• November preview: live highlights this month for Cardiff and Bristol

LIVITY SOUND, The Island at Bridewell, 2nd

Bristolian post-dubstep/bass trio comprised of Peverelist, Kowton and Asusu, recently combined Voltron-like into one entity to release a collection of the 12″s they’ve put out on their Livity Sound imprint and others in recent months. Moody and weighty in their shared outlook, the album collects dub-heavy garage/techno rollers like Asusu’s ‘Too Much Time Has Passed’, the neon synth washes, shuddering sub-bass and clipped, crisp production of Kowton’s ‘More Games’ and collaborative meetings like the thumping Pev ‘n’ Kowton single ‘Raw Code’ and works well as a consistent piece. Coal-black, minimal yet insistently funky. This will feature a super-rare live Livity show alongside DJ sets from all three, should be a blinder.


Spoken word’ is the most spurious description of what Enablers do, so let’s disavow that right here; underground literary mainstay and frontman Pete Simonelli’s fiercely compelling prose positively sings, see-sawing back and forth and in and out of his bandmates’ astoundingly tight, complex music. Veterans of, amongst others, Swans, Codeine, June of 44 and Mice Parade, their whipsmart post-hardcore and roiling, cathartic riffing on the likes of Blown Realms and Stalled Explosions are the perfect counterpoint to Simonelli’s desperate tales and lurid, cautionary character portraits. Think Fugazi, Shellac and now I’ve heard and can’t unhear it, Fatima Mansions – definitely something of Cathal Coughlan in Simonelli’s leering tales. Regular visitors to the Cube now, and this welcome return pits them against Bristol’s own Isis, Pirate Ship Quintet, for maximum effect.


Lebanese by birth and Montreal-based, recording for Constellation and co-owner of Hotel2Tango studios, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh has created something unique, complex and pretty beautiful in Mo7it Al-Mo7it. An electro-acoustic study in contemporary Arabic music, his first release as Jerusalem In My Heart utilises traditional instruments played both ‘clean’ and processed alongside harp, birdsong and buzzing electronic production akin to Tim Hecker or Fennesz. His voice soars across the pieces, an incredibly expressive instrument somewhere between Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ofra Haza. JIMH shows are multimedia affairs incorporating multiple projections, 16mm film and stage theatrics, and this highlight of Chapter’s Experimentica season should not be missed.


The ragged, rollicking country-rock classicism and sun-kissed aw-shucks confessionals of Matthew Houck’s fifth Phosphorescent album, 2010′s Here’s To Taking It Easy, was his first full-band album and as good an argument for making a change of direction a permanent choice as you’ll find. Last time out at the Thekla, on the last, valedictory lap of a long tour, his bleary, lived-in demeanour suggested some personal private reflection might be in order after all. What emerged on Muchacho three years later was the best kind of compromise, a record that tempered the good-times swagger of its predecessor with some of the hymnal reflection of Pride, and while he might not write another ‘My Dove, My Lamb’ or ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble’ the consistency and balance his band now demonstrate is better than ever. Still a reliably great night out, grin-inducing and tear-jerking in turn, Houck a crumpled, magnetic blend of Jeff Tweedy and Evan Dando.


Ex-Cul de Sac mainman Jones’ albums of gorgeous, ringing fingerpicked solo guitar in the classic American Primitive style ramp up the wistfulness and tenderness found more sporadically in the music of, say, Jack Rose; the warm, resonant melodies on the likes of this year’s My Garden State strafe yawning great sunrays across the record. The longer, more contemplative pieces, built on expertly-turned clusters and raga-like tunings, are no less effective. Masterful stuff from a guitarist who stands out in a busy field. Great choices of support here, Kino resisting the urge to book with type by opting for the seldom-seen, always-wonderful amniotic DIY shimmer of Headfall and an equally rare performance by Matt MxLx of his 2011 piano drone piece Atworth, released on Stitch-Stitch and named after the Wiltshire church in which it was recorded. Quiet, expressive and beautiful self-starter music, varied and life-affirming. How it should be.


