Not the busiest of months on first glance, but there’s still loads of fine things to fork over your hard-earned for. Dig in.
BLACK BREATH / VICTIMS / TORMENTED / SHAPED BY FATE, Clwb, 4th
Returning to Cardiff after a pretty bloody rowdy Lesson No. 1 show at Buffalo in 2010, Seattle’s finest practitioners of death- and hardcore-inspired metal are even leaner, even faster and even more ridiculously killer than before. Blistering Slayer thrash, furious hardcore, double kick drum madness with some good old black metal throat-clearing thrown in for good measure, they absolutely do not fuck about. It’s crazily accessible, winning stuff, too, so the curious will be very much rewarded. Strongly advised to get there early, as local metalcore bruisers Shaped By Fate get all nasty, brutish and short before the all-Swedish tour support line up get busy. This event will be loud.
SNUFF / CAVES / VANILLA POD, Fleece, 4th
Gawd bless ‘em, Snuff are – and I’ve been called out by my Joy Collective colleagues for making this assertion before – impossible to dislike. Some would have it said that a semi-retired North London punk band of twenty years’ standing, with a penchant for trombone ska, a singing drummer and a long history of covering TV themes, pop standards and ad jingles are not a serious nor viable proposition in 2012. Nuts to them, frankly, for Snuff remain rowdy, lovable fun, not to mention authors of a number of genuinely great pop-punk nuggets and seeing them live will make this, and many other, old fools very happy.
THE HYSTERICAL INJURY / CRASH PARIS / BELLIES! / DRUNKEN BUTTERFLY / PERSONAL BEST, The Tunnels, 5th
This one’s billed as a Riot Grrrl night, and like the movement it features a clutch of bands united less by musical similarities than a shared sense that music can be empowering, messy, vital, politicised, DIY and fun, sometimes all at the same time. The mighty Bellies! embody this perhaps better than any, their joyous, dislocated guitar-trumpet-percussion both restlessly creative and furiously, deliriously ramshackle. The Hysterical Injury’s Annie Gardiner is another who can’t keep still, her fantastically gleeful rock posturing and falsetto pirouettes the perfect foil for brother Tom’s thunderous Lightning Bolt drum attack. Gloriously daft fun. Added to this, you’ll find Crash Paris (churning, screaming Babes In Toyland grunge fun from Bristol), Drunken Butterfly (Sonic Youth-inspired three-piece with added ukulele) and the nicely yearning indie/Americana charms of Personal Best, who might just be named after the ace Team Dresch LP but, y’know, might not. Bristol Ladyfest will have a stall, and there’s zines, art, merch and plenty of righteous, inclusive, inspiring fun. Be there.
FLIPPER / BIG NATURALS, Croft, 5th
The slow, sludgy, bass-driven SF punks that inspired your Melvins and Mudhoneys are still on the road, three-quarters of the original line-up intact, and they’re looking surprisingly decent on it. Largely, you suspect, falling back on classic fare – it is, after all, the 30th birthday of Generic Flipper this year – they maintain a new album will follow in 2013. Retaining the attitude of their west coast peers but slowing the pace down to a skronky, atonal two-bass grind, Flipper’s influence echoed way longer than the magnificent chaos of ‘Sex Bomb’ etc might have suggested; Black Flag, early Nirvana, Jesus Lizard, Pissed Jeans, you get the idea. Don’t expect polish, even after all this time, but plenty bad-attitude, good-time noise. Bristol’s house-shaking two-man bass & drum attack Big Naturals will be a tidy warm-up.
MICHAEL HURLEY / ROZI PLAIN / DEAN MCPHEE, Cube, 8th
A first European tour in ten years for this now seventy-something Old Americana troubadour is a pretty big deal, and the bill that Qu Junktions and ShieldShaped have put together makes it even more so. Hurley’s multifaceted career has taken in Greenwich Village coffee-house folk, porchlit hoe-downs, whimsical collaborations (Have Moicy, with the Holy Modal Rounders, has taken on classic status) and an almost Neil Young-esque position of grumpy old sage taking issue with the Man (see his anti-fracking crusade). With a huge and influential songbook to call on, this should be pretty special. Rozi Plain’s brittle, tender folk and Yorkshireman Dean McPhee’s solo electric guitar meanderings fill out a top-drawer bill.
EVENING CHORUS / LITTLE ARROW / IVAN MOULT, St John’s Church, 10th
PEN PASTWN, Chapter, 20th
These two intimate little shows draw from a pool of busy Cardiff-based collaborators who you can probably find playing several times a month in one guise or another. It’s easy to take such things for granted, though, and as both these gigs mark occasions it’s only right to give them some attention. Evening Chorus hold a slightly belated celebration of their Acorn EP, released in January in the quaint St John’s Church. Theirs is a quiet, self-effacing charm, their plaintive, rousing folk rounds propelled by double bass, simple percussion and songs which can tug the heartstrings. They do the familiar strikingly well, avoiding the over-earnestness and irritating affectations of more feted peers. EC’s Eugene Capper joins the collective formerly known as In Chapters later this month to mark their rebirth as Pen Pastwn; Richard James, Gareth Bonello, Andy Fung et al host an A/V show documenting their work with Sudanese musicians.
