Love-o is short-o!

Uf!

That was something of a palate cleanser…

Spent yesterday mooching around the pubs and record spots of Bristol in the freezing cold of a bitter February day – think I’ll wait for the more forgiving afternoons of summer before I do that again. Picked up a lovely Ewan McGregor & Peggy Seeger record, though (memories of Sea Change, hearing her perform and asking an audience question – Coleser saying “I was convinced you were going to fuck that up”). Also got chatting to a slightly over-friendly and (by the end) very drunk feller in the pub about Gloucester Rugby and Syd Barrett. Lovely burger and drink with The Daughter, and swift trot along to the Fleece to see…

Otoboke Beaver, The Fleece

I’ve been unfeasibly excited about this for a while now, as previous OB posts (both of which I now realise have the same headline photo) will surely corroborate. I’m a great one for over-hyping and then when it comes down to it being underwhelmed in the face of the real thing, and so I half-wondered if actually they might not quite measure up. Support band Drinking Boys and Girls Choir from Korea were pretty good, (maybe a bit like what Otoboke Beaver were going to be like?), loud and enthusiastic certainly but my attention started to wander pretty quickly.

I needn’t have worried of course.

Wandering a little uncertainly onto stage a few minutes early, all four girls fiddled around with the equipment nervously for a full five minutes, like footballers waiting for the ad break to end. The invisible thumbs-up having been given, however, they sprang straight into a break-neck, raucous set of 21 songs (none of them past the three minute mark) in just over an hour onstage (although as Coleser pointed out afterwards, the pace they played at meant a Springsteen-style marathon was never on the cards).

It was crazy stuff, all four girls hurtling themselves uncontrollably through what I like to think was a feverishly foul-mouthed set – although I’m guessing here, all the girls’ English still being charmingly pigeon – they certainly left everything on the pitch (Coleser, again).

Disappointingly, most of the clips on YouTube of the band live, involve rows of people holding phones up (although, frankly I can understand the gawping) but there are these two cracking clips shot in Tokyo, but which were pretty much it, last night – “Love Is Short”:

 

and “Datsu hikage no onna” (with added “oyoyoyoyo”):

 

Turned out in cartoonish sixties-cut dresses, they looked like the Shangri-Las although this belied the Shock & Awe they were about to unleash. Singer Accorinrin shrieked her way prettily through the set slinking about centre-stage, energetically striking poses for each line she sang. At times she was almost demure, at others pretty disturbing, and always scarily beautiful. Drummer, Kahokiss, propelled the the whole shebang at unlikely and frankly unwise speeds and yet was still somehow able to provide backing vocals. (At one point, a new song was introduced as “one of our more fast songs” without any apparent irony and surely a weary, deep breath from the back of the stage…)

But if they were giving out medals for catastrophic disorderliness, guitarist Yoyoyoshie would have cleaned up – she was absolutely barking mad. Screaming “We are Otoboke Beaver!!!!!” between songs at throat-shredding volume and bounding about riffing furiously, yet also providing call and response vocals, she was comprehensively “on it” (and at the same time, completely “off it”) throughout. At one point she hurled herself backwards offstage into the mosh pit, without missing a note, surfing clumsily across a sea of hands. In a group of out-and-out nutters, she was head and shoulders the wildest. If you had only one straight jacket…

At one point, before ripping into “6 Day Working Week is a Pain”, Accorinrin announced that they had all quit their jobs to come on this tour (to huge cheers) which was the bare minimum I might have expected, to be frank, but was more surprising for the fact that they apparently live in a real world which involves having regular jobs – hats off to any and all previous employers, I say…

On the floor, there were scenes of unruliness and abandon which this old chap managed to avoid (a series of unflattering strains and spasms would surely have ensued…) – moshing, crowd surfing and general boisterousness to a level I’ve not seen for a while. The kids loved them.

I’ve got some recordings which are far from perfect but which give you a sense of pretty wild and deeply satisfying evening.

