• April preview: live highlights this month in Cardiff and Bristol


William Onyeabor’s recently unearthed back catalogue, like the rest of his story, is almost too good to be true.  A dapper former DJ and film producer from southern Nigeria who studied in Moscow, Onyeabor released eight albums exploring Afro-funk, disco and more between 1977-85 before renouncing his secular ways in favour of the church.  The loose, spacey psychedelic funk, Afrobeat-infused disco and insistent, minimal proto-electro on Who Is William Onyeabor? reveal a lost talent whose brief but prolific recording career seems unlikely even to those of us spoiled by the archival work of Soundway, Finders Keepers, Numero etc in recent years.  ‘Good Name’ is a 10-minute electro workout beamed from an imagined future to Lagos in 1979, while ‘Atomic Bomb’ personalises Cold War paranoia to a lovers’ rock groove and ‘Fantastic Man’ is a peacock strut from the best dressed chicken in town, an eager retinue cooing their approval in delicious response.  With Onyeabor committed to his musical exile, this is instead a tribute; a scratch all-star band helmed by Sudanese-born, Brooklyn-dwelling Afrobeat dude Sinkane, with keyboard wizard and carpentry ace Money Mark on keys, while a revolving cast of guests will interpret Onyeabor’s singular, crazily prescient visions.  Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney and, er, Kele off of Bloc Party are listed so far, though one should probably focus on the music itself rather than the track record of the contributors.


This is the first of two completely great shows we’re co-promoting this month, both of which offer fairly obscure, idiosyncratic and individual music from far and wide and both of which will fill your heart with wonder at the sheer joy that certain committed weirdos take in bringing their odd, unworkable music to you. First up is a pair of German bands with very different but equally great takes on instrumental ‘rock music’. Don Vito are a nutbar absurdist art-skronk trio from Leipzig who construct tightly-wound gobs of loud, kinetic mathrock, compressed and wiry like Hella, Lightning Bolt, Oxes and all your faves, then smash them into splintered sixty-second miniatures specifically so you’ll have no idea whether you’re cheering the last one or interrupting the current one. Sample title: ‘GPS Is Not Punk’. Right on, guys. The latest of an endless stream of short and sweet bursts of ADHD glee is a split EP with Jealousy Mountain Duo, kindred spirits from about 300m west in Koblenz whose hyperactive, blissfully deconstructed take on post-rock and avant-jazz forms are closer to Flower-Corsano duo than anything else around this month; clusters of complex, intricate guitar patterns and spectacular scattershot percussion which eschew austere contemplation for visceral, immersive thrills. This is a brilliant line-up, trust us on this one.


Fred Cole is a Portland institution, the sort of unsung, largely unheard rock ‘n’ roll lifer who, had he not existed, it would be necessary for Fred Armisen to invent. He formed Dead Moon in 1987, when he was already pushing 40; he and his wife Toody toured Dead Moon’s curious hybrid of 13th Floor Elevators garage, proto-punk and country into the ground around the US and Europe until laying the band to rest in 2006.  Fred was 58 and the years of hammering away in dingy basement venues were taking their toll, so obviously they just went back out there with a new band instead.  Their MO remains as appealingly straightforward as before, Fred & Toody coming off like a more sincere, less lascivious Lux & Ivy as they write another dozen songs about love, desperation, graveyards and the odd bit of creature-feature body horror.  It’s sloppy, fuzz-heavy and determinedly raw, cut with old instruments on older machines, but they wouldn’t change it and it’s precisely that fact that makes it work; that and the lived-in familiarity and hit-rate of the songs.  Fred comes off as the sort of guy, like Robert Pollard or R. Stevie Moore, who’ll be doing this until they drop regardless of who’s listening, unable to switch off the impulses.

