Posts Tagged ‘York’

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.

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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

Christopher Nosnibor

The soundcheck in progress while I’m ordering my first pint suggests we’re in for a loud night. Well, the Facebook event page did give fair warning. It’s a good job I’ve brought earplugs: the guy behind the bar points out that he’s already wearing his.

It’s 6:40pm on a Sunday evening in August. Outside, it’s still warm and the sun is out. Inside, it’s seriously dark, even with the curtains open and daylight filtering in. The THING – whose ‘Nightmares for Children’ streamed exclusively on Aural Aggravation back in April, begin their set with a dolorous bell chime and ominous, droning synths. The fear notes give way to a massage deluge of gut-grinding sludge: the guitar sounds like a bass, the bass sounds the bowels of Beelzebub after a phal. As they thunder through a continuous half-hour set, I’m reminded of Sleep, but the samples and synths which emerge through the murk gives an industrial edge to the doomy dronescape which reaches its climax by building through a single chord and floor to being battered at increasing speed before breaking into a tsunami of sludge.

The THING

The THING

Rotting Monarchs win band name of the night, no question. But starting fifteen minutes late in a tightly-packed schedule is not so cool, and they seem a bit disorganised and lacking in finesse. Still, their shouty, grindy punky racket brought together bits of NOFX with hints of Bomb Disneyland, which is no bad thing.

The place is suddenly a lot busier: Shrieking Violet have brought their mates. And they’re young. Many of them have short skirts and shiny new DMs. I’m here in my cracked £20 steel-toed Chelsea boots and beer-stained jacket. I’m not expecting much. Yes, they’re pure 80s, as if the singer’s hair and shirt didn’t give it away. The first track has hints of early Ultravox. But equally as the set progresses, I’m reminded of This Et Al minus the falsetto. They benefit from some hooky tunes propelled by some phenomenal, powerhouse percussion. ‘Avalanche’ is built around a steely, cyclical riff worthy of Killing Joke, and overall, it’s a strong set.

Shrieking Violet

Shrieking Violet

They may be playing as a three-piece sans bassist Dani, but SEEP AWAY still manage to bring eye-popping intensity and ear-shredding volume to proceedings. The eight-string guitar ensures the sound’s got density, and when paired with Dom Smith’s fierce drumming – his second set of the night having already pounded through The THING’s set – there’s plenty of sonic backdrop for Jay to do his manic thing. He’s a hell of a showman: that he’s wild and unpredictable and relentlessly in the crowd’s faces means you can’t take your eye off him for a second.

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SEEP AWAY

My opinions on novelty bands are no secret, and in the main, I think they suck. Petrol Hoers are a novelty bad so perverse, so fucked-up and plain wrong, that they’re an exception. Two blokes – two fat blokes – one wearing dungarees with no shirt, but a comedy horse’s head, the other wearing red Y-fronts, a fine mesh vest and a Mexican wrestling mask, stomp around hollering over backing tracks of blistering, uptempo industrial-strength bangin’ techno. In paper, it sounds both weird and shit in equal measure, but the audacity of these guys is as sheer as the pants guy’s top. The half dozen people who last the duration of their set absolutely fucking love it.

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Petrol Hoers

Little Death Machine take the stage ten minutes after their set was supposed to finish. Are they worth the wait? Absolutely. The London trio play in near-darkness, adding to the taut atmosphere which emanates from their technically precise and detailed compositions. On account of being scribbled in the dark (and not on account of the pints consumed over the course of the evening), my notes are a shade difficult to decipher, but in the moment I was taken by their rock / post-rock / hop-hop / soul rock hybrid. I also note by way of reference points Placebo, Oceansize, Nine Inch Nails, TesseracT, and some stuff I can’t make out from the scrawl.