The name, distinctive monochrome artwork and the duo’s other projects (Miles Whitaker was in Pendle Coven; they release queasy concrète/horror drones with Andy Votel as Slant Azymuth) present a singular aesthetic very much in tune with the occult fascinations of so many contemporary Lancastrian musicians. What they produce is captivating stuff; a dense, eerie ethnographic fog taking in drone, seismically heavy dubbed-out beats, curdled Arabic and African loops and decaying, witchy fx loops that occasionally produce something weirdly accessible (‘Hashshashin Chant’, off Voices of Dust, say) but in the main are oblique and fascinating tracts. Heard cut up and reassembled for their mammoth live sets, any preconceptions you might have can safely go out of the window.


MACHO CITY / CONFORMIST, Sherman foyer, 16th

Newly-signed to Shape, H!TP celebrate with a launch show for Send A Signal To Me, Love, their first new material in three years. Intricate and fine-tuned like post-rock, with the subdued grandeur of Galaxie 500 in the songwriting, they pull off a delicate balancing act – ambitious and full-sounding without sacrificing nuance or sounding overblown. Streamed track ‘Separate Us (ii)’ showcases Holly’s vocal as never before, and the muted brass and keening folk rounds share something with Trembling Bells. A good thing. Speaking of Galaxie 500, the tremendous warm-blanket slowcore of Mars To Stay support here, a heavy-lidded blur of tremolo and dreamy melody recalling Codeine circa Barely Real. Get in early for Macho City too, if their rammed Swn show is anything to go by; their gleaming, grinding retro-electro can also be enjoyed for no money at the Sherman the following evening.

JULIA HOLTER, Cube, 16th

Pretty sure this one is already sold out, which is great news for the Cube but sucks for you if you slept on it. Almost certainly the last time she’ll perform in such an intimate setting, given her skyrocketing profile, and that in itself is an excellent thing; that music as hugely ambitious, unrepentantly ‘artistic’ (albums inspired by Greek tragedy, Virginia Woolf and the film Gigi) and yet both utterly contemporary and swooningly beautiful as Holter’s actually goes and finds a broad audience is lovely to see. Ekstasis remains the one for me, for now at least; Laurie Anderson and Laurel Halo, Maria Minerva and Meredith Monk at the same time, neo-classsical strings and crystalline electronic pop rubbing shoulders with rumbling drones and Juliana Barwick-style layered, wordless vocals. She should be playing galleries and cathedrals, and probably will be next time.

JARBOE / FOEHN / UIUTNA, Exchange, 18th

Jarboe’s work with Swans over a tumultuous 13-year period, and the incredible variety of work released since (collaborators have included Neurosis, Justin Broadrick, Cobalt and Oxbow among many) has seen her channel her unique muse in remarkably stylistically disparate ways; gothic and lustrous rock music, restrained, contemplative balladry and visceral, challenging exorcism. Unrivalled in her versatility and intensity by anyone save Diamanda Galas, it ought to be a privilege to see her perform live. An additional coup here is the unexpected return of Bristol’s Debbie Parsons, aka Foehn, whose otherworldly, undulating dreamworlds have been off radar since 2000’s Hidden Cinema Soundtrack for Fat Cat. Very much in the Movietone/FSA/Third Eye Foundation vein, excellent stuff. ZamZam Records’ freaky gamelan drone oddball Uiutna rounds out a supreme bill.


