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…

You and I can conquer all the negative vibes

I probably need to crack on with this – I’m in danger of missing the boat with it (“You think? – May ’19).

An over-excited voice on the recording (the same one as usual, I’m afraid) can be heard saying more than once “There are literally no situations that can’t be improved by a bit of Gruff Rhys” and without wishing to blow my own trumpet or to deny the existence of all the other instances where I’m clearly talking a load of old bollocks, on this occasion, I stand by this statement.

Gruff Rhys, Sea Change

It had been a bit of a mixed day up to this point, to be fair. There’d been an aborted attempt to see Stuart Lee which had been transformed unbeknownst to us (and a load of other politely disgruntled punters) into a ticketed event during the course of the weekend. There’d been the pure and undiluted pleasure of a new Field Music set (there are, after all, literally no situations etc, etc…) and also the vaguely surreal spectacle of a marquee full of misty-eyed old lags singing along to the songs of Bagpuss.

By now it was late afternoon and a table having already been booked at a likely looking restaurant back in town, this was the last set our happy band was likely to be seeing. So I guess a certain responsibility lay in the hands of the man I took to be our genial host. In three piece suit, red bobble hat and raybans, he wore it easily, of course, and rolled out a trademark set of graceful melody and fanciful whimsy.

I’ll be honest, I’ve taken my eye off the ball of recent and I was completely unaware that another Gruff Rhys record, Babelsberg, had emerged, (last Summer, I think). I need to sort this, because the songs he played from it, “Negative Vibes”, “The Club”, “Frontier Man” and a couple of others, sounded just super.

Here’s a clip of “The Club” recorded last year, which if a little static does the trick, I’d say…

 

New material there may have been, but there was a reassuring familiarity about the whole set – the same shambling rhythms, the same avuncular informality, the same spaghetti western airs – even the applause signs were back. There was a fair smattering of songs from Candylion, American Interior and Hotel Shampoo, and the welcome return of “Pwdin Wy” (broken into its two halves by an interlude where an offending wristband was cut off with the help of a ‘knife amnesty’– “I was alarmed by some of the knives that came out just then. I thought it was a different kind of festival”).

Gruff’s voice continues to be a friendly, melancholic guide in times of creeping uncertainty. His quirks and idiosyncrasies are still more rousing than almost any other artist I know and I’d be happy to continue seeing him once every couple of years for the rest of my days.

We trudged off full-spirited, happy of heart and ready for a spot of dinner.

Lonesome Words

American Interior

Negative Vibes

Literally, no situation.

It’s a hill I’m willing to die on…

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…

The air began to sing again…

OK, time to deliver on my long-held (and more than once repeated) promise to give you something on last month’s Sea Change.

Overall a fine time was had by all, I think. Some jolly company, some good music, some beer drunk, I’m a simple feller…

We’d had such a good time last year that booking again this year was something of a no-brainer. And when Coleser told me that a May Bank Holiday festival was planned this year and that he’d cannily managed to rent a house in the centre of Totnes, well, it was all on again.

Anticipation was dampened a little, however, when we found out that very little was being put on in the town this year, most of the music was happening over at the Dartmouth Hall site. One of the highlights of last year had been the casual hopping from bar to street to church, airily waving a wrist band at the door, picking up music all over. None of that this year…

To be fair, the Dartmouth Hall site was a little better this year, but still all a bit a-bunch-of-folk-in-a-field. Not much in the way of food, two beer tents and two stages, so close to each other that they needed to alternate acts. (And that’s definitely not a 30 minute amble from town…)

But grousing aside, I think I saw more good music this year than last, so get a grip, man.

I’m starting here…

You Tell Me

Field Music may well be the band I’ve seen most of all over the years. They’re always engaging, unexpected and make me feel like I should be listening to the records more closely.

You Tell Me are one of Peter Brewis’ side-projects, so not strictly speaking a Field Music gig, the fact that David Brewis turned up playing fretless bass (“you know… a dangerous business”), also doesn’t in any way make this a Field Music gig, oh no.

Battling nevertheless, against Field Music levels of disinterest from a sparsely spread field of punters, they cheerfully ran through at least 8 numbers from their record – I say “at least” because inexplicably I turned my recorder off at one point. I can only apologise.

It really is a lovely record that, true to form, I’ve had to go back and re-investigate on my return from Devon. It’s full of wry observations and rueful glances to the past most effectively from the lips of co-writer Sarah Hayes, supplemented by the twists, turns and unpredictable grooves that collaboration with a Brewis can’t help but guarantee.

At one point, an (alarmingly) rustic burr can be heard gushing soppily about how lovely the Brewis brothers are. I should not do this (for it was I) but there’s something about a Field Music set that loosens the tongue injudiciously (although, drink may also have been taken…). What can I say?

A typically off-centre encore of “Ivor Cutler to a Bo Diddley beat” and they were gone, all too soon and not to be seen again until the next half-empty moderately-sized venue comes into view. Let’s hope it’s not too long, eh?

Get Out of the Room

Enough to Notice

I Worn My Elbows

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…)

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