Live Review: Teeth of the Sea at UNITY – New River Studios, London

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New River Studios, London | September 25, 2016

“Upset, angered and terrified” by the influx of racial assaults that have continued to trail June 23rd’s divisive Brexit vote, Teeth of the Sea’s Sam Barton refuses to wallow in helplessness. Determined to counter the political apathy that sparked the whole brouhaha, Barton and his TotS bandmates responded with Unity, a day of live music to raise some cash for anti-hatred organisation Hope Not Hate. Dave Brooks made his way down to Stamford Hill’s New River Studios to check out their headline set.

It’s almost a year since Teeth of the Sea released their galloping fourth installment Highly Deadly Black Tarantula. Plating together a snarling combo of sinister Kraut disco, blaring post-industrial electronics, and itchy-fingered Morricone brass, HDBT had all the makings of a Coil-penned Tekken soundtrack. But there’s no disputing that there’s more to this four-piece than mere button-bashing.

Mike Bourne’s theremin conjurings kick off proceedings, quickly floating en arrière scène to underpin Jimmy Martin’s squalled distortion. Barton interjects with lustily garbled trumpet, before the intrusive clang of HDBT’s splintered opener ‘All My Venom’ slams into recognition. Barton switches to a lusty South American battle call, defiantly navigating Martin’s stray twangs as drummer and vocalist Mat Colegate prepares to enter the fray. Unleashing a pummelling drum sequence and spitting out demonic glottal rattles, Colegate rallies an architectural crescendo that pairs a 28 Days Later paranoia with pure amphetamine fury.

As ‘All My Venom’ builds to a climax, it becomes clear that something’s wrong. Sound levels go awry, beats are missed and hands wave frantically to the sound desk. A busted band-facing PA is promptly replaced, and Bourne and Colegate take to the toms to usher in ‘Animal Manservant’’s retching clop. As Barton riffs on hard disco voluntaries, Bourne’s Tangerine Dream synths bleed into violent modular glitches. A charged, confrontational ferocity builds; the preceding technical shortcomings a catalyst for greater fury, sinew, and violence.

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Photo by Rickard Daun

Fortune didn’t favour Teeth of the Sea today. But when presented with unwarranted adversity, they came out snarling and harnessed the room. As Unity has acknowledged, society as a whole is facing far greater hurdles than a busted PA. Ever the iconoclasts, Teeth of the Sea remain ahead of the curve.


To help Hope Not Hate continue to provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate, please donate here.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/10/live-review-teeth-of-the-sea-at-unity-new-river-studios-london/ 

Festival Appearance: Slow Down Molasses @ Incubate

INCUBATE FESTIVAL, TILBURG, THE NETHERLANDS | SEPTEMBER 11, 2016

It’s a huge privilege to announce that on Sunday 11th September I’ll be making an appearance at one of Europe’s most forward-thinking and adventurous arts festivals, Incubate. I’ll be hosting a panel discussion with members of Canadian post-punk group – and artists-in-residence – Slow Down Molasses, to discuss the unique challenges of touring north America as a Canadian band, their four-day residency at the festival, and their new album 100% Sunshine.

Catch us on stage at 12:30pm in The Incubate Cafe!Incubate cliphttp://incubate.org/289/incubate-cafe-2016

Live Review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Coronet Theatre, London

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Coronet Theatre, London | August 18, 2016

In a fashion befitting post-rock’s leading name, Godspeed You! Black Emperor make to the Coronet Theatre stage in their own good time. The 2,500-strong crowd have filled the venue to capacity, and on one of the hottest nights of the year even the lofty art deco ceiling offers little respite. With Godspeed some 20 minutes late, the crowd’s attention is drawn to the sound desk, where a sweltering camera crew meticulously loads film reels onto four blazing projectors. An ebbing drone begins. Underneath the illuminated screen, the Quebecois eight-piece slip through the shadows to slink on-stage one-by-one. A cello groans; a double bass growls; a fishbowl rolls across the projectionist’s glaring beam. Over the next ten minutes a great oaken drone builds. Distorted and all-consuming, it engulfs three solipsistic guitars before the drums signal the start of a crashing apocalyptic clamour. Sweaty brows make way for goosebumps. Lift your skinny fists like antennas to heaven: Godspeed have arrived.

