I was as happy as I’ll ever be…

The keen of mind will not have missed the tantalising hints I have made over the last couple of posts, and may have spent the weekend chewing their arm off in anticipation of some sort of post about the third gig I went to last week. (Firstly, I’d have to commend your strength and sharpness of vision; but I should probably warn against such a position that leaves you wide-open to the vagaries of a timetable that regular readers of this Blog will by now be immune to. Honestly, protect your heart…)

But in this instance if you took such a position (and again, please…) your zeal has been rewarded, because here is part three of my week in Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Aldous Harding, SWX

Anyway, out of the blue, I got one of those “I’ve got you a ticket, you’re going to love it” calls from Coleser, “It’s tonight.”

I’m totally OK with this, as I think I’ve said before, and seeing as how previous evenings have introduced me to the wistful notes of Meilyr Jones and the bold frolics of the Lemon Twig lads, who wouldn’t be? Aldous Harding this time, and nope, not heard of him. Pick up times agreed, a quick “her, not him” and the deal was done.

An unexpected bonus was old friend H Hawkline providing support (and later on playing bass as part of the backing band). Resplendent in what I took to be some sort of lavishly embroidered three-quarter length coat, he played his way through a series of new songs and informed us that he’d always warned himself “whatever you do, don’t make a break up record, and yet here I am singing that song wearing my sister’s dressing gown.”

Last time I’d seen Hawkline he’d been full-on Cate le Bon garage punk, whooping and warbling his way through another Green Man set. Time has apparently not been all that kind to him if the tone of the new recordings is anything to go by. It was a lovely set warmly received by a very healthy crowd for a support act

Means That Much

My scanty research had revealed that Aldous Harding is indeed a woman, hailing from New Zealand, who likes to make a face. That was about the depth of my prep for the evening, but sometimes that’s quite good, giving you as it does a completely blank sheet free of all the old guff you fill your head up with pre-gig.

Within seconds of coming on stage, though, it was pretty clear that Aldous Harding is a bit of a queer old fish. Barely acknowledging an eager audience keen to interact with her, she gathered herself painstakingly, unhurriedly, seemingly unaware of the expectant folk before her. She opened with a very atmospheric “Swell Does the Skull” which was affecting and made me think immediately of Beth Gibbons. (A good thing, no?)

Throughout the set she grimaced and gurned her way through in a bizarre way which was hard to ignore. Her oddness gives me a chance to trot out all my best Gothic lines (she certainly is a Mad Woman in the Attic…) and lazy as that might sound, there’s no denying she’s most definitely an odd one. We’re way beyond quirky here…

You probably need to see something at this point. For the full ghastly glory, you could search for the Later performance on YouTube, but as this is a boogie-woogie free zone, I’ll post this KEXP video, which is nearly as cracked:

 

And make no mistake, the songs themselves are something of a gruelling listen too. Wounds that need bathing, birds that scream, love that never quite blooms, skulls and velvet all eddy around uncertainly, delivered in the most scarred of voices, windswept and withered but still defiant. The title track of Party starts with the surely darkest of lines – “He took me to a clearing, the grass was warm and the air was soft, he had me sit like a baby, I looked just twelve with his thumb in my mouth.”

Hmmm… gruesome, uncomfortable stuff…

Compelling, mind.

No chatting Facebook ninnies at SWX this evening at least. Each song was silently, religiously observed, pins could be heard dropping and at the end of each performance a wave of frantic whooping would break out, followed by desperate attempts to communicate with the outlandish thing on stage. All quite draining.

I remember feeling by the end of the set a slight weariness and a feeling that it had all been a little one-paced, but listening back to a pretty good set of recordings, I take it all back. It’s an absorbing run of haunting voyeurism we were treated to.

Party

Imagining My Man

Horizon

Very impressive, not a little scary…

It’s the curl in his hair and his falcon-eyed stare…

End of the Road next week… better get on with these…

Welsh Revival?