FOREST SWORDS, Thekla, 10th

My knowledge of the geography of the Wirral Peninsula is somewhat nil, but if Matthew Barnes’ 2010 EP Dagger Paths and its tactile, claustrophobic follow-up Engravings are the musical evocation of its landscape then I imagine it being something between Victorian London and Transylvania. Slow-creep dubstep patterns and dense, murky beds of sound conjure a very particular sense of suburban unease, all ominous creaks and pulsing thuds. Guitars swirl and drone and occasionally ring out pealing, cinematic figures reminiscent of Roy Budd or Lalo Schifrin soundtracks, incongruous in the setting but somehow complementing the mood perfectly. Rapid-fire drum n bass fills punctuate sticky, melancholy drones while ‘Irby Tremor’ is western-inflected dub and ‘Rattling Cage’ a hollowed-out, treacle-slow take on On-U dread pierced by bells, chopped-up vocal samples and clanging chords. There are nods toward familiar sounds – Massive Attack, King Midas Sound, Third Eye Foundation, Burial – but there’s something ungraspably alien in the skeletal R’n’B and maudlin, haunted electro on Engravings that recontextualise the familiar in unusual ways. Something in the atmosphere.


It’s a truly excellent month for anyone who values artists that tear up and recontextualise conventional musical forms, doing something thrilling and unique with them. There’s a real frisson that goes with music that pulls the rug from under you, frazzles your synapses, that has the power to stun and entrance. Chris Corsano is a fucking insane drummer, brutal and powerful and absurdly technically intricate in his playing whether it’s solo, with Rangda or Dimension X, or in glorious freeform tandem with improv saxophonist Paul Flaherty or, as here, with Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Mick Flower on shahi baaja. Their occasional recorded collaborations, The Four Aims from 2009 in particular, serve notice of what to expect live; Flower’s hyperspeed mangling of the typewriter keys on the Indian banjo is like an Eastern-tinged take on Brian Gibson of Lightning Bolt’s pitch-shifting bass tone, veering from humming mantra-like drones to complex melodic tangles, while Corsano ricochets from kit to chimes to clattering percussion in a blur of limbs. It’s exhilarating and ecstatic stuff, and must be awesome to behold in full flight. Brooklyn composer Ashley Paul’s weightless gossamer lullabies appear suspended in a limbo of delicately sculpted concréte sound – curls of squealing woodwind, reeds and bells – like Stina Nordenstam adrift in the far reaches of space. It’s tense but beautiful listening.


The first and most striking thing about this excellent psych duo from Guadalajara is the voice of Lorelle (Lorena Quintanilla), a luminous, languorous joy that opens the curtains on the poised, expertly turned-out dream-pop trippiness of their second album Corruptible Faces and lets in the sun-dazed pop hues of Melody’s Echo Chamber or Savath y Savalas. Recent follow-up Chambers enlists Sonic Boom himself on mixing duties and is textbook, timeless second-wave psych, a gauzy wash of guitars and thrumming basslines meshing together as Lorelle channels Trish Keenan and Hope Sandoval in equal measure. Nimble and airy, with echoes of the kaleidoscopic likes of the Telescopes in their poppier moments, they’re also capable of locking into a heady motorik chug like ‘What’s Holding You’ which sounds like Wooden Shjips really cutting loose with the ocscillators after watching A Field In England on repeat for 24 hours.


Minutemen bassist and co-songwriter Mike Watt spent the years after his brilliant second band fIREHOSE came to an end flitting between rewarding solo records and short-term gigs as a bassist-for-hire.  In 1997 he turned 40 and embarked on a way more ambitious, personal series of ‘punk rock operas’, obliquely addressing the sudden, tragic end of the Minutemen for the first time through reflections on his father’s long Naval career and his own battle with serious illness.   Hyphenated-Man, which completed the trilogy in 2009, draws its parallels in similarly lofty, ambitious ways (Hieronymous Bosch replaces the Dante allusions of The Secondman’s First Stand) and has a more direct Minutemen bent than before, fitting given the release of We Jam Econo and Watt and George Hurley’s warmly-received revival shows.   Hurtling through 30 brittle, propulsive songs that flit between punk, jazz and warped funk, crammed with insight and imagery and borne high on that unique bass style, it’s the sound of a man utterly possessed with life and refusing to waste a second. Watt’s winning, garrulous enthusiasm for the music of his youth and the formative experiences enjoyed with Minutemen remains undimmed even while his creative focus shifts to exploring masculinity, middle age and mortality.  It’s pretty impossible not to warm to that.