The band squeeze just eight expansive tracks into their two hour set, including their 2015 album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress in its entirety. First up is ‘Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!”, whose monolithic eastern swing sounds like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir blasted through tar. Its weighty riff sparks mesmeric movement through the heavy air; onlookers sway transfixed as Super-8 roadtrip visuals cruise ever onwards. Powerfully minimalist, the footage, like the music is all about the journey.

Godspeed’s visual-audio interplay is no finer than in ‘Dead Metheny’, from their 1997 debut F# A# ∞. As its off-beat guitar loop begins, the hand-operated film reel flickers into life. Bruised strings throb as monochrome box cars pump through frozen industrial towns. A glockenspiel rings, freight trains accelerate, drums clatter as Morricone trumpets sound, harking the arrival of grainy scrub prairie, solitary onlookers and black outhouses. It’s bleak, charged, expansive and inconclusive, the unforgiving crescendo rumbling ever louder as their freight wagons pass on.

For a band whose catalogue is largely instrumental Godspeed have never been afraid to voice their political views through their music. Until footage of the Eric Garner protests shows during set closer ‘BBF3′, the band’s set tonight largely shies away from such societal criticisms. Instead, Godspeed proffer an audio-visual trip of psychoacoustic exploration, melding blistering cacophony with derelict abandonment to unsettling yet hypnotic effect. It’s a masterful performance: captivating, intoxicating, and frankly unmissable.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/09/live-review-godspeed-you-black-emperor-coronet-theatre-london/ 

Live Review: MONEY – Battersea Arts Centre, London

Battersea Arts Centre, London | August 3, 2016

MONEY-wpcf_400x400Long exiled to the Mancunian night, Jamie Lee – lead singer of lit-pop darlings MONEY – returns to his native South London in high spirits. A poet as well as a musician, he prefaces tonight’s performance with a trademark novel skit, tonight referencing the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald and former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Pulling out a crumpled edition from his anorak pocket, Lee rifles through its yellowed pages, struggling to find his marker. Muttering “This is just so me: winging it all the way to the end,” he opens proceedings on a performance that dextrously ties humour, fury, self-awareness and self-parody.

MONEY’s set tonight draws largely from their second album Suicide Songs, released earlier this year on Bella Union. Foregoing the expansive choral indie of 2013’s The Shadow of Heaven, Suicide Songs offered up 43 minutes of much-matured songwriting: each squalid, saintly, savant verse offered with a beatified ale-slurred dexterity. Channelling his finest Shane MacGowan on ‘I’ll Be The Night’, Lee mumbles “No one owes you any favours” with world-weary abandon, before stepping away from the mic to blurt “They only owe you wine.”Later on he recoils from a particularly strong bout of reverb, dashing a look of incredulity to the audience with pure charlatan charm. MONEY’s transition from barstool balladeers to the grand stage is all the more successful for these pub-wrought moments.

Elsewhere MONEY’s performance nods to their savant influences, whilst maintaining a commanding hold over the Battersea Arts Centre’s sold-out crowd. On ‘Hopeless World’ Lee throws in a few giddy Dylan whoops, whilst ‘Letter To Yesterday’ descends into gutsy echoes of “Oh there’s blo-od;” a rousing reminder of the conviction and fervour U2 held before ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Beautiful Day’ and Match of the Day and all that garbage.

Lee’s continuing vocal improvement is particularly clear during breakthrough single ‘Bluebell Fields’. It’s a bizarre rendition – vocally ambitious, his virtuoso risks overreaching so as to clash with his bandmates’ woozy indie patter. It’s an anachronism that marks MONEY’s progress since 2013, though future performances would benefit from toning it down a little, if only to keep the fans happy.

Fusing Britpop strings, lofty background chants and drums that could have come off a Brian Jonestown Massacre record, ‘I’m Not Here’ is unmistakeably the set highlight. Underpinned by Lee’s dogged acoustic strum, the band and accompanying string section build into a jubilant and stirring crescendo, soaring triumphantly until Lee finally pulls the plug. The audience are left with little more than dogged strums and prolonged cries of anguished self-abandonment. For such a melancholic ending, it’s stunningly cathartic.

