• March preview: live highlights this month in Cardiff, Bristol and Newport


Autobodies are a trio from Leeds who do choppy, scratchy post-punk with the trebly riffs and the clipped rhythms and the yelpy vocals. You know the type. They remind me chiefly of Devo and Erase Errata, but also of Wire and Delta 5 and local contemporaries like Cowtown. They have a song called ‘Johnny Cash In The Attic’, which is every bit as endearing as its title (i.e. a lot). Every town should have a Jelas, and I think they might be Leeds’ version. Hey! Other than one entire gig uploaded online, Acres seem entirely obscured from traditional online search methods by a hardcore band of the same name; no matter, for the murky footage of that gig reveals some startlingly pretty, deceptively complex pop lifted high by trumpets and choruses and stuff and (apparently) featuring Roxy from Trust Fund and Two White Cranes on bass (Indeed. Plus George of Headfall/every other Bristol band and Matthew of EXPENSIVE – Ed.). Also on the bill are Whitebelt, who feature Tina Hitchens (ex of Things Make Electric, Spencer McGarry Season, DOTS Filmband etc) and ex-or-current members of Model Boat and Motes and who do an excellent taut, rhythmic take on synth-driven krautrock. Cardiff gig soon please, Whitebelt. That goes for all of you, actually.


New outing from Head of David vocalist Stephen Āh Burroughs, self-described as “industrial esoterica…this is psychick war”.  Head of David resurfaced for 2009’s Supersonic, their first live show in 23 years, and reputedly the churning, punishingly dark swathes of gothic noise unleashed suggested little mellowing with the passing years.  Mooted new material never materialised, though, and as Justin Broadrick and other HoD members returned to their musical day jobs so Burroughs has undertaken a new project.  A dense, swirling fog of processed drones and shivering violin create an unsettling backdrop for Burroughs’ hissed incantations on Lost Corridors, a pensive and ritualistic piece of work that sounds like the culmination of a singular vision. Much to get hold of here for fans of Coil, Alan Vega and Haxan Cloak alike, its crackling wall of electronics making particular connections with the latter’s punishing soundscapes. Burroughs has performed as Tunnels Of Āh along ex-Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Dept personnel, another far indication of the space this project occupies. Support from Salope, in which Gareth Turner from Big Naturals and Anthroprophh investigates the healing power of massively loud bass drones and sludged-out kraut drones, and the heady west country psych-drone feedback shapes, found sounds and blissed-out guitar manipulations of Urthona.

STANLEY BRINKS & THE WAVE PICTURES / FRESCHARD, Moon Club, 5th and Start The Bus, 17th

The artist formerly known as Andre Herman Dune left that band after 2005’s glorious Not On Top; casual observers might have suspected that the often irascible, chain-smoking half of HD’s songwriting partnership might have chosen to simply turn away as the band neared the spotlight, and the abundant rate of his DIY output as Stanley Brinks since then backs that theory up.  He’s certainly not tired of writing and touring, at any rate.  In 2006 The Wave Pictures recorded an album of covers of Brinks’ songs as André Herman Dune, Catching Light, and AHD returned the favour with a set of early Wave Pictures songs; it was probably inevitable they would record together.  This month they release Gin, their third collaborative album and first for four years, marking the new outing with what is seemingly the Wave Pictures’ 28th appearance at the Moon Club in the last few months.  If Brinks remains an occasionally darker lyrical presence than his former Herman Dune bandmate, Gin still sparkles with wit and bright, rumbling invention, its loose grooves pulled here and there by David Tattersall’s squalling guitar and Brinks’ equally untethered sax skronk.  He’s splendidly quotable; the album’s called Gin and the (standalone) taster single ‘Orange Juice’, so you draw your own conclusions, but Brinks elaborates on what he needs to get by: “alcohol, tobacco, caffeine… ephedrine and orange juice”. Ah. The verses see him bristling, scrappy, declaiming “the radio sucks balls!” and that there’s “shit all over the streets” while the band offer grinning, laddish choruses behind him. It bears the awkward soul-pop hallmark of its titular band, and a typically ragged Tattersall solo. Massively fun, occasionally poignant and boding very well for the album and the gig.