KING AYISOBA / ZEA, Cube, 12th

The Ex’s current frontman Arnold de Boer replaced 30-year incumbent G.W. Sok in 2009, and has a parallel career as Zea stretching back over a decade. Utilising a similar urgent, conversational lyrical approach to his new colleagues, de Boer as Zea flings scattershot beats, insistent highlife-influenced rhythms and rough-arsed guitars together in a delirious cut ‘n’ paste style that’s equal parts agit-punk, antifolk and the kind of DIY worldbeat since taken up by the likes of tUne-YaRdS or Solex. He’s touring in both guises this month, taking in a European jaunt with genuine big-time Ghanaian star King Ayisoba whose take on the traditional kologo (2-string guitar) music of his homeland augments indigenous sounds with Western beats, rough-and-ready sampling and his raw, full-bodied vocals. The resulting Hiplife sound has echoes of the heavy psych-funk of seventies Ghana and elements of Malian Blues next to native hiphop; it’s melodic and uplifting but powerful, spiritual stuff at the same time.


Sunn O))), Khanate and Æthenor man O’Malley takes time out from releasing a new pair of raw, amp-torturing Sunn O))) demos (LA REH 012) and the Terrestrials album with Ulver for a solo tour which takes in the evocatively named Old Coroners Court & Morgue. A prolific collaborator in improv, soundtrack and compositional circles outside his many recorded aliases, O’Malley’s solo performances retain the power and volume of Sunn O))) but explore the possibilities of solo electric guitar with surgical precision. Flanked by banks of amps, he carves great arcs of feedback and often beautiful guitar noise, not unlike Oren Ambarchi or Rhys Chatham but seemingly able to harness volume and pressure of sound unavailable to others. He’s joined for the tour by French improv trio Aluk Todolo, a particularly devastating collision of trance-inducing Krautrock repetition and raging black metal; the smudged, ominous guitar drones and breakneck drumming wielded with such locked-in intensity on their monolithic Occult Rock album suggest Burzum having a crack at Oneida’s ‘Sheets of Easter’. The blurring of boundaries here is notable, and continues via well-chosen support from sludgy, proggy and suffocatingly loud bass/drum duo Ghold, whose Galactic Hiss LP from last Autumn is well worth picking up, and Big Naturals/Anthroprophh dude Gareth Turner’s hefty, Krautish bass drones as Salope.


First heard by many on the Devendra Banhart-compiled underground folk collection Golden Apples of the Sun, Diane Cluck had been performing in NY antifolk circles since 2000.  Unusual among her then Sidewalk Café peers, given to prolifically churning out CD-Rs, she’s seemed barely concerned with recording and releasing material since a spate of early home-recorded efforts whose deliberately inexpert technique and mordant themes brought comparisons with Jandek.  Boneset, which appeared this month, is her first new release in eight years, but its glacially-paced gestation – several songs first appeared in a ‘song of the week’ project online – betrays few major changes in methodology from a considered, unaffected writer content to let outside eyes in only when she feels like it.  Cluck’s voice, steely but expressive, rings out like Joni Mitchell or Kristin Hersh with a slight, distinctive glissando; her lyrics tend toward introspection, as if transmitting every lonely internal thought, but carry a disquieting, otherworldly darkness reminiscent of Nina Nastasia.  ‘The Turnaround Road’, from 2003’s intimate, determinedly personal Oh Vanille/Ova Nil, is a memorable example, depicting a worldview so hermetic and insular that unnerving visions arise from everyday mundanity.  Still a word-of-mouth find ten years on, a singer’s singer worth discovering.