Here come Múm, then, trundling out of the woodwork like the doormice on Bagpuss. Like Efterklang and Sigur Ros, their divergence from the sound they became known for came in the form of a move towards mainstream accessibility; also like those bands, they became progressively less interesting, which was a shame. Not that the loss of Kristin’s spidery whisper and the efforts at more overt pop were disastrous – Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy took confident steps forward, retaining the childlike wonder and experimentation but with a more emphatic sonic palette – but more recent releases have been pretty flat compared to earlier glories. Last seen live around here in the National Museum back in 2009, they are, if anything, more effective in person; the emotional impact hits home, the twinkling electronics and melodic spindrift warm the heart. Not exactly the venue you’d choose, but still worth the effort.

LAURA VEIRS / LED TO SEA, Thekla, 20th

Laura Veirs’ career is a series of ordinary explosions. Warp & Weft is her ninth album, and ranks with Carbon Glacier or Saltbreakers as among her best, but for many she passes under the radar, unfairly lumped in with the pack. She’s forged a distinctive voice despite not possessing the peculiarities of a Newsom or a Foster; a clear pool of a voice, flinty and defiant but lyrical and tender, it’s become her own by default. In the same way, her dedicated pool of collaborators (producer/arranger Tucker Martine, K Records’ lo-fi folkie Karl Blau) have helped hone a familiar sonic imprint, whether skeletal and personal or full-band, the summer-meadow hum of July Flame or the appropriately crisp and winter-bright Carbon Glacier. An often intimate and elemental writer – a geology major at college, her most personal songs can seem those expressing the closest relationship with the land – her knack for immediacy and honesty is a winning one.


One of those things where a potentially tricky concept is executed flawlessly, PSB have moved up the ladder of venue size way faster than could reasonably have been expected. Under a year ago they were playing Buffalo; after calmly selling out Clwb and a jaunt around roomy festival tents, they’re back at the Globe. Their MO might be straightforward – BFI-style vintage documentary footage and chummily authoritative public information dialogue set to driving motorik, chugging electronica and the odd flare of nimbly deployed brass – but what it may lack in depth or daring it more than makes up for in the attention to detail, striking presentation and crisp dynamics. If you’re not wholly swayed by the Lemon Jelly whimsy and country lane Krautrock on record, it’s hard to maintain cynicism when encountered live. Best be quick, though.

Bunker: CUT HANDS / CONTAINER / BLOOD MUSIC / BLACK AMIGA, The Island at Bridewell, 22nd

Back to the cells for a storming third edition of Qu Junktions & the Arnolfini’s ‘Out of Place’ season. William Bennett’s blisteringly loud, poundingly direct polyrhythmic excursions as Cut Hands are perhaps ‘accessible’ only in the context of his day job Whitehouse, but the interpolations of Congolese and Ghanaian instrumentation into bracing tech-noise cut-ups on the self-explanatorily titled Afro Noise set introduced a trance-inducing and bracingly fun new trick. Appropriately, there’s a dual-ticket offer covering both this and the Wolf Eyes / Eraas show at the Exchange on the same night; shame others don’t follow this laudable and sensible cross-promoter practice. Speaking of Wolf Eyes the pick of the excellent support – Nashville resident Container – takes a similarly noise-driven approach to techno as Pete Swanson has of late, except far more convincingly; grimy-as-hell acid-flecked bangers to rattle your fillings. Quality runs deep on this one.

CARDIFF MIND FEST, Undertone & Moon Club, 23rd and 24th

Swn is still a vivid, slightly unsteady memory, but this four-stage, two-day affair works very well as a compact encore while raising funds for an excellent cause. Far and away the best value comes with Ben from Red Medicine’s stage at Undertone on the 23rd, which is luckily a Saturday; Y Pencadlys, Jemma Roper, R.Seiliog, Gwenno and Alex Dingley were all various shades of excellent at Swn, and with the addition of Gindrinker and Heavy Petting Zoo it’s basically wall-to-wall gold. A spottier affair away from that, but the presence of Joanna Gruesome, The Milk Race, The Lovely Wars and others support the suggestion that a cut-price weekend pass is the smart option.