Still got a bunch more recordings from Green Man to share with you, and for this post I’ll make them all artists from the Principality itself.

If you were to count Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci as the first wave of new Welsh bands (probably a bit spurious I know…), then there’s definitely a second wave of great, new music coming out of Wales these days. And with not a single Super Furry Animal, and scarcely a Zygotic Mynci on the GM bill this year, you could say it was definitely time for the young pups to step up.

(To be honest, I’d’ve got this post up a couple days earlier, if hadn’t been labouring with some tired old analogy about passing the baton on to the next generation – damn those Olympics!)

H Hawkline was the first act of the whole festival; four o’clock on the Thursday is probably not the best slot of all. But he was fine, warbling and thrumming away, backed ably by Cate le Bon on guitar and Sweet Baboo on bass. He was pretty good and I enjoyed his set, sprinkled with new material as it was.

Broken Fingers – H Hawkline

Ghouls – H Hawkline

Cate le Bon’s set was last thing on the Saturday night in the WalledGarden, a good spot, although it was dampened a little by the rain. Hawkline played guitar and keyboards, Sweet Baboo bass again. (Sweet Baboo actually had his own spot on the Sunday, which unfortunately I missed, but I’d imagine there might’ve been a couple of familiar faces on stage with him. Thank God the drummer didn’t have his own band…)

Cate le Bon’s got increasingly gothic in the last couple of years, with more and more of the Nico in her, and her set was really quite dark in places. Again there was a lot of new material from her excellent Cyrk record.

Fold the Cloth – Cate le Bon

Falcon Eyed – Cate le Bon

Another early set I saw was by a youthful Sen Segur, who were really good value, mining a quirky, psychedelic vein that seems to have a pretty rich seam in these parts. They were great, I really liked them, and whereas Hawkline and Cate le Bon did pretty much what I expected, Sen Segur were a genuine revelation and I shall enjoy looking out for their records

Cyfroeth Gwlyb – Sen Segur

The last recording is from the only member of the Gorky/SFA axis to appear at Green Man this year. Richard James’ new project, Pen Pastwn, played to a back drop of indie films last year, but seem now to be moving into the direction of literature and poetry, getting involved in the In Chapters project in Cardiff. I’ve seen Richard James four or five times now, and it’s usually been pretty folky, but this year he played a largely instrumental, again psychy sort of a set which I really enjoyed. At one point, the large uncompromising figure of poet David Oprava, reminiscent of David Thomas, came on stage and read a poem backed by Pen Pastwch. It was pretty powerful, if sounding a little like David Byrne in parts…

Pen Pastwyn with David Oprava

Enjoy these. I do still have a few more things to post, but whether I’ll actually get there before EotR is doubtful…

We dream and we die alone, it seems…

My stubbornly autonomous imagination has just refused to leave last week’s tired Welsh-music-scene-as-episode-from-Pobol-y-Cwm metaphor well alone.

I can’t help filling in the scenery further. I’ve been imagining other Welsh luminaries living round the corner and former tenants made good moving out to greener pastures but coming back to visit regularly. This is all very well but unavoidably leads to concerns over parking and then questions about whether the parish council can afford to run the library service as well as keeping the Post Office open in the current climate. Honestly, if I still had the kids’ Lego kits and accompanying model figures, well, I’d not be writing this post…

Any-hoo.

The latest artist to “move in” to the community (I had to go back and put those quotes marks in…) is this feller.

H Hawkline

Wrote about H Hawkline last year, although I wasn’t really operating from a position of strength; couldn’t find a lot online about him and had (of course) missed him at Green Man. Recently though, a couple of Hawkline records have appeared on Emusic, both really good but very different to each other.