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Little Death Machine

Did I really write ‘soul rock’? Yes, it appears so, and if that reads like an insult or criticism, it’s not: the moods that are deeply entwined within the songs, which are complex and progressive in their structures, are played with a sincerity and soulfulness that you feel. And that’s something no amount of technical ability or compositional dexterity can fake. It’s emotive, textured and resonant. And the perfect finish to an intense and varied night of live music.

Christopher Nosnibor

It says a lot about a gig’s lineup when the band at the bottom of the bill are of a clear headline standard. It’s clear, then, that Dan and Naomi Gott, the pair behind the Behind the White Door promoter’s outfit, who also happen to be Snakerattlers, are determined to give their album a decent launch tonight.

Local lads Black Lagoons, sporting a selectin of shirts worse than my own, start out with some fuzzy bass and heavily tremolod guitars, leading into a raging slab of punk-tinged desert psych. The bulk of the set’s dominated by gnarled-up blues boogies thrashed out at a hundred mile an hour. It’s a hell of a ride, and I’m reminded a little of early Gallon Drunk: it’s not just the sharp haircuts, but the furious, frenzied take on rock ‘n’ roll which yields an intense, immersive wall of sound.

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Black Lagoons

London’s Sly Persuaders, on the face of it, offer a more straight-ahead brand of punk rock, but as the set progresses it’s clear there’s a lot more going on. They’ve got some swagger behind a stack of sinewy guitar lines and rugged, serrated bass tones, carrying hints of The Screaming Blue Messiahs in places, as well as the spiky grit of various Touch & Go bands from the early 90s in others. It’s invigorating, and it’s also getting bloody hot in the low-ceilinged pub venue.

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Sly Persuaders

The problem with ‘fun’ bands is that everyone has a different idea of fun. Naturally, some modes of fun are more populist than others, and it perhaps goes without saying that punk in itself isn’t exactly the mainstream. Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies churn out pub rock punk with lyrics which leap from wry sociopolitical critiquing to observations on ‘modern’ art (although I’d probably bracket avant-garde provocateur Marcel Duchamp as a proto-postmodernist myself).

Pete himself doesn’t look a day under 50, and resembles a young Mark E Smith. He’s backed by a band considerably younger, and augmented with the performance element of ‘the dinnerettes’ a couple of buxom women with red gingham overdresses with fried egg patches sewn onto their boons, who make choreographed gesticulations to illustrate the lyrics. Or, sometimes, they just jog on the spot as during the ska knees-up about Uri Geller. They end up in a writhing heap in front of the stage at the end of the end of the set and everyone applauds because it’s a right laugh. The sax does give them a bit of a Psychedelic Furs vibe, though, which is a plus.

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Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies

Snakerattlers haven’t been around long, but since losing their drummer and disbanding The Franceens, Dan and Naomi have wasted no time in pulling together a set, a busy gig diary and now an album. To launch it, they play a set comprising everything they’ve got. And they play it hard.

As a two-piece, theirs is a minimal set-up – Naomi has a simple, three-piece drum kit consisting of tom, snare and cymbal, and Dan fill out his guitar sound with a fuckload of reverb, plays through two amps (guitar and bass) and cranks it up LOUD. Their sound is s wild rockabilly blues country rock ‘n’ roll surf hybrid, with many of the lyrics consisting of hollers and whoops. Dan works up a sweat, while Naomi has a more nonchalant, easy style, swinging her arms and hips in a way that looks effortless, but she hits hard and keeps it tight.

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Snakerattlers

In many respects, the simplicity is the key to what makes Snakerattlers a great band: there’s no clutter, either about the sound or the performance. There’s not a whole heap of banter and the songs are cut down to the bare essentials, meaning they get their heads down to the business of kicking out high-octane garage rock. They do low-down boogie; they do guitar lines with strut and swagger; they do hooks. They do it all with force, and it’s appreciatively received, ensuring Rattlerock is well and truly launched.

Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.

25th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

National Instruction is Soma Crew’s debut album. This is something of a technicality, as they rebranded shortly after the release of Another Dead Insect in 2015. And while all of the defining features of their previous incarnation remain, Soma Crew, having solidified with their current lineup, can be seen to have made marked progress since then.

