DINOSAUR JR, Solus, 2nd
Fun fact: Dinosaur Jr were the first band I ever saw live. No hapless support bands, no hobbling cover bands formed of schoolmates. Wales National Ice Rink, 1992, first band on at 7pm. Don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore. I only knew four of their songs, and they played them all, after a fashion; blisteringly fast and distorted, punishingly loud and with a bright white backdrop. They were fucking fantastic. God knows how good they must have been in 1987/88, when You’re Living All Over Me and ‘Freak Scene’ were still fresh. At least when they weren’t fighting; their chapter in Michael Azzerad’s indispensable Our Band Could Be Your Life is a solemn lesson in how not to act towards your friends. All of which – time, age, intra-band hatred – makes it so unlikely that J, Lou and Murph should reform the classic DJ line up at all, let alone record (to date) three albums of new material that, rather than sounding like attempts to recapture long-misplaced peaks, emulates the tricks of classic DJ – the starting of songs with solos, the classically bittersweet harmonies, that majestic shrug of a voice – but does so with the valuable hindsight and sagacity of older dudes. The venue is overpriced balls with zero atmosphere and the support (abject lounge punk duds The Computers) are a bafflingly wrongheaded choice, but Dinosaur still sound fucking fantastic live, these quibbles won’t stop this being a success on way, way more than a revivalist level.
Don’t Look Now – A Cube Freehold Fundraiser: THE GREATNESS OF THE MAGNIFICENCE ORCHESTRA / FRANCOIS / PINCH & BASS CLEF / GOAN DOGS / I KNOW I HAVE NO COLLAR, Old Vic, 6th
Brilliant idea, this. As you should by now know, the lovely and culturally vital Bristol community art space the Cube is aiming to buy out their current five-year lease and go freehold by the end of this year, and this excellent cinema-themed fundraiser at the Old Vic theatre is the latest in a series of efforts to help raise the cash. They’ve hit on a simple idea, familiar to many in recent years – live scores and ‘re-imagined’ soundtracks for classic films and archive documentaries have become a popular undertaking – and made it something relatable to Bristol, to the venue and to its friends and patrons. Five sets here, each featuring local musicians performing either soundtracks to classic films or selections from a composer’s oeuvre, all promising to be excellent. Stalwart loon and Moonflowers leader Jesse Morningstar undertakes the greatest challenge, assembling a 30-piece ‘orchestra’ to play selected Ennio Morricone pieces from the classic Leone films and beyond. Pinch and Bass Clef will take on the score to Robocop, which can only be amazing. Francois & The Atlas Mountains will re-interpret the swooning Gallic balladry of Francis Lai’s soundtrack to the Chabrol new wave classic Un Home Et Une Femme, while Goan Dogs and friends including harpist Elly McCabe will take on Danny Elfman’s score to Edward Scissorhands. Finally, indie auteur Hal Hartley’s own music for the likes of Flirt, Amateur and Henry Fool will be performed by lesser-spotted antifolk collective I Know I Have No Collar. The whole thing will be compered by noted thesp and Cube pal Dudley Sutton (yep, off of Lovejoy) and will quite possibly be one of the loveliest, inspiringly ambitious things you’ll see all year. Tickets from the Old Vic box office. It’s for the best cause. See you there.
VATICAN SHADOW / MARIA CHAVEZ, Arnolfini, 6th
Whoever’s booking the musical programme at the Arnolfini this autumn is having an absolute blinder. Oren Ambarchi, Eyvind Kang (same bill!), Dean Blunt and Phill Niblock on site, Hacker Farm and Shangaan Electro off site in collaborative ventures; there’s plenty worthy of your investment. First up, Dominick Fernow brings his otherwordly ambient techno and gloomy military-industrial darkwave excursions as Vatican Shadow. Over a seemingly limitless array of (firstly) cassette and lushly packaged vinyl editions, released on his own Hospital Productions and by likeminded imprints like Blackest Ever Black and Modern Love, Fernow has drawn from 80s and 90s industrial, the politicised sampledelia of Coldcut and, most obviously, the similarly exhaustive catalogue of Middle East-obsessed analog techno released by Muslimgauze. Explicitly referencing the War on Terror and the US’ direct involvement in Middle East politics with a series of provocative titles, Vatican Shadow releases occupy the same dark corner of the dancefloor as Regis, Raime or even Mordant Music, hypnotic, pitch-black and powerfully effective. Resistance is futile, as they say.