Akimahenka

Don’t Light My Fire

Datsu hikage no onna

Introduce Me to your Family

Long Live the Beaver!

Suffering as a little bit of time taken for yourself…

I was thinking of proroguing Partly Porpoise for five weeks, but then I asked myself, would you notice the difference?

(Somehow “shit-show” no longer suffices.)

 

I’m going to close my eyes and think of happier times…

I’ve had a few days up in that London, pretty much “living it large” (as I believe the young folk would have it). It was a groove and a gas.

By the end of the stay, I felt like a minor prince, strutting purposefully from place to place, airily waving my plastic at obliging shop assistants, waiters and purveyors of fine wines and vinyl, all of whom duly prostrated themselves before me. Even the barriers at tube stations ceded to my all-conquering card (that was a revelation, I can tell you…) Of course, I bought a sackload of CDs, more books than I strictly need and generally spent money with a flash and ease that I knew I would regret when back in the real world. (And so it proved.)

But enough of this, I’m sure you’re saying, did I see any music?

Oh, indeedy…

White Fence, Oslo, Hackney

I’ll admit, of recent I’ve lost track of Tim Presley’s dizzyingly varied output, since the first Drinks record in fact (didn’t even know until yesterday that there’d been a second one). He’s a widening gyre of feverish activity for sure, with all sorts of releases in the four years since I wrote this in 2015. He seems to career from one corner of the “difficult” room to the other – one minute he’s thrashing away like a good ’un with Ty Segall, the next he’s all atonal prickliness and dense lyrical forestry with Cate le Bon. It’s a job for an old guy to keep up, you know.

I’m not really up on London venues – I’ve not seen a gig in the capital for years – but the Oslo seems like a decent spot, with a hipsterish bar/restaurant beneath the concert hall. It was something of a novelty booking a table and getting vegan burgers and craft beers before the show (when in the metropolis…), and only wending our way casually upstairs when Presley and band had finished their chicken wings at the next table.

We did actually see most of support act Robert Sotelo but I didn’t really get it to be honest. I’m all for bands reading lyrics off crib sheets (it suggests a certain crisp freshness to the material after all), and it may be that his music “owes as much to Davies and McCartney’s unashamed belief in melody as it does to the uncertainty and confusion that comes with mid-thirties existentialism” (ahem) but nothing worked for me really. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a singer look as ill-at-ease.

All forgotten, a couple of hours later though, by which time White Fence had jogged athletically through a 90-minute, 15-song set that was definitely wearing the le Bon dungarees from Presley’s wardrobe, in something of a contrast to the last time I saw him.

Most of the songs came from the recent I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk record or from Presley’s solo album Wink, and unfamiliar I was with them, I really enjoyed it. There was nothing from (what I’m calling) his Ty Segall records and although the familiar slashed, trebly freakbeat chords were never far from the surface (all played in his own distinctive high slung, Hollies fashion), there was not so much of the garage punk freakouts that characterised the time I saw him in Bristol.

There’s actually a clip of part of the Oslo gig on YouTube, but it’s not quite as good as this one, shot a couple of weeks earlier and pretty much the same (save for the neatly tucked in beige tank top Presley sported for the whole of our steamy evening).

 

Despite looking so relaxed in the bar beforehand, it seemed to take a little while for things to settle as it were, but once he did, Presley and band gave pretty good gig (particularly the second guitarist Josh Popowitz and getting-down-to-business drummer Phelan Handley – not at all sure about these names…), the set gradually getting more frayed and psyche as the evening thrummed on.

The hall itself was a classic rock venue, in the bar-along-one-side, sticky-floored fashion of the Fleece, and the sound was probably even better, and so the recordings came out pretty well.

I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk

Clue

Live on Genevieve

Until You Walk

I have a few White Fence / Tim Presley / Presley & Segall records to catch up on now…

They find different ways to suck themselves off…

Another week has flown by.