SHELLAC / HELEN MONEY, Exchange, 26th

Sold out, of course, but still essential. They’ve finished their fifth album, the reassuringly wonderfully named Dude, Incredible, for release whenever they damn well please; live footage of the title track from a cool four years ago presents a loping, country-blues lurch along Melvins lines which then gallops off on a huge cheesegrater riff, Albini a foreboding and conspiratorial lay preacher. No-one should need reminding of their singular genius as a live band, a fiercely powerful, visceral force that’s devastatingly tight and bitterly, brilliantly funny. Consumate entertainers, as anyone who’s witnessed their withering Q&A sessions or who was lucky enough to see their costumed Hallowe’en show at the Forum in 2008 will attest. One day we shall look back on their late-season festival ubiquity and wish we could once again see them every year. If you’ve missed the boat this time, do all you can to find a ticket.

SPARKS, o2 Academy, 27th

Perhaps intended as a low-key response to their exhaustive 21-night, album-a-day residency in London in 2008, last year Sparks set out on the ‘Two Hands, One Mouth’ tour – their first as a duo, no band, no computers, in a 40-year career. Described by Ron Mael as ‘more of a song recital than “an intimate evening with Sparks”’, the necessary reimagining of their giddily complex, baroque constructions for keyboard and voice was clearly a challenge they relished; a live album recorded on the tour demonstrates the same vitality and lapel-grabbing assertiveness as any of the original recordings, while the more poised likes of ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ or ‘Dick Around’ benefit hugely from the lack of clutter. Definitely not an ‘acoustic’ tour, it’s just the latest challenge they’ve set themselves in a long career of doing what they probably shouldn’t.


Another month, another listing for rest-dodging pedal-abusers Thought Forms, who return to the Moon Club atop an excellent line-up of blissful, crushingly heavy sludge/shoegaze-treated metal (TDOHM), grubby, clamorous Mudhoney/Flipper noise-punk (Zinc Bukowski) and magnificent hyper-insistent jackhammer post-hardcore weirdness (His Naked Torso). The headliners deliver reliably, a superb brew of sludgy storm-warning fuzz, needling distortion and giddy MBV harmonies perfected on Ghost Mountain and ideally experienced in tiny, loud sweatbox venues coincidentally just like this one. If you’re still nursing a Swn hangover a month on, this is your best bet for recreating the experience.


Free improv trumpeter Henriksen and keys/electronics man Sorlokken, both of legendary Norwegian improvisers Supersilent, return to the venue where Henriksen performed alongside early music vocalists Trio Mediaeval last May to present a very different, fittingly sombre performance commemorating those lost in the massacre on Utøya in July 2011. Joined by Choralia, a 30-piece girls’ choir from Wells Cathedral School, they will perform Andrew Smith’s A Norwegian Requiem, the composition of which commenced earlier that same year. Inventive, forward-looking musicians with an eternally restless spirit and cross-genre skills, expect their treatment of the material to be a beautiful and moving thing.

EUROS CHILDS / LAURA J MARTIN / THE WELLGREEN, Clwb, 28th and Folk House, 30th

If Summer Special was the big pop album, Situation Comedy is the Euros album that best showcases everything that’s brilliant about him; the gorgeously poised piano balladry of Ends, the stone-faced oddball lyricism of Son of Euro Child, a 13-minute, genre-hopping song-suite the equal of those on The Miracle Inn and Jonny and the best example yet of his fixation with Chinnichap glam/bubblegum knock-offs. ‘Tête à Tête’ manages to recall both Sparks’ ‘Reinforcements’ and the theme from Thomas The Tank Engine, and good luck getting it out of your brain once you’ve heard it. It’s hugely pleasing to see him seemingly free to indulge whichever creative whim takes his fancy (Situation Comedy swiftly followed the baffling, occasionally brilliant improv/krautrock weird-outs released as Short & Curlies, remember) and seemingly win his best press and public reactions since Gorkys’ heyday. Never less than a joy to see live, so make sure you do.