Increasingly a vessel for Lee’s poetic performance, MONEY’s set ends without bandmates Charlie Cocksedge and Billy Byron. Accompanied by cello and viola, Lee strums a meandering encore of pastoral sketches, that are in all honesty a little too unrehearsed. Still, given the progress he’s made as a vocalist and songwriter over the past few years, he’s probably earned the right to wing it a little every now and then.


MONEY play End of the Road Festival on 4th September. For full details and further dates check here.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/09/live-review-money/

Interview: MONEY

In my first piece for LONDON IN STEREO, I interviewed Jamie Lee, lead singer of MONEY.


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“Be perpetually drunk!” Baudelaire implores in Paris Spleen. “With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please.” Bah – syphilitic old pickle! Name me a sober poet and I’ll buy you a drink. Still, it’s a proven formula. Booze-soaked balladeers from Wilmot to Waits have always propped the bar of some tawdry tap house, uncorking all manner of characters and curiosities along the way. Where else doth the priest sup alongside the prostitute?

It’s a charm not lost on MONEY‘s frontman Jamie Lee. Ahead of the band’s performance at End of the Road, Dave Brooks caught up for a few rounds with the musician and poet to talk barstool voyeurism, its creative implications, and the challenges of poetic ambition.

Formed whilst studying at the University of Manchester, MONEY were signed to Bella Union by Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde in 2013. ‘Bluebell Fields‘ followed that May, bleeding woozy Panda Bear vocals and inquisitive Marr jangles over a pistoned Lancastrian patter. Radio 6 spread the word, Cillian Murphy made his directorial debut on ‘Hold Me Forever’, and in June 2013 MONEY’s sold-out performance at The Waiting Room saw Lee return to the capital – his birthtown – a cherubic Rioja-flushed bard: bowl-cut, jubilant and hypnotic. August brought debut album The Shadow of Heaven: an expansive, shimmering collection that placed MONEY as heirs apparent to WU LYF’s red-rosed crown. Channelling the same neo-biblical imagery, Lee chose red wine over Roberts’ red mist, whispers over rapture.

A second album – Suicide Songs – was released in January 2016. “I was disappointed with the songwriting on the first record,” Lee recounts. “I tried to wipe away any desire for success, in the hope of finding something raw.” Beguiled by the sexual liberalism of Jean Genet, Shane MacGowan’s paralytic prophesying, Frank O’Hara’s streetwise romance and a host of other pen-wielding savants beat and beatified, Lee turned to the night.

The pubs of Manchester offered an opportunity to get close enough to people to hear their stories, whilst still being inconspicuous,” Lee marvels. I can’t think of any other public space like it. Dangerous that, isn’t it?” A poem published last summer –Sucking an Old Man Off In The Pub – charts his feckless pursuit for ecstasy and enlightenment in Manchester’s piss-soaked underbelly. It’s a provocative, thrilling read: risible, revelatory, but ultimately tender. “After the first album I definitely sought out that kind of experience. It’s shameful, I think, but my mission was never to glamorise anything. It’s the job of writers to shine a light on the unvoiced corners of the world: to give them their standing, show that they’re important and that there’s something to be learned from them which can result in empathy between people.”

Fuelled by the pie-eyed wisdom of writers such as Brendan Behan and John Healy, Lee’s once methodical drinking eventually veered towards the catatonic. “Like people always say: alcohol abuse starts off fun. Then it gets really bad.” Manchester – formerly paradise – became “one big pub,” and those close to Lee expressed their concern, with one trusted friend sighing: “You look like a sad painting mate.”

“MANCHESTER WAS HELPFUL TO ME. IT’S A ROMANTIC PLACE, MUCH MORE INTIMATE THAN LONDON.”

It’s clear that his time in Manchester ended unhappily, and when asked about the city, Lee maintains a gracious sense of relieved detachment. “Manchester was helpful to me. It’s a romantic place, much more intimate than London. You can meet everyone, drink with everyone, charm everyone, and piss off everyone too. I wanted to learn and to be around that energy and I found what I wanted to, much to the detriment to my sanity and my liver. The problem is that I had no time to write. I used to go out and get pissed and stay on some grubby mezzanine, and the next day I’d find a pub and scribble down my recollections. I’d end up with floorfuls of indecipherable notes, but I’d never really focus on producing something I might be proud of.”