Remember Daniel Johnston’s show at the Point in 2007?  Maybe you were at our R. Stevie Moore show in Undertone in 2011.  This should be every bit as unique and memorable an experience, a rarer than rare chance to see a true individual, a musical curio committed to a musical vision born of love and wonder and strange, bewitching magic.  Susan Dietrich performed as The Space Lady on the streets of San Francisco for 20 or so years, accompanying herself on accordian or keyboards.  She mostly played well-known covers (‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’, ‘Radar Love’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’) but with a few hauntingly lovely cosmic pop originals.  She largely stopped playing live in the late 90s, and has never toured any conventional venues, but with Night School records issuing a collection of her recordings this year she’s venturing to the UK to play for YOU.  Her most affecting song is a definitive version of Peter Schilling’s euro-synth hit ‘Major Tom’, a Bowie-inspired cash-in that the Space Lady imbues with tremendous longing and melancholy.  Beloved of Songs In The Key Of Z compiler Irwin Chusid and lovers of outsider music the world over, she’s a fascinating, flamboyant presence, and something you really shouldn’t miss.  We’ve picked some excellent supports – Headfall can’t have played Cardiff in over a decade by my reckoning, though I might be wrong, and EXPENSIVE will bring their gorgeously poised electro-pop crushes to Cardiff for the first time.  The latter have a pretty great-looking gig in Bristol on the 12th which is heartily recommended too.  Space Lady! In Cardiff!  Do not miss it.


YES! What a week this is going to be. Inspiring, individual, bloody-minded but using that attitude as an inclusive force for good rather than to construct an image, The Ex are a unique and wonderful thing, a party band with fiercely uncompromising principles and a restless musical complexity. They’re also the best thing I’ve seen at a Swn festival, not least for the way these three fairly unprepossessing blokes resembling off-duty regional police sergeants charged about the stage possessed by such frantic energy; churning post-punk borne high on fragments of Ethiopian pop and Egyptian jazz, drummer and sometime vocalist Katherina Bornefeld skipping and spinning through tumbling polyrhythms. Given at least half the room were new to the band, the ensuing good-natured dance party was a joy to behold, chaotic and wild and impossible to deny. So yeah, I’m pretty happy to see Swn bring them back to Cardiff. Reading accounts of the Ex’s recent festival in Amsterdam, it feels impossible to resist their momentum; commemorating (I think) 35 years of challenging structure in music and personal politics, challenging the snide attitudes that unflinchingly political bands sometimes attract from those less committed, and celebrating an open-mindedness and determination that can’t be squashed. This is, nepotism aside, the best one-off gig of a month full of good things, with a couple of very fine supports to boot; RHLH in particular, who were reassuringly on fire at the Octa night in the Sherman recently. Do it!

WALES GOES POP!, The Gate, 18th – 20th

Quietly and without self-congratulation or fanfare, the inaugural Wales Goes Pop! festival in 2013 achieved through commitment and good-natured force of will what many budding UK festivals struggle to, it reached beyond the ‘typical’ indie pop stereotypes to attract a diverse, positive crowd, and did so with an ambitious, inclusive zeal that reached beyond local appeal to attract the committed from far and wide.  Back for a three-day stay at the Gate, this year hosts Liz and The School cast the net wide again; Helen Love’s first Cardiff show in (by my reckoning) fourteen years is a big draw, with The Wedding Present and Laetitia Sadier the other marquee names, but the depth of the line-up is its real trump card.  There’s winning, folk-tinged singalongs from Withered Hand, Randolph’s Leap and Sweet Baboo, bruising, fuzzed-up takes on c86 classicism care of September Girls and Flowers, ruffled girl group yearning with TeenCanteen and Young Romance and the demented 8-bit post-punk electropopgrind of glorious Leeds crazies CowtownHaiku Salut, Rozi Plain and Cristina Quesada offer delicate, intricate takes on folk-pop forms, with the latter an unlikely tweepop take on Gal Costa.  Radstewart, Kutosis and Tender Prey are among a sterling local contingent, should the uninitiated need some guidance, but your best bet is to snap up a weekend pass (a snip at £40) while they’re still available, arm yourself with a pint and immerse yourself in one of the best things in Cardiff’s musical calendar.


