Let’s not be under any illusions here: it would be pretty perverse to start any vaguely representative round-up of live music in South Wales this month anywhere else than Sŵn. The fourth annual new music whirlwind hits eleven Cardiff venues from October 21st-23rd, with a bewildering 140-plus line up of bands and DJs, numerous sideline events, a broader than ever stylistic range and, this year, a few subtle tweaks to the wristband arrangements. A full preview will appear on JC shortly; suffice to say, if you enjoy festivals, discovering new music or value for money, you’d have to be a right curmudgeonly bulb to pass it up.
So what of the rest of October? Fancy a nice couple of weeks of silent contemplation and zenlike training of your liver? Tough, because there’s great stuff everywhere this month. Buckle up. First up, ATTENTION WALES AND THE SOUTH WEST. DOOM IS COMING. This will most likely never happen again; the utterly unique rapper and beatmaker, self-styled supervillain, man of near-infinite pseudonyms and a stream of stone-cold classic hip hop LPs dating back well over a decade, is notorious for hardly ever announcing live shows. When he does, they’re equally notorious for no-shows or sloppy performance and even rumour of doppelgangers appearing in his stead. Whatever, this is totally unmissable. Billed as Doomsday, with (allegedly) material from MF Doom, Victor Vaughan, Madvillain and King Geedorah releases and – get this – support from a nine-piece band reinterpreting DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… come on. Seriously. Bristol Academy, Saturday 16th October.
More Bristolian treats for hyperbole fans this month, as the ever-wonderful Qu Junktions host Josephine Foster performing Lorca’s Spanish folk songs/poetry accompanied by the Victor Herrero Band (Cube, 2nd), and Afrobeat and highlife legend and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen (Metropolis, 9th). They also bring Bristol’s lucky punters, and Cardiffians with energy and purpose, two ridiculously great-looking one-off shows. Two stellar, intense avant-noise duos visit the Cube on the 13th, with Evangelista’s Carla Bozulich and Zu’s Massimo Pupillo teaming up to strip the walls alongside the pedal steel/drum fury of Jailbreak, i.e. Chris Corsano and Scorces’ Heather Leigh. Seriously, get there. For something very different, head to Qu’s show at the Arnolfini (21st) where ingenious and playful French composer/inventor Pierre Bastien and Polish toy instrument outfit Małe Instrumenty delight with bewitching Bagpuss curiosities. These people just live to raise the bar. Honourable mentions to the Croft too, where genuinely remarkable performance artist/songwriter Baby Dee teams up with gnarled jazz-funkers Black Carrot (22nd) and avant-prog vets the Ex swing by after Sŵn (23rd).
Bristol doesn’t have a monopoly on memorable nights out, of course. Hats off to the good folk at Sound Space Studios, who recreate the madness of the Flaming Lips’ ‘Boom Box Experiments’ for a small audience on the 8th. The Flips’ whacked-out Warners-baiting concept album Zaireeka will be played as intended, simultaneously on four studio systems. Sure, you could try it in your kitchen, but these are professionals. Fans of accessible experimental music played at mind-flaying volume should also sign up early for the Cardiff debut of HEALTH (Clwb, 13th), soon-huge local heroes Islet (Louisiana, 3rd), whiplash noisecore evergreens Melt Banana (Thekla, 14th), Italian stoner titans Ufomammut (Croft, 12th, with immense local duo Big Naturals), and the cracking triple-bill of No Age (career-high album just out), London-based Sub Poppers Male Bonding and lo-fi oddity Blank Dogs (5th, moved to Start The Bus in Bristol). In noting the latter, let’s briefly pause to pour a generic gassy lager out in memory of Cardiff Barfly; many have grown old and tired of it, others may have played gigs there for peanuts, but it provided plenty over the years too. Let’s hope better comes of it, Cardiff can scarcely afford to lose a venue of that size.
Anyway. There’s still venues and promoters reinvigorating themselves in these times, with the new UWIC term bringing a clutch of excellent local bands to Howard Gardens on the cheap. Long-suffering readers of our review pages will note that Threatmantics (13th), Ceri Frost (18th), Joy Of Sex (20th) and Gindrinker (27th) all come recommended; pick one or more and give some support. Liz from Loose gives 10 Feet Tall a bit of overdue CPR with a welcome appearance from electronica/post-rock/shoegaze vet Adam Pierce, aka Mice Parade; sterling support comes from H. Hawkline among others, and your Joy Collective chimps will play records. Warm, trumpet-toting Icelandic popster Benni Hemm Hemm returns (also 10ft, 25th), though I won’t be tempting fate by asserting his full band will appear this time. Loose also have a tasty Hallowe’en alldayer (Buffalo, 31st) with a rejigged Bearsuit, Screaming Females and Threatmantics among others. And in a month where stamina is key for the hardy gig-goer, there’s an excellent two-floor Oxjam affair in Clwb (3rd) with hefty stoner might from Taint, Zonderhoof and The Death Of Her Money (also at Le Pub, 6th) amongst others.
If Mice Parade are your cup of stuff, and they should be, then why not check out some recommendations from this month’s Pointlessly Ghettoised Electronica Paragraph? Mount Kimbie’s otherworldly, inward-looking dubstep, shot through with a downtempo jazziness while sounding fresh and vital, is a top bit of booking for the Arts Institute (27th); Bristolians can see them at the Arnolfini (30th) amid a predictably eclectic Qu Junktions bill featuring Xiu Xiu and Munch Munch. Martyn (Buffalo, 28th) works from a no less varied palette than Mount Kimbie but, Dutch-born and with a background in D n’ B and techno, comes with an altogether tougher approach to dubstep. Both recommended, as is Planet Mu wunderkind Raffertie (Clwb, 14th), whose queasy, Zomby-esque basslines and curdled synths will also bang heads at Sŵn.
Elsewhere, Warp’s PVT (formerly Pivot; Start The Bus, 2nd) do a far better job at forward-looking, live-band electro pop than Cut Copyists Fenech-Soler (Thekla/Clwb, 25th/26th), but if you’re flush both are worth seeing. As, no question, is The Juan MacLean, DFA doyen and compiler of a thumpingly excellent recent DJ Kicks set, who’s at Start The Bus on the 29th. Excellent techno-tinged post-rockers Errors are back, too, at the Fleece (10th, with the Twilight Sad), and if you like your Dilla-fresh beats interwoven with summery lo-fi pop and muted disco there’s a Sŵn launch do with Toro y Moi which should be right up your alley (CAI, 18th). Finally, it would be remiss to not mention the fact that bonkers techno genius Green Velvet and Andrew Weatherall appear at a Bristol alldayer (Motion Skate Park, 15th) this month. So I have.
Just time for a round-up of the best of the rest. Evergreen Bristolian beat poet Gerard Langley and his latest incarnation of the Blue Aeroplanes play a hometown show (Fleece, 2nd); Fucked Up return once more, in support of Gainesville agit-punks Against Me! (Solus, 24th); Beta Band/King Biscuit Time man Steve Mason has a post-Green Man solo show (Globe, 14th); British Sea Power do epic and windswept indie pitched just right (Globe, 24th); there’s lovely languid slo-mo torch song spookery from Warpaint (Cooler, 27th); anti-folk Sonny and Cher fun with Stanley Brinks and Freschard (Buffalo, 5th), wonderfully chipper Dexys pop from Frankie and the Heartstrings (Clwb, 4th), nasty, brutish and short Leeds grebos Chickenhawk (Clwb, 5th) and a septeguenarian man playing Reggae records (DJ Derek, Buffalo, 7th). Which seems as good a place as any to finally stop. Thankfully.