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A move back to his native South London gave Lee the time he needed to concentrate on both his health and his art. Thus, work on Suicide Songs began.“Being in London was great. It lacks all of Manchester’s poetry and romance, but allowed me to focus, and work hard.” With bandmates Charlie Cocksedge and Billy Byron remaining in Manchester, Lee fleshed out the bones of the album before the three reconvened to take his ideas forward.

As polished vehicles for Lee’s writing, Suicide Songs is a distinct improvement on The Shadow of Heaven. Permeated with slurred stories lived and relived, it’s a Guinness-stained parcel of love letters from the edge. Arguably standing as MONEY’s most timeless accomplishment to date, its triumphant final call ‘A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year’ sketches a tableau far more vivid than any song on The Shadow of Heaven. Blending bruised trumpets, closing-time keys and bleary-eyed romance, it’s a brilliantly evocative piece of songwriting, tacitly acknowledging that for many Christmas is not a day of jubilation, but a piss up just to get through. Vulgar, beautiful, real and captured, it’s a commendable societal observation.

It’s been over six months since Suicide Songs’ release, and MONEY have just polished off the album’s European tour. Looking ahead, it’s hard to see Lee willingly embark upon future projects with the same hedonistic thirst that predicated the second album. In his mind, the aim is clear. “I’m desperate to be a great poet and writer,” he admits, a wicked smile burning it way across his face. “I just happen to have found myself in a band. Songwriting is tricky, because unless you’re Bob Dylan the form doesn’t really allow for the complexity and viscera I want to give to my writing. I think the songwriting form will go out of the window for the next album, and it’ll just be a series of rants to music.”

Playful as ever, it’s hard to know whether or not Lee is completely serious. Still, poets of yore have certainly made a good job of putting their work to music. Kerouac’s 1959 appearance on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show sparked off a recording career that produced three spoken word albums, which featured collaborations with Allen on piano, as well as jazz saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. “I find the sound of someone speaking over music very appealing,” Lee continues. “The spoken word is arrhythmic; you can’t score it out as would with a conventional vocal melody. When you put that over music it’s intriguing, because it breaks the basic rules of melodic interaction.”

Besides touring with MONEY and writing poetry, Lee is the founder of an independent publishing house, PARIAH PRESS. He has also been busy penning an account of some of his experiences from his ten or so years spent in Manchester. “I want to share some of the funny things that happened, but also express how it felt to be an alcoholic,” he outlines. “Over those ten years I lost it. I lost any interest to engage with life except to try and make myself a better writer. My highest hope is that people reading it will feel and understand the excitement and misery of it all, through my writing. I want people to see the faces, to taste the air.”

“SAY I ONE DAY BECOME A GREAT WRITER…WITH ALL THE TROUBLE I’LL HAVE GONE THROUGH TO GET THERE, THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE THAT IT MAY NOT EVEN BE WORTH THE EFFORT.”

Still, “writing a book is fucking hard work,” and Lee is brazenly aware that the costs could outweigh the benefits. Say I one day become a great writer, a revered literary presence: with all the trouble I’ll have gone through to get there, there’s a good chance that it may not even be worth the effort,” he says. “Look at Kerouac, or Berryman, or Bukowski. They all came to that realisation. Writing is a lonely art form and you prioritise it above anything else. Your friendships, your relationships, your health, they all come second place, and if that’s not the order then you probably won’t get to where you want to be. It’s not an enjoyable way to live your life.”

So what drives him to keep writing? “It’s like a sickness,” he muses. “You have to learn how to deal with it. If you’re not living up to your own expectations then you take it out on other people, which is unfair. But on the flip-side, when you write something half good you feel like the king of the fucking world.”

A product of intense experience, melancholy, and artistic dedication, Suicide Songs has rightly attracted widespread acclaim for its refined lyrical portraiture. Whether there will be a third MONEY album isn’t entirely clear, but it’s still early days. What is clear is that whatever Lee turns to next, his writing will be the priority. “I’ve been too afraid for too long, but hopefully that is changing. Milkmen, barristers, poets; anyone can sculpt language in such a way as to be personal and profound. It’s one of the most common materials we have. Imbuing it with maturity, character, self-belief and self-awareness is what transforms it into art.” Lifting an ale to his lips, he pauses. “There lies the challenge!”