Also returning for a second year is this day-long excursion beyond the third eye, packing eight bands into the cosy and fragrant Moon Club. Seems there’s a Psych Fest in every town of late (Bristol’s is next month), and even if there’s an unavoidable blokiness about these occasions it’s laudable to see a diversity in the line-up here; garage, noise, drone and bleak doom-blues cacophony are present and correct. Grim Newcastle trio Haikai No Ku, featuring Bong/Drunk In Hell man Mike Vest, bring the latter, deafening freeform psych blues with a suitable debt to Les Rallizes Denudes and layers of grubby guitar mulch. Throw in Sly & The Family Drone‘s crazed, yawning rhythm ‘n’ noise mantras and you’re off to an excellent, if punishing, start. The Witches Drum headline, in what will be their final Cardiff gig before packing it in with an album, Adjust Your Receiver, their parting shot. Expect solo-heavy, fuzzed-up acid rock gleefully unafraid of a hoary lyric and with some nicely doomy Sabbath breakdowns. Their wilder spacerock impulses get free reign, too, as side project The Cosmic Nod gets another run-out. The bruising, blown-out noise-punk of Zinc Bukowski is the best of a tidy supporting bill which over the course of ten or so hours ought to satiate even the most riff-addled brains.

PATTEN / YOUNG MALE / GIANT SWAN, The Old Crown Courts, 19th

Howling Owl and Rise host a Record Store Day afterparty in a disused court building on Bridewell Street.  This is not the same court building the O’Malley gig is happening in.  Give it a rest Bristol, you have too many venues already.  patten (as it is styled) signed to Warp for the release of ESTOILE NAIANT (as it is styled), his tremendous new album of lushly textured primary-coloured electronica whose title is perhaps the first since the Fall’s Bend Sinister to be drawn from heraldic terminology.  Go on, prove me wrong.  It’s an uncannily perfect fit within the Warp lineage, flitting from slippery, complex time signatures and blocky almost-hooks like LP5-era Autechre to uneasy Boards of Canada ambient pads to jarring, stroboscopic machine-funk somewhere between Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma and the nods to Plaid detectable on patten’s earlier GLAQJO XAACSSO. This seems like a long-winded way of saying he just sounds like other people, but ESTOILE NAIANT is a gleaming, futuristic treat finished with a slickly otherworldly sheen that spins you around and leaves you grasping at thin air. Chief among a weighty supporting cast for this one is NYC’s Young Male, whose crisp, utilitarian Sandwell District-style 909 rush is best showcased on the Lost My E 12″ for Work Them, while Howling Owl’s own Giant Swan do loping, metronomic DIY electro weirdness that sounds like the Asteroids arcade game gone feral. Could get messy.


Let’s just set this one up and say you’ll either think it’s an incredible idea or an utterly pointless one. I’m in the former camp. Here’s the concept. The Beastie Boys’ briefly career-torpedoing, utterly classic 1989 album Paul’s Boutique elevated multi-layered sampling into an art form, drawing on over a hundred individual sources as they and the Dust Brothers stitched together something uniquely inventive, raucously funny and dazzlingly tight. Around the same time, Kiss FM in London started broadcasting Solid Steel, Coldcut’s pioneering live-mix show, and within two years DJ Food’s Jazz Brakes anthologies launched the Ninja Tune label. The Beasties’ influence on UK turntablism is pretty ingrained, then, and so it’s fitting that the 25th anniversary of Solid Steel was marked by a tribute to Paul’s Boutique. DJ Food, Solid Steel resident DJ Cheeba and Cardiff’s own Moneyshot took three years to painstakingly collate original vinyl of every sample on the LP and weave together a live-mixed recreation with acapellas, commentary, visuals and interviews. There’s footage here. It could have been a dry, academic exercise, but that looks pretty great to me. This 3-hour set will be the apex of a Beastie-themed Easter Sunday at the Moon, with tons of live bands and DJs. Likely to sell out, you’d think, so act fast.


Marissa Nadler’s arrival at the Sacred Bones label for seventh album July seems like a long way round to wider recognition having released the previous two on her own label.  It’s very doubtful there was any such plan, though; if anything, the path leading from her earlier impressionistic records to more personal themes and darker palettes has just been a natural progression that happened to work wonders.  That remarkable soprano is more versatile than ever, evading easy categorisation; a burnt-caramel croon like that of Sharon van Etten, a Hope Sandoval twang, deliberate phrasing reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, then it suddenly, effortlessly rises into smoke with a ghostly higher register. Previously set in stark isolation, on July it has its own spectral choir of Marissa Nadlers at its shoulder, something that works alongside the pedal steel and finger-picked guitars to throw a hit of wintry sun against the dark, chilling production by Earth and Wolves In The Throne Room collaborator Randall Dunn.  There’s often been a chilly, gothic grandeur to Nadler’s writing, but July is grittier, knotted with thick, atmospheric strings and a Lynchian unease that makes it the most impressive statement yet from an assured, imposing writer.