Another week of cursory achievements which have made people happy, but which has precluded me from doing the stuff I’d like to be doing. You know… reading, chatting, loafing around on my tummy, listening to music.

I could, for instance have been listening to this gaudy, intemperate and monstrously powerful set I recorded at Sea Change…

Black Midi, Sea Change

If my shonky memory serves, the weather was temperate, an early afternoon in a conspicuously Brexity pub watching Glaws’ unlikely attempt to qualify for the Premiership Final had been shaken off without too much trouble (for 51 seconds it had looked so promising…) and “a gentle amble along the river” lay between us and a very promising sounding set from difficult South London likely lads, Black Midi.

An increasingly fretful “amble” saw us 45 minutes later, sloping unfashionably late, into the darkness of a very loud, very dark marquee, vaguely aware that outlandish stuff had been afoot onstage and we were not quite “up to speed” with it.

At first, I put the sense of queasy disorientation down to circumstance and told myself that things would settle. Mercifully, they didn’t…

Black Midi are a surly bunch, make no mistake.

Didn’t do a lot of talking, ran one awkward song into the next, and generally muddied the waters with as much dissonance and feedback as possible. And they were loud. I mean really loud… inordinately, bloody loud. Loud enough to make me consider getting earplugs, although if I did, I would’ve been seriously missing the point, I feel.

They thrashed through a set of broken up songs, which switched from one time signature to another with alarming effect and frequently ascended into horrible chaos. They were like a darker, nastier White Denim, with the same virtuosity but with an instinctive desire to bugger with conventional forms and to experiment furiously. (And when I say “experiment”, I’m talking Karloff).

If you watch this video, you’ll see the guitarist doing some sort of smartarsery with an iPhone on the pick up as they are playing, infuriatingly ingenious…

 

This is of course what young lads should be doing with their guitars…

You get a chance to see drummer Morgan Simpson full on “at it” in the clip too. He was pretty remarkable, another of the “why shouldn’t I be lead?” drummers that I am rather partial too. There was more than a little Drumbo to him, so it’s entirely appropriate that one of the comments to this video is:

“That’s right, the Mascara Snake, fast ‘n’ bulbous!”

`(I’ve said it before, if Beefheart hadn’t existed, we’d have had to invent him…)

You can also get a sense of the maximum David Thomas mode that vocalist Geordie Greep brings to the party – howling, gibbering and berating the audience with a sandpaper hostility that was breath-taking.

What the KEXP (God bless ‘em) clip can’t show you, though, is just how dark (in all senses) the set was. There was a lot of dry ice (Snapped Ankles levels), a lot harsh lighting, a lot of frenzied incoherence and a helluva lot of stylised silhouette work, with Greep sporting a perfect, if silly, huge black Stetson and eventually donning Eastwood-style button up overcoat as he left the stage, swathed in atmospherics (and possibly threatening to kill any man, his wife, his friends and burn his goddamn house down…)

It was a vigorous, ugly set, by a bunch of vigorous, ugly young lads.

bmbmbm

Ducter

Talking Heads

All power to their gangly elbows…

Have you done a pinger? You have, haven’t you?

So, this was meant to be the second part of a post about a terrific evening at SWX a fortnight ago, a companion piece to the post I wrote about Snapped Ankles. The impish Green Men from East London had scampered off a smoke-jewelled stage, leaving a stunned and excited group of lairy punters and I must admitted I feared a little for the Beak boys – how do you begin to follow that?

Beak, SWX, Bristol

(I’ve just realised that other Bloggers and reviewers use the mysterious “>” character after “Beak” – I’m not going to do that, it’s too late for me now and I’m doubling down on not holding any truck with that sort of nonsense…)

This was, of course, a hometown gig for Geoff Barrow and pals, and from the get-go there was a pretty relaxed, confident air about their set. They were like wayward teenagers coming home from uni, unrepentant, without explanations, feet on the sofa, bag of washing by the stairs. We asked no questions, like proper modern parents, and made it clear we were just pleased to see them. They goofed about onstage, interacted with the punters (“Have you done a pinger? You have, haven’t you? He’s done a pinger!”) swore immoderately and banged out an effortless set of hearty, wibbly krautrock that sounded absolutely fine to these ears.