THE MONOCHROME SET / PERSONAL BEST, Buffalo, 11th
It’s quite the month for long-standing bands on the commercial fringes but of no little influence. Next up for another go round are the archetypal art-school fops tilting at punk windmills, The Monochrome Set. More stiffly angular than Orange Juice, more linear and classicist than Josef K, TMS’ oddball loucheness, cabaret leanings and inscrutable lyrics were always likely to attract a cultish following, and so it was. They were unapologetically clever-clever. They favoured ridiculous pseudonyms and wrote a farewell song for their departed drummer. They made a play for pop stardom, and failed, and their clipped, angular art-pop brushed the edges of jazz, country and Beefheart eccentricity. Their current, third reformation has produced their first new album in 17 years, and you really should acquaint yourself with them while you can.
TINA HITCHENS & DAN PERKIN, Canton Uniting Church, 21st
It’s an easy building to miss, but halfway down Cowbridge Road at the Uniting Church, tucked in next to Somerfield, there’s an evening of duets for flute and piano which celebrates a young life tragically lost. Five-year-old Harry Patterson died in a freak accident at home in Swansea last year, and proceeds of the gig will go to awareness-raising charity Harry’s Fund. The duo will tackle some fairly heady 19th and 20th century classical fare, and with both having an excellent background (Cardiff New Music Collective, ThingsMakeElectric, dots.filmband, Spencer McGarry Season etc) it’s highly recommended regardless of the worthy cause.
AU, Louisiana, 23rd
Last time Portland’s Au played our patch, they were bundled offstage in little over 20 minutes due to a hopelessly over-running gig (ok, mainly to Fredrick Stanley Star milking their support slot, the scamps) and to an increasingly impatient, however polite, hip-hop promoter waiting in the wings. A monumental shame, as the duo hinted tantalisingly at the greatness found in their Verbs album. Therein, they lay down beds of carefully woven keyboards, keening, wordless vocals and loose, skittering percussion, let the whole beautiful cacophony fall back to reveal lush, insidious harmonies, then cranked the whole the giddy fairground whirl up again for one more trip. Au mainman Luke Wyland recorded follow-up Both Lights himself, and it sounds like another bold step forward from an unassuming, wildly creative one-man Animal Collective. Maybe he’ll get a full set this time.
BLACK TWIG PICKERS / MIKE GANGLOFF / NATHAN BOWLES, Café Kino, 26th
JAMES BLACKSHAW / MICHAEL FLOWER BAND, Café Kino, 27th
A pretty awesome one-two of folk-inspired wonderment at Café Kino here. With apologies to the Black Twig Pickers, keepers of a decades-old flame whose raucous, freewheeling live shows and collaborations with Jack Rose and Charlie Parr have wrought old musical traditions into spirited new shapes, the real one to catch this month is James Blackshaw. A ridiculously talented 12-string prodigy in the Fahey/Basho school, his prolific output for Tompkins Square and Young God has broadened to include piano, electric guitar, percussion, strings and the odd vocal. The effect, on 2010′s All Is Falling, is utterly transformative; the gorgeous, mantra-like guitar pieces of old become wild, expressive symphonies. If, like me, you missed his Swn show with Swans a while back, do not miss this.
GRAVENHURST, Grain Barge, 27th
It’s been a while since the knotty, greyscale psych-folk of Gravenhurst last appeared on the radar, not that Nick Talbot has been resting easy; his band’s first album in five years appears this month but recent work with Bronnt Industries Kapital and his Silent Age label keep things ticking over. This low-key hometown return (solo, with “some new pedals I’ve picked up”) will be an excellent way to get reacquainted. Talbot’s creations are very deliberate, densely constructed things, the clarity of his voice and the intimate folk of his early work having broadened to take in driving motorik pop, the shoegaze/drone fog of Flying Saucer Attack and the rippling psych noise of Voice Of The Seven Woods. Dark, intense and rewarding stuff.
CATE LE BON / TENDER PREY / STACKING CHAIRS / R. SEILIOG / NO THEE NO ESS / FIST OF THE FIRST MAN / H. HAWKLINE, The Printhaus, 28th
This takes place under the banner of the Canton Crawl, which will in future hopefully become a miniaturised Swn festival taking place across a number of small local spaces. On this occasion the only crawling undertaken will be home to bed after an all-day session of fine wigged-out music, DIY crafts and t-shirt printing and the heady charms of the Barenaked Brewery’s finest ales. Effectively a Cardiff curtain-raiser for Cate Le Bon’s wonderful sophomore LP CYRK, a cast of familiar names in old and new guises will ensure hangovers ring out across the city on Sunday morning.
EDAN / MR. LIF, Thekla, 29th
The self-styled Humble Magnificent may not be the most prolific emcee on the block – seven years and counting since his last full-length, the psychedelic Golden Age cap-doff Beauty And The Beat – but his sporadic UK live appearances remain essential viewing. It’s often effectively a showcase of his brilliantly dextrous DJ ability as much as a rap show, but if he treats us to both there’s few better, combining scholarly wordplay, smirking braggadocio and a showman’s touch. Frequent collaborator Mr. Lif often ends up playing second fiddle on bills such as this, but the Def Jux alum’s an excellent live performer; a social commentator who can stray into the over-earnest on record, but a high-fiving, front row-prowling presence who excels in loud, sweaty clubs. This one’s a real highlight of the month.