‘Suicide Songs’ is out now on Bella Union. MONEY play End of the Road Festival on 4th September. For full details and further dates head here.


http://www.londoninstereo.com/money-interview/ 

Live Review: Kaleidoscope – Islington Metal Works, London

 

Islington Metal Works, London | July 4, 2016Kaleidoscope_Oil-wpcf_400x400

Kid A got me into Autechre. Amnesiac pushed me more towards Miles. Jeff Buckley was next after hearing The Bends, whereas King of Limbs was the Dutch courage needed for Zomby’s Where Were You in ‘92. For so many twenty-somethings Radiohead have eclipsed the competition as the tastemakers-in-chief, consistently releasing records that point to the outer edges; gateways to something less chart. Thom Yorke’s Ableton frotting may be a Pitchforker’s wet dream, but in recent years the true torchbearer has been Jonny Greenwood. By penning critically-acclaimed soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice, and touring with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Greenwood has chaperoned a listenership more In Rainbows than into Reich towards the world of contemporary classical music.

Tonight’s performance at the Islington Metal Works showcases the influence that the Radiohead guitarist’s pilotage has had upon his followers. Launching their debut album Oil, London-based saxophone quartet Kaleidoscope have paid reverence to the master, prying three of his compositions into a set list that also includes works by Gavin Bryars, Oliver Christophe Leith, Steve Martland, Jenni Watson, and Kaleidoscope’s own John Rittipo-Moore.

Leith’s ‘A Day at the Spa I’ springs into life with flurried slews of shell-shocked soprano, before Greenwood’s ‘Iron Swallow’bounds into play, Sally MacTaggart’s wry lead hovering elegantly above a mischievous succession of taut orchestral stabs. Another Greenwood creation follows – this time it’s (deep breath) ‘Toki no Senrei wo Uketeinai mono wo Yomuna’ from 2010’s soundtrack to Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood – before Leith’s ‘A Day at the Spa II’ bleeds into focus.

Splitting it into its two movements for the first time, today’s performance marks a fresh start for ‘A Day at the Spa’. The piece – written for the quartet by close friend and collaborator Oliver Christophe Leith – has been a staple of the quartet’s repertoire for over a year now, but today’s performance brings new light to its wealth of textural and microtonal intricacies, not always so apparent without Greenwood’s more user-friendly interlude. Ornamented by swathes of jumbled saxophone-key patter, Part Two’s anguished sopranos float arrhythmically above a cyclical baritone accompaniment unwaveringly upheld by Rittipo-Moore, who with each new breath elicits sumptuous cascades of lustrous harmonics: dust sparkling in moonlight.

A shift in dynamic comes a few songs later, when Rittipo-Moore’s gutsy baritone bombards into a dexterous re-imagining of Steve Martland’s ‘Short Story’. His bluff rasp faithfully underpins the trio of far-reaching altos; the addition of a drum kit and bass guitar adding a hip-hop marching band punch that wouldn’t sound out of place in Geoff Barrow’s Quakers – coincidently another act that has paid its dues to Greenwood & Co. Though allowing plenty of space for fleet-fingered counterpoint, Chris Brice’s drums are unfortunately a little too muted. A bold addition hesitantly executed, they’d benefit from a little extra muscle to really propel the marauding baritone backings. If Kaleidoscope can manage this whilst maintaining their vibrant alto-based counterpoint, they could even open doors to something as yet undiscovered.

‘Short Story’’s 3/4 stomp concludes assertively with two vertiginous stabs, and all that’s left is the album’s eponymous lead, Rittipo-Moore’s ‘Oil’. Moonlighting as a film-maker, Kaleidoscope’s Ian Dingle has prepared a visual accompaniment for this final track, though his sumptuous, aqueous study is largely lost on an audience craning their necks to make out the stage right screen. It’s a shame: given the right layout the footage would further heighten the impact of Aaron Burrows’ bracing modal keys cutting through ‘Oil’’s twinkling introduction, some three minutes in. There’s a distinctlyAmnesiac-era Radiohead feel to the mournful horns and distorted E-bow tremolo that ensue, and the significant restraint shown in not descending into cacophony echoes Radiohead fan favourites from that era such as ‘You and Whose Army?’ and ‘Pyramid Song’.