It’s funny how micro-scenes or movements which seem so inimitable and definitive at the peak of their influence can seem light years away with even a short period of perspective, even though they might remain forward-looking and contemporary in sound. Thinking how pervasive glitch-pop, or lap-pop, whatever you might have called it, sounded in the early 2000s, intruding gently on indie-rock and drawing in leftfield rap, it seems almost quaint now; probably a corollary of its very polite, unobtrusive, clean-sounding nature.  Where its key practitioners continue to have value lies equally in the emotional responses they produce and their musical evolution; at their least engaging, the Morr Music or Monika catalogues might tread water, but talents like Barbara Morgenstern endure and advance.  A writer of unabashed pop moments (2003’s Nichts Muss is the clearest vision, but the Fan No.1 and No. 2 compilations the most fun), her natural averseness to publicity (she was after all a member of the Wohnzimmer scene, playing gigs in Berlin living rooms) saw her cloak the sweetness with adventurous, playful arrangements like a low-key Björk, working alongside Pole, Bill Wells and (in September Collective) Stefan Schneider of To Rococo Rot.  Pleasingly scrappy and experimental, willing to mess with form yet with an undimmed songwriting acuity, Morgenstern is a scuffed jewel worth uncovering.


Another excellent night in prospect at RTFS, fast becoming the leading combination bike shop, cafe and DIY gig venue in the Joy Collective catchment area. Shitwife are Venetian Snares-indebted breakcore/noise chap Ladyscraper and the drummer out of frenzied math/prog battering ram Shield Your Eyes. Together they sound, well, like breakcore rewired for laptop and live drums, as you might reasonably expect, but the online footage of their gigs makes this simple idea look ridiculously fun. Pummelling, ecstatic and utterly stupid, the malevolence of grinding digital noise and the rictus glee of very loud, very fast beats. Lovely stuff. Y Cvn take the drum/synth template and beat it into slightly more mind-expanding territory, a propulsive and catchy take on Oneida, Trans Am or Battles’ most fist-pumping moments. Aron from Y Cvn is putting the gig on too, so he gets to play regardless. What else? Right, Pinot Grigio. Instrumental power trio doing the heads-down boogie with gut-punch drumming and riffs you can get your teeth into. Often sounds like there should be vocals somewhere, but you can add your own to pretty good effect. They do a more twisty, meandering indie rock thing too but it’s not as much fun. No idea about Malaga but the blurb says ‘lo-fi digital collisions’, so they should fit right in. Messy, loud entertainment in a confined space a short stumble from the late night Megabus stop. SOLD.


Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley returns at the head of his Guitar Orchestra for a second Bristol performance of his take on Terry Riley’s proto-minimalist masterpiece.  The October 2013 performance at St Georges featured 19 Bristol-based guitarists, many of whom return here, including John Parish and Deej and Charlie from Thought Forms along with four organists (including conductor and theorist Charles Hazlewood) and a bass clarinet.  Invada released a lush double LP of the recording, and to mark the Trinity’s expansion (with a new upstairs performance space) the orchestra reconvenes for another unique take.  Utley has spoken of further plans, including some pieces of his own composition, having already tackled Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe with choir and string quartet.  Online excerpts of the first show are as mesmeric and colourful as you’d hope, simplistic figures repeated endlessly and weaving together into a pattern of constantly shifting sound, pealing guitars playing off the insistent clink of treated piano keys, reedy organ drones and delicate strands of feedback.  Support comes from Bristol bass collective Young Echo, an ambitious but utterly fitting choice given the breadth of influences and sounds that coalesce on their excellent Echoes album; from uneasy, paranoid shivers and mush-mouthed Tricky-esque vocals, through hermetic, pressure-cooker electronic soul and shuddering dubstep to the experiments in drone and concréte that play around the album’s fringes, Echoes works as a microcosm of the city’s musical past and present. That they also play this show’s afterparty alongside Bristol’s soundsystem forefathers Smith & Mighty and Livity Sound’s Peverelist & Asusu completes the circle perfectly. One of the most richly rewarding nights out this month.