The first, Cup of Salt, is more the style I wrote about before, delicate but more-ish guitar pieces with few vocals on it. I quite like it but the second record, The Strange Uses of Ox Gall is more my sort of thing. It starts quite slowly with a bit of noodling and gawky playfulness, but there are some much more substantial (and quirky) pieces just around the corner. Goofy, creepy fairground keyboards and homemade samples litter the place, but beneath the garish wrapping are some genuine, rather melancholic pop moments. Particular favourites are Surf Pound, Mind How You Go and Funny Bones (with Cate le Bon on backing vocals – not doing much to dispel the Pobol y Cwm fantasies, there). The single You Say You Love Me is rather sweet as well.

I’ve also had these recordings of H Hawkline at this year’s Green Man, languishing on my hard disk for a couple of months now. I enjoyed the set a lot and thought that having armed myself with the albums I’d be a little more in the know when I went back to listen to the recordings, but actually, turns out that there’s very little from either record there – it’s pretty much all new material (Ox Gall was only a summer release, I think).

But it’s good stuff and quite a useful little counterpoint to the whimsy that dominates the records, sounding rather choppy and garage-y as it does. As I say, a lot of the songs he played were new to me and I’ve had to try and make sensible guesses about titles – if anyone can put me right, I’d appreciate it.

Forget What You’ve Learnt and Live Life like a Child

My Dreams

Don’t See Me Getting Old

Broken Fingers

Kiss Me on My Lips

Hell’s Bells

Full Focus

Leather Belly

(btw, just so as you know that I do put in all due research and effort to these posts, marbling, engraving and lithography are just some of the strange uses of ox gall…)

On mountain tops, in gales, I pray

Cardiff’s Shape Records are a busy little outfit – always seem to have a few gigs and events on, and having that fine Sweet Baboo record in the summer, have now released an album by the mysterious H Hawkline. You can stream the whole record from their site, here, or if you want something special, you can buy one of only 150 specially pressed vinyl LPs, with special sleeves and the like.

On top of this, Shape Records have just made available a free download of a song called “I Want To Write You A Song As Good As I Can”, which was apparently part of the I’m a Dancer sessions, but didn’t make the cut. It’s pretty good as well, all quirky, plaintive vocals and seventies brass. I like it, and you can get it in exchange for your email address here.

Here’s a clip of Steven playing at one of the Shape Functions:

A doff of the cap to you…

Great Acts I Have Missed (pt3) – H Hawkline

This is more a told-you-so, getting-in-on-the-ground-floor sort of a post than anything of real substance. Fact is I haven’t found an awful lot available on the net by this feller…

H Hawkline

Sometimes, I wonder what I was actually doing at Green Man this year. Yeah, I caught some great sets, did some videoing and recording and indulged in a modest amount of drinking, but Green Man ’10 is increasingly being characterised for me by the acts I missed…

Already spoken about Megafaun and Sweet Baboo, both of whom played, both of whom I missed and both of whom I’ve subsequently spent a lot of time listening to. Turns out, I missed another gem in H Hawkline.

H Hawkline are a loose bunch of musicians grouped around guitarist Huw Evans. Sometimes he is joined by Sweet Baboo, as he did at Green Man. Sometimes he works solo.

He plays a mesmerising series of acoustic guitar pieces, sometimes augmented electronically, sometimes lyrically. Throughout, he tends to work a pattern of notes and chords, which has tended to mean that the phrase Kraut-rock seems to follow him around. As a guitarist I think he sounds something like the late Davey Graham and as an arranger he reminds me of David Thomas Broughton, with a si ilar amount of obsessive pops, whistles and samples.

Amazingly I can’t find any YouTube of H Hawkline (wilfully perverse, I calls it…), and the only video I can find is here at Wales Online (won’t let me embed it here, I’m afraid), performing From Her Eyes as a session. There are four tracks to listen to on the MySpace page and NME posted the following track too, which is pretty interesting…

Gelly – H Hawkline

He’s actually supporting Gruff Rhys for a few dates this month, and is due a release out on Shape Records soon. Both of which suggest to me that we should be hearing more of him in the coming weeks.

(Told you so…)