Here’s a video shot in Manchester last year which gives you a feel of the evening, but doesn’t quite capture the whole Brizzle-ness of the evening:

 

It was a much more raucous affair, driven firmly by Barrow’s tight, at times hefty drumming and despairing vocals, with seated bassist Billy Fuller (he didn’t actually have his teeth blacked out, but still…) weaving his way in out of Barrow, providing a busy and full background across which the reedy, wavering synths from Will Young’s corner wandered ethereally. Nervously intoxicating…

They’ve got a really strong set of seventies sci-fi-influenced songs which still work really well and I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever heard something so derivative work so well in a modern context – it’s like modern pop is really ready for what they do and must surely be kicking itself for not having thought of it sooner.  I loved, loved, loved it.

A real party atmosphere meant that there was a lot of noise in the hall, but not thick-headed chumps talking their way through the set, more like groups of tipsy souls having great fun, unable to contain their spirits, in the sure knowledge that no one else would mind (even this old prudish curmudgeon). To be honest, it’s such a muscular, industrial sound Beak have that, frankly, you could’ve driven a combine into the hall and I don’t think too many would’ve noticed.

Highlights of the set were a particularly dashing but brutal version of “Wulfstan II” and the entrancing folk horror of “When We Fall”, with some genuinely witty banter to introduce it.

The recordings are … atmospheric but still for all that, some of the best I think I have, and it’s in that spirit I’m giving you a couple, including a very noisy “Allé Sauvage”, simply because it’s a quivering banger, my favourite track on the latest record:

Allé Sauvage

Wulfstan II

When We Fall

I’m breathlessly excited listening to these again, you really should give them a listen (I tell you I’ll not be responsible for my actions…)

Sucka-sucka-sucka tailpipe!

I’ve just come back from Sea Change in Totnes, a mixed weekend of great music, pretty average organisation and cracking company, with a recorder full of tunes and a bit of a hangover…

It does mean I’m a little behind on a few things here, and tempting as it might be to go straight to a warm Sunday afternoon with Gruff, I’m going to keep things strictly in order, demonstrating the discipline and self-control for which this Blog has become a byword.

Which means this first…

Snapped Ankles, SWX Bristol

This is nothing to do with Sea Change. And technically, Snapped Ankles were actually the support band last Monday evening, backing up booming hometown boys, BEAK, in what I reckon must be one of the very best double bills I think I’ve ever seen. I’ll go on to the BEAK stuff next post (they were terrific) but right now I’ll focus my laser-like eye on East London’s foremost woodland folk / motoric ensemble.

This interview here suggests a whole more thoughtful side to a gang of hormone-busting urchins of which I was completely unaware as a mysterious troupe of costumed figures picked their way across the SWX stage veiled in dry ice. Completely unrecognisable beneath ski googles and shamanistic forest masks (an anonymity that extends to interviews and all publicity), they certainly made something of an entrance, before launching hell-for-leather into a pretty brutal set that went through most of their new record, Stunning Luxury.

The interview suggests that the record is some sort of protest about developers stomping all over rehearsal spaces in the Capital – I’m not really sure where the curious wicker men look comes into this – but to be honest I’m not buying it. Personally, I prefer to believe they’re a bunch of over-excited youngsters dressing up and smashing the hell out of all manner of electronic gizmos, enjoying the buzz they get from sounds their gear was surely not designed to make. You can say what you like about tribal rhythms, I just think they’re having a whale of a time, making it as uncomplicated as they possibly can whilst muddying things to impossible degrees with as many pedals, wires and processors as they can lay their grimy fingers on. Smashing fun…

You should probably watch at least part of this…

 

Lawks!