PALE ANGELS / LUVV, Le Pub, 28th

Luvv played our last Joy show, and pretty impressive they were too; a louder, heavier take on the gothy 80s overcoat rock and desperate, flailing post-punk of their demos, obfuscating some of the subtler shades but making up for it with a promising intensity and some pleasingly stormy guitar.  The Undertone show launches their new EP alongside the gorgeous cobwebbed slowcore pop of Mars To Stay and a Yorkshire contingent made up of strung-out, yelping and very good Leeds emo/punk outfit Twisted, on their second go around after the original line-up featuring Facel Vega and Hookworms personnel called it a day, and suspiciously young-sounding, cutely gruff Sheffield pups Collider.  Twisted’s Stockholm EP on Art For Blind suggested Shitty Limits, Rites of Spring and Jay Reatard scenes, while Collider’s no-messing three-minute pop imbues Lovvers’ huggable snottiness with a little roughed-up emo and the frustrated, why-me indie rock of late 80s/early 90s staples like Senseless Things. Probably not cool. Probably don’t care.  Luvv can also be found at Le Pub on the 28th in support of UK/US three-piece Pale Angels, last seen there in December with Saturday’s Kids and with time served in the Arteries, Static Radio NJ and (on this tour) the Cut-Ups. This would seem to put them somewhere between gruffly yearning blue-collar punk and fairly anodyne punk-pop, but their Primal Play LP offers a more interesting third way, dipping a toe in grungy slacker-pop waters with a relaxed, drawling vocal and a few detours into slower-building, scruffier fare.


11PARANOIAS / GONGA / GHOLD, St John the Baptist Crypt, 28th

Yet another reason to celebrate the good people at Cacophonous Sarcophagus HQ: the return of Action Beat to these parts, or at least parts nearby. The sweaty, topless math-noise hydra who rearranged faces (and furniture) in Buffalo for us in 2010 will bring an untold number of guitarists and drummers to the cosy crypt before blasting them into Sonic Youth-shaped pieces.  Skronky repetition is their game, with the massed ranks often all playing the same riff over and over and over, but that’s the point; bludgeoning, insistent noise fun that drills directly into the enjoyment cortex.  The last album took this approach to its logical conclusion, paring it down to twenty untitled slabs of Glenn Branca-meets-Oneida racket, but at least this time it didn’t feature any of their penises on the cover.  The supporting bill for this fair heaves with varied and visceral thrills, too.  There’s a swift and welcome return for the stout yeomen of Henry Blacker, last seen mere days ago deafening a few dozen total dudes in Cardiff. The biker Melvins / stoner Part Chimp goo smeared across Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings is, I can report, really bloody loud live, with a controlled malevolence and a nice throat-tearing Skin Graft rawness to Joe’s leering vocals.  Pohl’s second EP is a hugely enjoyable collision of juicy, fuzzed-out Big Business bass riffs, Kyuss’ sandblasted stoner hooks and, in its few contemplative sections, a bit of early Mogwai. Getting the guy from the Heads in on bass seems to have been an excellent idea, and ‘Cute Guy Alert’ is the title of the month.  There’s also a very interesting diversion into noisy dub and electronica waters on the bill this time, care of Dead Fader, whose ribcage-rattling bass hybrids will entice anyone into The Bug, Vex’d  or Pete Swanson’s latest stuff.  Excellent stupid-fun danceability guaranteed. Necro Deathmort take a slightly different tack, not exactly more ‘abstract’ but drifting out into blackened, icy ambience a la Scorn and even (on EP1 from last year, in particular) a stuttering, drone-streaked take on John Carpenter panoramas. The beatless sections of The Colonial Script are fierce, textured electronic doom worthy of Roly Porter’s Life Cycle Of A Massive Star.

The team’s second show of the month is dubbed ‘Crushed In The Crypt’ and features Newcastle sludge/doom supergroup 11Paranoias (members of Bong, Ramesses and Capricorns, so you know what you’re in for) who create a grim slurry of treacle-thick psychedelic stoner riffs, thuggish, limping tempos and vocals delivered with a mouthful of soil. Nice work. Equally fine and less terrifying support comes from Bristol’s finest stoner power trio Gonga, whose recent Concrescence is a limber, groovy treat indeed, and crushingly loud bass/drum duo Ghold, who also have a tidy support slot for Stephen O’Malley coming next month.