Studied miserablism and unabashed Sarah Records fetishisation are the hallmarks of LA trio Heathers if their first couple of releases are any yardstick; their first two releases come packaged in studiously Smiths-aping sleeve art, handwritten notes to the faithful and all, and the anxious, morosely navel-gazing lyrics and Johnny Marr jangle of ‘Fear’ and ‘Teenage Clothes’ suggest Michael Francis may have spent his formative years practising withering retorts in the mirror. The band has a nicely sloppy, roughshod take on the rumble and thump of c86, like Pains of Being Pure At Heart before them, and the shaky three-part harmonies on (sorry) ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Adored’ suggest they take Big Star and Ramones to their hearts just as much. This is brought to you by Time of Asking, who also have Durham pop-punkers and presumed Lucksmiths fans T-Shirt Weather playing Roll For The Soul on the 13th, and features the damnably catchy, poignant, caustically funny, utterly great solo mutterings of Rosie off Totem Terrors (aka Oh Peas) which is reason alone to attend.


This Melbourne duo’s clumsy, initially offputting name might do them few favours, but the reality is far more palatable; a full-blown, psychedelically-inclined stoner rock band honed into something lean and direct by virtue of its instrumental economy. They make a little go a long way, disparate elements allowed to bleed into each other; lo-fi and scrappy on earlier releases, where they leavened their desert/stoner instincts with a looser, leaner noise-rock clout, there’s also a tendency towards improvisation evident in their longform collaborations with Gary Arce of Yawning Man. Ikiryo is their cleanest and most ambitious-sounding record of those I’ve heard, a fine tuning of both their bruising desert blues and more lushly psychedelic spacerock elements. Ben Red Medicine is booking good stuff like this all over the place at the moment, and adding the mercurial girl-group swoon and swerving Lynchian blues of a never-better Tender Prey to the imposing gothpop Cramps swagger of Heavy Petting Zoo ought to ensure this one draws blood from the off.



An awesome one-two sucker-punch followed by a twelve-round pummelling.  This could be yours, should you choose to follow up the cracking double bill of Nordic tundra-metal beasts Årabrot and pummelling Kraut/sludge/noise legends Hey Colossus with the latest ridiculously overstuffed Cacophonous Sarcophagus line-up the following night.  Both these bands should be familiar to any Cardiff heads into a drop of the hard stuff; Årabrot have visited three or four times since Lesson No. 1 put them on at Swn in 2010, and we hosted Hey Colossus last year, around the time they released Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo. They were fantastic, a filthy carpet of prog, noise rock and pulverising repetition, and any chance to see them again should be taken.  Chuck in some neat blackened doom racket from Haast’s Eagled and the Cardiff date is a total winner.  Over in Bristol, both Årabrot and HC appear at the huge and highly fancy-looking Church of St Thomas the Martyr alongside the aforementioned HWCT and thunderous Portland-based experimental metal duo The Body, whose apocalyptic assault is probably a good place to round this month, or any, off.  All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood presented Chip King’s terrible howl and Lee Buford’s deafening percussive landslide amid a thicket of keys, strings, samples, piercing amp noise and a 13-strong female choir, and somehow they’ve only got less predictable from thereon out.  Last year’s Christs, Redeemers shifted the goalposts with shorter pieces and a further proclivity for treating their sound with a sheen of shivering wire-wool noise, and they’re about to release a follow-up in collaboration with The Haxan Cloak which threatens to “serrate the remains of metal’s already unidentifiable corpse”.  Their party record, then.  Thrilling, occasionally excruciating and immensely heavy fun ahoy.  See both and you get a medal.