It was relentless, dizzying and got murkier as the evening went on. By the time their set was over, you could barely see them slinking ghoulishly from the stage because of the vast amounts of swirling, murky algae smoke flowing from the stage.

I’ve got a couple of recordings which are good and certainly capture the sound of the evening but which can do no justice to the sheer exhilarating weirdness of a Snapped Ankles set.

Tailpipe / True Ecology

I Want My Minutes Back

As the boys left the stage, we were left thinking “How on earth are Beak gonna match that?” and I’ll let you know in the next post.

(Spoiler: They smashed it…)

Sometimes four things can be going on at once…

An engaging first for me this week…

Rubén, my Asturian pal, who once a week in the pub listens uncomplainingly to my painful Spanish and makes courteous suggestions, had a hankering to see some live music and hauled me over for my debut appearance at the Cheltenham Jazz festival on Friday. Not really my cup of tea, thinks I, but utterly unable to express thirty years of a troubled relationship with jazz in schoolboy Spanish, I opted for “Sure, why not?”

We were actually up for tickets to see Georgie Fame, which I quite fancied (for old time sake, Twenty Beat Classics was a much-loved early acquisition of mine back in the day) but we dithered and unfortunately missed out. So, at random, we picked out a band we’d neither of us heard of…

Partisans, Parabola Arts Centre

I’d not heard of the Parabola Arts Centre either, which turns out to be some sort of concert hall for the Cheltenham Ladies College, but it’s a pretty little venue, immaculately swathed in dark wood and leather furnished seats. And the sound was really excellent. (It was certainly a far cry from my usual haunts – no sticky floors and pillars; no haunting sound of a beer bottle being tossed into a bin; no glimpse of a shaggy-maned Big Jef at the front – all very genteel. I could get used to it…)

Partisans have been around for 24 years (who knew?) and are apparently genuine Post Jazz commandos, plying their gawky trade all over world to general fizz and acclaim (there’s a great interview with them here – in the ominously named All About Jazz magazine). Consisting of a revved up guitarist, an impressively coifed saxophonist, electric bassist and busy, busy drummer, they ploughed through a dizzying set that from the first nimble skips of the bass blew asunder my silly reservations about being at a jazz concert. It was clearly going to be more Sun Ra than Georgie Fame.

It was a genuinely exciting set, goaded along by a ridiculously tight & loose rhythm section and powered by the occasional wah-wah and often fuzzed up guitar of Phil Robson. The recordings don’t quite bear witness to this, but at times it made me think of what I imagine the Third-era Soft Machine might’ve been like (before Wyatt exited, taking his zany genius with him).

The best tracks were a lot of fun, sounding modern and trad at the same time – each song swooping and summersaulting through distinct phases, twisting around traditional riffs and into bafflingly oblique passages that made the senses and scalp tingle.

Here’s a clip from the Montreux Jazz Festival a few years back, sounding more than a little Beefheart-y:

 

Sometimes, we were reminded that this was, when all’s said and done, still a jazz evening, and it did get a little dreary but at such times you can always focus on the drummer. Jazz drummers are an absorbing watch, generally much more interesting than rock drummers, and this was certainly true of Gene Calderazzo, a New Yorker with a fidgety, busy style and the low boredom threshold that marks his kind – he simply would not stay on the same shift for long and was constantly adding new fills and patterns. As well as all this, he could also maintain a different rhythm with all four limbs. Astonishing stuff. (His partner in rhythm is bass player Thad Kelly, who was  terrific too. Could there be any more Be Bop names than Thad and Gene?)

A strictly-curated hour-long set was over a little too soon for some, but for me it was about right, my attention was starting to wander – any longer and it might have started to chafe.

Here’s the opening two tracks from the evening…

Max / That’s Not His Bag

Previous Older Entries