The sonic haze which hangs heavy over all of their previous recordings and which defines their live sound is present and correct. On National Instruction, there’s also a wilful raggedness to the performances, with guitars and vocals titling off-kilter every which way, often to quite disorientating effect. It’s also by far the best-realised representation of what Soma Crew are about, showcasing a dense, murky sound, and a climax-centric approach to forging layered songs which plug hard at a single cyclical riff, nailed tight to a simple, repetitive drum pattern. Yet it’s also the work of a band who are evolving, and National Instruction marks a clear progression from their Soma EP release last autumn.

Si Micklethwaite’s vocal style isn’t conventionally tuneful, but then a melodic attenuation is by no means a prerequisite for singing in a rock band. Given the atonal drone elements of Soma Crew’s compositions, which are more focused on creating an atmospheric dissonance than a technically precise, melody-driven musicality, it works, and, bathed in reverb and a kind of fuzzy-edged soft-focus, he sounds more comfortable than on any release he’s featured on thus far.

‘Got It Bad’ features what is probably one of their most overtly catchy choruses to date, with a more clearly defined structure than any previous song – but it’s perfectly offset by a guitar line that heaves off to the left during one of the chord changes which launches said chorus. The nine-minute ‘Pyramids’ finds the band locking into the kind of groove they work the best. A spindly echo-drenched lead guitar wanders, spider-like over a chugging rhythm and spare, motoric beat that typifies their slow-burning brand of Black Angels-influenced psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, ‘Dangerzone’ is tense and angular, with eddying swells of abstract sound and feedback building into a cyclone of immersive noise close to the end. This is something they’ve got a real knack for.

Having heard a fair few of the cuts on Natural Instruction played live, it’s gratifying to observe just how well they’ve replicated the spirit and energy of the live sound on songs like ‘Remote Control’, which carries a shuddering, ramshackle Fall-esque vibe within its jagged two-chord battery. The album’s second eight-minuter, ‘Westworld’ starts of slow, sedate, but simmering: it’s never a case of if it’s going to break, but when, and while maintaining a pedestrian pace, it’s almost halfway through before the drums thud in. And then the guitars get up the volume… and then… and then… By the end, it’s still plodding away but the layers have built up and it’s a big old racket.

There’s something of a trickle toward the tranquil on the last two tracks, with the closer, ‘Maps and Charts’ being a particularly sedate – not to mention accessible indie tune. But rather than being an anti-climax, it reveals newly emerging facets of the bands, perhaps hinting that future releases will see them further extend their range.

 

Soma Crew - National Instruction

Christopher Nosnibor

Forget the ‘failed musician’ angle: any serious music writer (journalist might be stretching it, certainly where my own work is concerned) is likely to be a music fanatic first and foremost. PIG is a band who’ve inspired a degree of fanaticism on my part for a long time: since I first discovered them as the support for Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in 1994. The nature of their scattered catalogue makes tracking down even a reasonable chunk of their discography extremely difficult, and they hold the perhaps dubious honour (through no fault of the their own) of being the band who I’ve paid the most for an album by, with the (then) Japanese-only Genuine American Monster skinning me for some £50 over eBay back in 2000.

It really has been 23 years since they last toured the UK, and it’s fair to say that York on a Monday night struck me as an odd choice. Suffice it to say the 400-capacity venue wasn’t exactly rammed, but the double-header tour did manage to attract a devoted bunch of oddballs.

Glasgow trio Seraph Sin made a decent fist of opening. With smeared makeup and lank locks, there’s a black metal element to the presentation of their grindy, metal-edged industrial rock riffage. Delivering some full-tilt noise, they play the ‘menacing’ card nicely. While there are some clear and quite accessible choruses to be found in songs which are perhaps a shade, dare I say, obvious, they boast a gritty, earthy guitar sound which really cuts through, especially when heard from a position close to the front, where the full force of the back-line has maximum effect. And their drummer sounds like a machine, which is admirable.