THE NOTWIST / JEL, Fleece, 17th

The Notwist were (are) uneasy flag-bearers for a signature sound in a way, a punk band with hardcore leanings who came to electronica fully seven years into their career, but after Martin Gretschmann (Console) arrived the change was swingeing and fully committed. The melancholy underpinning Markus Acher’s vocals was brought to the fore by the gleaming, airtight arrangements on Shrink and the genre classic Neon Golden; listen back to their early stuff now and you hear him as a bruised, winsome J Mascis clone, and emergence of a more melodic, confident version seems natural. They’ve always retained the compositional complexity first explored with rudimentary jazzy post-hardcore and which bloomed so beautifully on Neon Golden and 2006′s more remote, contemplative The Devil, You & Me. In doing so they’ve outlived more single-cell one-time contemporaries, helped by a slowed-down release schedule – new album Close To The Glass is only their third in twelve years, notwithstanding the Acher brothers’ work with 13&God. True to later form, it shows subtle evolutions in style; there’s busy but uncluttered electro-pop, warmly buzzing synth meditations and (in ‘Kong’) a startlingly great slice of Phoenix-go-motorik pop as good as anything they’ve done. 13&God cohort and Anticon alumni Jel seems similarly beamed-in from last decade, a beatmaker typifying a sound whose moment in the spotlight passed but which continues to find new ways to express itself. Late Pass, his latest, isn’t pulling up any trees, but it stands well next to his earlier peaks, which is a success in itself.


Batten down the hatches for the loudest, heaviest thing to hit Cardiff this month, no meagre boast given a substantial run of bearded cloggers at the Moon Club alone.  Liverpool doom monsters Conan still hold semi-legendary status around these parts on account of their 2011 show at the Gower for Lesson No. 1; stopped by the paralytic then-landlord after 10 minutes due to sheer volume it was later replayed, like an abandoned cup-tie, except the full gig and not just the last 80 minutes.  Self-described practitioners of ‘caveman battle doom’, a descriptor ably backed up by some excellent titles (‘Hawk As Weapon’ still does it for me), theirs is a massive, lumbering beast built on punishing jackhammer drums, dismayingly slow tempos and Jon Davis’ ungodly howls from the abyss.  They tour this time in search of Blood Eagle, their third full-length, with an impressively hefty line-up headed up by the mighty Spider Kitten and featuring tour support Bast, whose sludgy, bleak Spectres LP augments its own hefty blackened doom with some nice drone and noise elements, and grimly ritualistic guitar/bass drone dudes Gorgantuan.  May Thor’s mighty hammer strike me down if you’re not bruised, deafened and happy at the end.


In 2010 I got a bit excitable on this site at the prospect of Doom playing Bristol Academy.  It seemed like a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment; the man of near-infinite pseudonyms and a stream of stone-cold classic hip hop LPs dating back well over a decade had long been notorious for no-shows, even rumoured to send out doppelgangers in his place, so a career-spanning set an hour down the road seemed too good to be true.  If anything, his recent (enforced, you hear) residency in the UK has afforded British fans plenty of opportunity to catch Doom live since then.  His subsequent Motion show in 2011 suffered the odd spotty review, citing a tired performance and slurred sound, but while the dizzying verbal and mental dexterity of the recorded work would tax a much younger, leaner man, the set’s coverage (Madvillany, Operation:Doomsday, Take Me To Your Leader, Mouse And The Mask and MM…Food for starters) couldn’t be faulted.  Witness the corpulent shambles that is your average large-scale hip-hop show, overstuffed with hypemen, plodding DJ spots and shoutouts, and someone of Doom’s calibre running through a busy hour of his back catalogue still seems very much like a treat worth the outlay.  Check 2010’s Expektoration for evidence of his exhaustive skills, should you doubt him.  This one’s presented as a warm-up for July’s Boombap Festival, an ambitious three-day camping affair in Norfolk, although (seemingly) Doom is the only act here not actually doing the festival.  Anyway, this two-room all-nighter sees the self-styled guvnor supervillain supported by similarly bemasked (UK label) High Focus heavyweights The Four Owls, Bristol talent Buggsy and a fleet of others.