It’s right that Kaleidoscope’s performance gives a salutary nod to Greenwood’s work. The man has done more than any other to dispel contemporary classical’s reputation as an art form too high-brow, too pretentious and too inaccessible for your everyday six-stringer. Introducing ‘Toki no Senrei wo’, Rittipo-Moore jokes: “Unfortunately Jonny couldn’t be here tonight.” Still, Greenwood’s influence is felt. More importantly, Jenni Watson is here tonight, watching on from the audience in delight as Kaleidoscope give an emotive rendition of her composition ‘Tinged’. Oliver Christophe Leith is here too, manning the electric guitar and E-bow duties during ‘Oil’’s glimmering outro. There are a lot of good minds in and around this quartet, and Kaleidoscope could take their project in any number of directions. This one’s optimistic.


Oil is available to purchase on Kaleidoscope’s website now. You can stream Oil on Spotify and iTunes as well. You can catch them at the Buxton Festival, Derbyshire on July 16th, and at the Wallace Collection, London on 25th July. Full tour details are available here.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/07/live-review-kaleidoscope-islington-metal-works-london/ 

Festival Review: HRH Prog 2016

In March I was lucky enough to tie up with the guys at Echoes and Dust at HRH Prog festival in North Wales. It was my first editorial assignment for the site. Featured below is my review of the Saturday afternoon. The full weekend review can be found here.


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HRH Prog 2016: website
Photos: Charlie Gardner

A ninety minute postponement on Saturday’s early-afternoon acoustic sessions provides the perfect opportunity to nosy around the adjoining Sci-Fi Weekender. Eight-foot Space Marines and prowling Dredd squads may seem like enough to ward off even the most leather-clad progger, but as a Richter-bashing stand-off between a throat-singing Focus fan and bloodthirsty Uruk-hai demonstrates, they’re parties that bleed well together.

With the Owner’s Lounge doors eventually open for business, we find refuge among the polished harmonies of a stripped-back Messenger. The Londoners’ pastoral jaunts are well-rehearsed, well-executed and well-received in this intimate setting, and for a band soon to release their second album they demonstrate impressive versatility ahead of their fuzzier main stage set.

Ducking back into the central arena, Emirati post-metal outfit Empty Yard Experiment are christening the day with a menacing arsenal of hypertrophic mantras, hailing largely from their 2014 album Kallisti. Snarling opener ‘Greenflash’ balances bruising toms and grunting distortion to snake its way into a charged magnetic groove, whereas the engrossing ‘The Blue Eyes of a Dog’ lilts far closer to EYE’s expansive post-rock beginnings. Having gained an insight into the band’s visual output in our interview with frontman Bojan Preradovic and keyboardist Gorgin Asadi, HRH Prog’s AV shortcomings leave us ever so slightly disappointed not to have had the opportunity to experience Empty Yard Experiment’s live show in full flame. Still, Preradovic’s forlorn gravitas proves a captivating focal point for the band’s cinematic display, and by the time ‘Entropy’ reaches its writhing climax the room has filled out and is asking for more.

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Fortunately, the opportunity arises next door, where EYE are ushered off to play their part in the festival’s unplugged programme. Second helpings are reserved only for those willing to stump up the VIP premium, and when combined with the day’s poor scheduling, both Messenger and EYE’s sets are criminally under-attended. To best exhibit the talent at their disposal, HRH must consider waiving the acoustic lounge’s bolt-on entry fee in years to come.

Empty Yard Experiment

A clash with hotly-tipped Bristolian musos Schnauser brings us back to the main stage. Victims of some uncharacteristically poor mixing from HRH’s sound crew, the psych-pop outfit’s Sergeant Pepper harmonies never quite get the treatment they need to really hit the mark. This is a shame, because Schnauser’s tongue-in-cheek exploration of matters ranging from PPI to Walkers binges are genuinely very funny. It’s Adrian Mole-meets-Soft Machine: wry, eccentric, culturally crass and with plenty enough going on to keep it interesting. Unfortunately today, obstructive audio interference from the bass and keys prevents the band’s incisive humour and technical virtuoso from shining through, and many onlookers don’t quite know what to make of it. Determined to get the last laugh – and perhaps a little fed up with the sound team – Schnauser trade wit for slapstick: when frontman Alan Strawbridge dons a latex Granny mask and begins launching himself from stage apparatus, furrowed brows quickly make way for aching sides.