Seraph Sin

Seraph Sin

Also admirable are Mortiis. It transpires that shunning the band on account of the eponymous front man’s prosthetics – something I considered to be rather cheesy – has been my loss all these years. Still, the advent of Era 0 and the latest album, The Great Deceiver, has marked a shift of both style and sound, marked by an absence of prosthetics and an abrasive technoindustrial sound reminiscent of Ministry.

They’re still big on the theatrics, though, from the big, moody intro of drums and grinding guitar before the entrance of the man himself, to the smeared corpse paint. Håvard Ellefsen strolls on, barefoot and resembling a decayed suicide, and proceeds to stomp around the stage radiating petulant energy. Despite the absence of a live bass, the threesome forge a throbbing sonic intensity with a dense and murky sound counterpointed by a bright, ear-shredding top-end. The set is drawn predominantly from the latest album, which both makes sense both promotionally and in terms of rendering a cohesive performance, and it’s a performance which is powerful and intense. Yes, there are clear elements of rock posturing in evidence, but it’s played knowingly, and manifests as an aggressive channelling of a deep fury, making for an uplifting catharsis.

Mortiis

Mortiis

For a man spitting fury and venomous rage, Ellefsen smiles a lot. Granted, with the makeup, his grin takes the form of a maniacal, murderous leer, but it’s clear that this a man who’s having a pretty good time channelling his demons into his art and releasing it all on stage. It’s not hard to determine the reasons: as his skeletal guitarist, who has highly vascular arms, peels of sheets of blistering noise it’s all coming together perfectly out front, and Mortiis are a band on top form.

PIG crank up the rock posturing to the power of ten: Raymond Watts is a man who not only gets irony, but breathes it and chews on it slowly, savouring the flavour, as he throws his shapes around the stage amidst a musical tumult and a whole kitchen sink melange of electronica and grinding guitars on full thrust. He enters the stage in a preposterous fur number and gives it the full works on the posing front for the set’s slow-burning opener ‘Diamond Sinners’.

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PIG

I’m immediately transported back to 1994: supporting Nine Inch Nails at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, where they audaciously opened with ‘Red, Raw and Sore’ over any of their throat-grabbing, up-front crowd-pleasers. But then, the appeal of PIG has always been their perversity and their stubborn refusal to do anything obvious. Having supported Nine Inch Nails, they could have been propelled, if not to a stratospheric level, then perhaps the upper strata of the troposphere. But, as I subsequently discovered, their material was almost impossible to locate, especially in a pre-internet age, and it’s a situation which hasn’t really changed over the last two and a bit decades.

As with Mortiis’ set, there’s a heavy leaning toward the latest release: the accessible industrial pop chop of ‘Found in Filth’ is dropped in early, but then there’s a reasonable plundering of the back catalogue, too: ‘Everything’ lands as the third song on the set list, and the atmospheric spoken word work ‘Ojo Por Ojo’ prefaces a pounding rendition of ‘Wrecked’ (which more than compensates the fact it doesn’t lead in to ‘Blades’ as it features on The Swining by virtue of its throbbing intensity). Really, it’s absolutely fucking blistering. The same is true of ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ from 1995’s Sinsation.

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PIG

The fact that the current line-up features both En Esch and Gunter Schultz not only makes this incarnation of PIG something of a supergroup, but also illustrates the expansive nature of the musical family centred around KMFDM to which Watts belongs. And while there’s also a shared territory in musical terms, PIG have always sounded unique, and continue to do so. Watts’ showmanship is something else, and while there isn’t a weak element in the band’s performance, he’s indisputably the focal point, radiating a charisma that elevates the band to a different level. He’s a tall, limby guy, and he uses this to fill the stage and to dominate the space around him.

It’s a triumphant, and above all, thoroughly enjoyable show. Here’s just hoping it’s not another 23 years before they return.