’ from the debut is deadlier than ever, with added guitar noise and played with a blistering ferocity at its searing climax. The grinding dirge that is ‘Restless Feeling’ invites comparisons to Swans circa 1983/84, and the jarring, grating sonic backdrop is rendered literal as Nuha swaps her bass for a plank of wood and coping saw, which she proceeds to gnaw away at while drums and bass shudder along at a glacial pace. It’s mighty, but hardly moshable.

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Arrows of Love

Nimah would later tell me that he was tired and – on account of having to drive after the show – completely sober, but he still fires into it with unbridled fury, spitting the lyrics like they’re his last words as he’s being dragged off to his execution, and the band crackle with dark energy.

It’s this unstinting, uncompromising, total bloody-mindedness that makes Arrows of Love the band that they are, and as they churn out a juddering, sneering rendition of ‘Predictable’. The only thing predictable about the band is the intensity of the performance (as if to illustrate the point, guitarist Alex, who stepped in when Lyndsey left, is now Alice, who’s perhaps less flamboyant than her predecessors, but still cranks out a mean overdriven six-sting racket), and this highlights the contrast between them and the evening’s support act, Naked Six. The York duo kick out a fiery and energetic set of heavy, balls-out, stomping blues rock with big nods to Led Zep, and having seen them a handful of times, they’re incredibly solid and consistently entertaining. But it’s not art.

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Naked Six

Art is dangerous, risky, uncomfortable. With the roaring attack of ‘Toad’ and the tempestuous closer ‘Beast’, Arrows border on the unlistenable, presented in a style that borders on unwatchable, with no concessions to commerciality. There is something about the lack of illumination which renders them even more inaccessible, more untouchable tonight. If Arrows of Love’s latest album really is the ‘soundtrack to the impending societal collapse’, then bring it the fuck on if it means more shows like this.

Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

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Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

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Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

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Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those lineups that has cult appeal written all over it. It’s also wall-to-wall quality. So while The Crescent may not be rammed – it was always going to be challenge to fill a 350-capacity venue in York on a Tuesday night in August with a lineup specialising in experimental and Kratuy workouts – those present are enthusiastic and know they’re in for a treat.

As I absorb Neuschlaufen’s immersive set, I’m increasingly aware of how much they sound – and even look like – so many of the improv-led experimental rock acts from mainland Europe I hear, courtesy of one Berlin-based PR in particular. These bands have substantial but ultimately underground and disparate cult followings, and release their albums on microlabels in batches of numbered editions of 300 or so, and perform in cool but nice venues around Germany and The Netherlands. Neuschlaufen are as good as any of them, and watching the trio manipulate sound – sometimes intuitively, sleekly, and sometimes by using electrical tape to pin keys on a synth down to sustain a note for ten minutes uninterrupted – is a real treat. An extended two-chord workout around the set’s mid-point – and the whole thing is magnificently and intuitively structured – is pinned together with piercing synth and clanging metallic guitar forging serpentine shapes Ash Sagar weaving a strolling six-string bassline. At times they mine a seam that brings together Bauhaus, PiL and The Fall, with shuddering bass grooves underpinning clanging, repetitive guitar-lines which are so angular as to cause flesh wounds.

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Neuschlaufen

It seems that every time I review Soma Crew, I comment on how they’re better with every outing. It’s not just my ears, or forgetfulness: it’s a fact. It’s been a long and slow ascent, but everything about them is totally cohesive, and tonight they spin their hypnotic brand of pulsating psychedelic rock in the tightest, most mesmerising style I’ve yet witnessed. The sound is rich, dense textured, and they’re brighter, clearer, groovier and trippier than ever.

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Soma Crew

Dave Keegan, standing in on bass, does a fantastic job: he holds the rhythm down perfectly with a heavy tone, pinned to Nick Barker’s insistent drumming, and the occasional nifty run for variety. The drumming is a defining feature, and I’m not the only one to note that Nick has, seemingly, one T-shirt and one rhythm. It’s this consistency and his complete lack of drumming ego which places him as one of my all-time drumming heroes.

On ‘Danger Zone’, they amalgamate Joy Division, The Back Angels, and The Doors to forge a unique sonic compound that encapsulates the brilliance of Soma Crew, and closer ‘Celluloid’ builds to a full-throttle sonic attack.

I can barely read a word of the notes I took during Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band’s set, and there aren’t many. I was too busy standing, absorbed, by the trio’s seamless and utterly compelling performance. With elements of psych and prog and 70s rock and out and out rhythm-driven jamming, and songs like ‘The First Ren Minutes of “Cocksucker Blues”’ to groove out on, there’s a lot to get lost in.

They have a simple setup: drums, bass, guitar, a single amp apiece. Nothing fancy. And yes, there are epic guitar solos comparable to Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr (one track even bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Like a Hurricane’ in its chord sequence, and the emotion Forsyth wrings from those six strings is almost tear-jerking in places). But – and here’s the important point of note – nothing is overdone. However exemplary the musicianship – these guys can’t just play, thy can fucking play – at no point during the set do things ever descend into self-indulgence. This is a major, and extremely rare, feat. But not a bar passes without an ear to structure, and a remembrance of the importance of the audience’s entertainment.

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

At no point to these guys go too far out on a limb, lose the crowd with tangents or indulgence. They’re well-rehearsed and tight as hell, but equally, they’re not so slick as to feel like they’re going through the motions, and this is when wigging out is at its best. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band define intuition, and play with an understated showmanship that’s something special.

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

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Namke Communications – One Year Two Days