In 1959 the Smithsonian Folkways label released a curious, playfully experimental album called Indeterminacy, on which John Cage read ninety short stories, the speed of his voice dictated by their length, while his long-time collaborator David Tudor played piano and tape manipulations.  They performed in separate rooms, mutually beyond earshot, so that any moments of ‘accompaniment’ occurred purely by chance.  In recent years, acclaimed pianist Tania Chen and improviser and composer Steve Beresford have revived the project with Stewart Lee taking the Cage role and improv ensemble The Conspirators Of Pleasure performing other Cage works.  Indeterminacy may not have been written to be specifically funny, but Cage had a keen sense of the absurd and a deadpan, straight-faced approach to the performance of these works which chimes well with the performers; Beresford arranged Vic Reeves’ house band, roping in Evan Parker to play on Reeves’ album, and cites Spike Jones and a love of music hall he picked up from one-time collaborator Derek Bailey, while Lee’s own studied, dissected performance style has echoes of what he’s called ‘the philosophical and the mundane’ in Cage’s stories.  Most important is the sense of freedom and experimental enjoyment here, the pleasure in seeing skilled improvisers and musical theorists mucking about with kids’ toys, miniature instruments and household objects while Lee tries valiantly to stop his mouth turning up at the edges.

PREFUSE 73, Start The Bus, 22nd

Guillermo Scott Herren has been vastly prolific in a broad range of styles for coming on 15 years now, but his aesthetic deviations still avoid coming off as mere dabbling.  As Prefuse 73 he delivered a string of hyper-dense, mesmerizingly fluid albums of cuts n clicks, hip-hop influenced but often stunningly broad-ranging in composition and influence.  Elsewhere he’s interpreted and interpolated Catalan folk (with Savath & Savalas), delved into unexpectedly slomo, drowsy ambience (Diamond Watch Wrists, with Zach Hill) and recently appeared as Sons of The Morning, wherein he works with various latter-day producers (Teebs, Nosaj Thing, Lapalux, Nathan Fake…) on a series of EPs for his new Yellow Year label.  With only one Prefuse LP since 2009, the uncharacteristically longform The Only She Chapters, what can we expect from this low-key, low-price date in a Bristol venue we’ve often mentioned here but which hardly anyone I know can vouch for?  No idea, it’s 13 years since I bought the first Prefuse album and I still don’t know if he was named after Gil Scott-Heron or if he’s just taking the piss out of me.  Anyway, this is hosted by residents We Like To Party, who also bring brawny, cerebral Stones Throw MC Homeboy Sandman and double bass/turntablist vets Fingathing to STB this month alone, so assuming the venue and crowd are right this should be one of the cheapest winners of the month.


It’s that man again.  Roberts makes his third appearance in Bristol in six weeks, following a warmly received, career-spanning solo set supporting Bill Callahan (including at least one old Appendix Out song) and his tour as part of folk quartet Furrow Collective with this show in support of his latest work.  Hirta Songs is an album of collaborations with London-based Scottish poet Robin Robertson, whose set of poems about the archipelago of St Kilda, the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides, have been adapted into songs by Roberts.  Robertson’s poems are in a long-standing tradition of work inspired by St Kilda – Michael Powell’s 1937 The Edge of the World depicted the slow depopulation of an isolated Hebridean community inspired by St Kilda’s evacuation in 1930.  Roberts has confessed to some subtle collaborative rewrites to craft the poems into the most appropriate musical forms, and there’s a sense of that – you wouldn’t expect a dry exercise in setting words to music, but Roberts’ skill and experience (Ballads Of The Book, his own Marches, Quicksteps, Laments, Strathspey Reels and Country Dances EP) in adapting poetry and researching Gaelic song-forms informs every note. It’s a warm, intimate collection with a pleasing home-recorded feel, with Robertson himself narrating two pieces and subtly complimentary backing from harp and fiddle. Roberts is in fine voice too, his beautifully unique, swooping chirp wrapped around Robertson’s evocations of local wildlife and the hardships of survival in such a remote outcrop.  He’s likely already moved on to a handful of new projects, so catch this one while the chance is here.