Schnauser

Scratching our heads, we head out for the first brew of the day. Entering the Mash & Barrel, we encounter a dressing-gowned Jedi council, who’ve convened to clop spoons over a few Hobgoblins. Enthusiastic but not entirely rhythmic, they’ve clearly drawn inspiration from Geoffrey Richardson’s prodigious dalliances the night before, though their newfound party-piece is a force probably best left to the confines of the caravan. Unless you’re in Caravan, that is. Still, it provides yet another entertaining example of the fantastic and unique interplay this dual-code congregation has to offer.

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Messenger’s appearance at HRH Prog comes ahead of their sophomore release Threnodies, available now via InsideOut. Opening with ‘Midnight’ from 2014’s Illusory Blues, the band waste no time in continuing from where their acoustic set ended, interweaving fingerpicked guitars with chalky vocals before launching into a spunky three-axe crescendo, with Dan Knight ditching the keys to get in on the action. Hunched in a close-fitting horseshoe formation, they jam out ‘Midnight’ to some 13 minutes before slipping into a sweeping ‘Solimnoquist.’ It’s not until Messenger’s third song that the audience gets the opportunity to hear the new material up front, guitarist Barnaby Maddick donning the mike to deliver a Gilmour-esque rendition of leading single ‘Balearic Blue.’

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The band are a tight set-up: mellow on the ear but highly focused to watch. Never missing a note, their commanding stage presence only falters between songs, and when frontman Khaled Lowe asks the audience to give themselves a round of applause after a hard-sell on the merch, more than one pair of Doc Martens will have shuffled uncomfortably. Nevertheless, Messenger show real promise in their performance, and their T-shirt sales will have suffered no setbacks as a result of this polished display.

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With the sun setting on the Llyn Peninsula, Twinscapes make their way to the stage. A project between Naked Truth’s Lorenzo Feliciati and Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin, the bass-wielding duo incorporates fretless and fretted basses, E-bows and a stash of samples to produce a varied docket of sounds and textures. There’s hints of Jaco Pastorius’ moodier solo material here: atmospheric, proficient, slightly eerie, and featuring – as one punter put it – “interludes you could open a crypt to.” Though many will have been acquainted with the band’s former projects, Twinscapes enter the main space as relative unknowns. At ease onstage, they take the time to contextualise the band’s conception, and provide a few interesting insights into the driving forces behind their material. On the basis of this performance, Twinscapes’eponymous debut, released on RareNoise Records in 2014, certainly warrants a listen.

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Live Review: Ty Segall & The Muggers – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London

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O2 Forum Kentish Town, London | June 24, 2016

Never one to shy away from fetish and dysfunction, there aren’t many kinks out there that can raise a finely-pencilled eyebrow from John Waters. But the transgressive filmmaker – well-earned incumbent of the title ‘Prince of Puke’ – happens to reserve a particular distaste for the adult baby community. “Lock those weirdoes up!” he gibed during 2015’s Tennessee Williams literary event in New Orleans. “Have you seen their disgusting little catalogues?” Ty Segall clearly missed the memo on his eighth full-length release, 2016’s Emotional Mugger. Donning a latex baby mask, he chose to venture into the abrasive unknown, muddling offbeat riffs with rasping Moog outbreaks to create a follow-up to the Hammond glow of 2014’s Manipulator that is undeniably cockeyed, yet menacingly funky.

Creepy though it may appear, Segall’s new look is gaining traction. A recent slot on Conan exhibited the sort of technical virtuoso that only comes with releasing eight albums in seven years, whilst a spectacularly raucous KEXP session added a conceptual shot of juvenile mischief-making. All in all the baby formula is a pretty intriguing mix, as the busy confines of Kentish Town’s Forum can attest. The 2,300 capacity venue is more than a baby step above his previous cameos in the capital, with appearances at the Electric Ballroom in November 2014 and Scala in December 2013 both only just peaking the 1,000 mark. When Segall’s troupe of Muggers takes to the Forum’s stage with a multitude of anguished “Wahhhs,” the tone is set for a night of post-natal pandemonium. Or so you’d think…

Devoid of his infantile guise, Ty Segall enters in a trademark grey boiler suit. It’s an apt uniform for what’s to follow: an industrious gallop through Emotional Mugger, track by track, start to finish. Launching into the choppy jaunt of ‘Squealer’, guitarist Kyle Thomas and drummer Evan Burrows establish a jerked platform, tight and brawny enough to allow Emmet Kelly’s boisterous lead and Cory Hanson’s Moog diddling to really cut loose.