The Bismarck are four middle-aged dudes from North Dakota, now based in Seattle, who embody the punk lifer archetype so perfectly they could be in a film. They’ve sustained their working band lifestyle since 2002, albeit with an apparently total lack of success or recognition beyond the few hardy loyalists who’ve picked up any of their four albums or helped enable them to undertake US or UK tours such as this. Fair to say that if you have any fondness for the likes of Hot Snakes, fIREHOSE, Mission of Burma, Drive Like Jehu or Unwound, to name but five, then you’ll enjoy The Bismarck. Witty, self-deprecating, painfully realistic in outlook but never less than totally serious about what they do. Plane Crasher, meanwhile, are from Hereford, and seem justifiably frustrated about it. Loud, fast, aggressive punky post-hardcore constructed from a wall of riffs, nicely filthy Jesus Lizard bass muck and vocals that gibber and flail like Pissed Jeans or early McLusky. NCB do a nice line in repetition and murky guitar clang, hail (originally) from the Rhondda and have churned out an impressively consistent run of sardonic, tightly-wound post-punk since around 2007, the most recent being No Cowboy Paradise/Pain Of Sight which features a song whose stated intended aim was ‘Gary Glitter covered by the Austerity Program’. Disturbingly, the resultant slovenly stomp was fairly close to the mark. Good stuff all round, if you like worthy, toiling underachievers whose obvious talents are doomed to obscurity. I do, so should you.


It’s uncanny how much Mark Foley’s singing voice suits him. You might not initially know what to expect from the first ‘solo’ efforts from someone you’ve come to see as a reliable band member, studio owner and Cardiff scene veteran (sorry Mark), but a couple of minutes into ‘Painkiller’ from Shhh…Apes!’ debut EP and you’re grinning at how perfect it is. Maybe if you’ve spent years in other people’s bands your own ideas have plenty of time for gestation, but The Shape Of Apes To Come is still a remarkably assured, mature thing. Beautifully ornate songwriting befitting the ruminative, troubled likes of the National or the Antlers blossoms under Charlie Francis’ expert production job, and while certain key elements – Foley’s rolling, rumbling basslines, Bernie from Right Hand Left Hand’s martial drumming, the flaring trumpet on ‘Angel Coming Down’ – stand out briefly they’re mostly only parts of a compelling whole. The unavoidable comparison is Low, one I’m sure they wouldn’t mind; Foley’s vocals are considered and thoughtful, a ringer for Alan Sparhawk, and his vocal foil Lianne Francis makes for an excellent Mimi Parker. Elsewhere, ‘I Am Thin’ unfurls over three instrumental minutes, a stately grandeur worthy of Thee Silver Mt Zion building then almost subsiding into the song itself. It’s so often the case that well-intentioned ideas from talented people fail to meet the sum of their parts; this is pretty much the exact opposite of that outcome, something pretty special.


“Don’t confuse me with someone who give a fuck”, Hayden bristles on ’Wanderlust’, lead single from Wild Beasts’ fourth album Present Tense.  Brooding, synth-heavy and pointedly irritable, ‘Wanderlust’ is a lofty, cerebral choice befitting the band Wild Beasts have grown into over the last two albums. They remain eminently quotable lyricists, colossi of wordsmithery in an age of relative pygmies, though the relish and flourish of Limbo, Panto is now expressed in more intimate ways; free of any requirement to prove themselves, they remain acute, blades still drawn, but more stealthy in movement.  Present Tense may possibly be their first album whose appeal is (initially) confined to existing devotees; somewhat shier of pop choruses than the first two, less danceable than Smother, it’s a dense, thoughtful record whose more personal, intimate moments suggest the strutting protagonists of those early songs adapting to more domestic concerns.  They’re a fascinating band to have playing Academy-sized venues, and long may it continue.  This is also a pretty swift leap to the big rooms for East India Youth, who was headlining the somewhat cosier Louisiana a few weeks back, but the confidence beaming outward from Total Strife Forever suggests he won’t miss a beat.  ‘Heaven, How Long’ and ‘Dripping Down’ manage what many seem to find impossible; complex, modernist electronic pop that employs emotive songwriting which pings the heartstrings without being whiny or cloying.  That these subtly, smartly anthemic songs fit so carefully amid the artfully constructed, digitised orch-pop elsewhere on the album is testament to his burgeoning talent.