When ‘Californian Hills’ follows, the latter duo hit an early zenith, urgently marauding the breaks left open to them with fervent bleeping and scrambling shreds. ‘Mandy Cream’ unzips a poppy Them Crooked Vultures thrust before ‘Candy Sam’ rolls on out, igniting the mosh pit into full frenzy. Bodies barrel overhead as Thomas tears J. Mascis-style into the evening’s most frenetic guitar solo yet, whist nursery rhyme backings amp up the urgency again and again and again.

Overseeing affairs is Ty Segall himself. Scrapping his guitar to focus on his vocals, he combines brash gesticulation with thousand yard stares: the perfect mouthpiece for his Muggers’ focused rabble. Having released a succession of surprisingly entertaining T Rex cover albums under the moniker Ty Rex, Segall’s Bolan sneer is well practised. Echoed drawls ooze like hot wax over his band’s barbed riffs to create a powerful sonic bludgeon, and when Segall finally picks up a guitar to tear into the explosive final refrain of ‘Feel’, there’s a palpable sense that the Forum’s lofty ceiling must be straining at the trusses.

Ty Segall may have lured in the armchair surfpunks with his juvenile frolics, but it’s his prodigal talent that’ll keep ‘em coming back for years to come. Brixton awaits.


Ty Segall and the Muggers play The Echo, LA on 14/07. Buy tickets here.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/07/live-review-ty-segall-the-muggers-o2-forum-kentish-town-london/ 

Album Review: Psychic Ills – ‘Inner Journey Out’

PsychicIllsLP1-wpcf_300x300Released on June 3, 2016 via Sacred Bones

“There’s too much monkey business,” slurs frontman Tres Warren on ‘Mixed Up Mind’, “and I can’t keep it away from me.” With their fifth EP Inner Journey Out, Brooklyn’s Psychic Ills have delved deep into the record rack, pulling out a narcoleptic mix of Americana, blues and gospel to repackage it all in a well-worn psych-pop shrink wrap.

Eagle-eyed shoegazers will have noticed the presence of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval on the album’s debut single ‘I Don’t Mind.’ “Mazzy Star are a great band,” Warren nods, ahead of the Ills’ recent show at London’s Lexington pub. “Hope’s got such a one of a kind voice. After opening for them a couple years ago we decided to do something together.” Opting for a yearning croon over his usual strung-out snarl, Warren’s vocals entwine wistfully with Sandoval’s languid whispers, narrating a pastoral chug that goes full Harvest when the swooping pedal steel guitar shimmys into gleaming centre-stage. Still, the album’s finest guest appearance comes on ‘Another Change’: the gospel backings adding a driving Primal Scream spirit which does a good job of detracting from Elizabeth Hart’s frustratingly anaemic bass line.

With its Stooges pulse and peripheral Wurlitzer drone, ‘Confusion (I’m Alright)’ is perhaps the album’s most atmospheric song. Song with a capital S, that is, because Inner Journey Out’s instrumental compositions are the only moments in which the album’s decidedly introspective title really seems justified. In ‘Ra Wah Wah’, Warren’s fluttering guitar lick oscillates in and out of focus under the weight of Brent Cordero’s Farfisa organ, chimes guiding you into an alto sax solo that echoes Zero 7 at their most Café del Mar. The foggy meander of ‘Hazel Green’ also foregoes conventional structure in favour of nuanced variation; its sloping bass and hot, boxy drums a fitting soundtrack for hazy couch-locked evenings.

But the point that Psychic Ills have missed is that when it comes to song-writing and ambiance, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Take the candlelit free-psyche of Talk Talk’s ‘I Believe in You’, seductively hypnotic in its resolute aimlessness. The main reason Inner Journey Out fails is because it’s aimlessly resolute. Determined to tip cap to the luminaries, it falls short on both intrigue and assertion.


http://echoesanddust.com/2016/06/psychic-ills-inner-journey-out/