MAD NANNA / SKY NEEDLE, Café Kino, 13th
A couple of weird and intriguing bulletins from the Australian underground, here. Melbourne oddballs Mad Nanna have the psychotic farm labourer look nailed down and a creeped-out, ultra lo-fi post-punk drone thing that alternately coughs out uncomfortably personal Jad Fair/Calvin Johnson confessionals, sinister Birthday Party slo-mo crawlers and shuddering, ramshackle drone-folk constructions that recall the early Smog EPs. Sky Needle, meanwhile, formed in Brisbane but exist latterly as a collective dotted right across the vast Eastern expanse of Australia. Their fantastically dense, loose-limbed, out-there sound recalls (at a stretch, bear with me) other art/music collectives at musical and geographical fringes – Art Bears or KUKL, I’m thinking – with superficial similarities to Monster Movie era Can and Sunburned Hand of the Man. All instruments are self-made, the various stringed, horned and bowed contraptions creating an eccentrically tuned, rubberised cacophony topped with Sarah Byrne’s wild incantations. Really captivating, hypnotic stuff which anyone with a passing interest in freeform, experimental music should check out. Rounding off this fine Shieldshaped event is Melbourne-dweller Yuko Kono, formerly of Shaggs-referencing tweepop duo My Pal Foot Foot, whose delicate Maher-style solo guitar and voice pieces are pretty lovely. Get involved!
DATE PALMS / ZAIL / MANHATTAN COMMUNE, Clwb, 13th
Another very nice bit of work by our pal Adam here, bringing Oakland psych/drone outfit Date Palms your way on their first full UK jaunt in two years. Like latter-day Earth slowed to Nadja tempos, the molasses-thick bass tones and mournful electric violins of third album The Dusted Sessions are desert-dry, ambient but constantly restless. They’ve roots in minimalist drone, dustbowl country, and the blissed-out spaciness of Tangerine Dream or Ash Ra Tempel (the latter particularly evident on the drawn-out, bluesy chug of 2011′s Honey Devash). Meandering, contemplative and immersive stuff, which in their five-piece touring incarnation should transform into something pretty special. It’s an utter joy to have Zail playing gigs again, and but for the occasional, barely detectable mid-song glance between Sam and John – as if to say, is this how it went? – you wouldn’t know it had been years, not months. Calmly magnificent at our Hub festival bash last week, the gorgeously fluid guitar lines, crushing distorto-riffs and furious percussive battery are still blissfully intact. Don’t let them get away this time. Manhattan Commune, meanwhile, is/are a new venture for ex-Team Sports and Things Make Electric dude Matthew Lovett; expect invention, intelligence and experimentation.
JOANNA GRUESOME / SATURDAY’S KIDS / TRUST FUND, Jacobs Market, 14th
It’s only about five minutes since I was writing some old rubbish about the new Joanna Gruesome LP ahead of the show we helped put on in Buffalo, so I won’t go on at length here other than to say that this is the LAUNCH GIG and you will be able to BUY A COPY. Which you totally should, because it’s fantastically life-affirming stuff, amped-up and toughened-up from the rough-arsed demos and first EP but putting the heart-piercing tunes front and centre. It’s called Weird Sister and it is kind of like if Isn’t Anything wasn’t recorded in a wardrobe. Is that hyperbolic enough? Probably. Touring with JG this time is Trust Fund, one man, a guitar, a drum machine and some emotions who writes simple, sad and quietly effective songs, while guesting at this one are your boys Saturday’s Kids, whose own first album proper can’t be far off. Right?
TRAAMS / TOTEM TERRORS, Clwb, 19th
Next Joy presentation! Straight outta Chichester, TRAAMS (we’re going with the all-caps approach) do supremely catchy, stop-start things with your basic indie-rock tropes, distilling the good bits through and filtering off the chaff. Trebly, scratchy guitars rattle around over some nicely swooping bass and compact, punchy post-punk rhythms, with singer Stu’s vocals pleasingly nasal like Violent Femmes or CYHSY on ‘Low’ and yawning and cooing across the Field Music-y likes of ‘Sit Up’. Both the aforementioned tunes feature on their excellent debut EP Ladders, recalling the oblique-yet-catchy recent likes of Abe Vigoda, Beach Fossils or Women and the bands (Pavement, Television) they in turn drew from. There’s an album, Grin, coming out on Fat Cat the very week of this show, too. Top-level support, as you have come to expect by now; join the ever-excellent Totem Terrors in cocking a snook at the Welsh Music Prize nomination they should rightly have got with another clipped and perfectly poised set of metronomic post-punk detachment and delicious melodic earworms. One more support to be added. WATCH THIS SPACE.
BLACK PUS / DAN FRIEL, Exchange, 20th
Black Pus is Brian Chippendale out of Lightning Bolt’s side-project, which, barring an unlikely detour into Celtic folk, should tell you what you need to know; super-fast, gatling-gun drumming and largely incoherent vocals barked into a contact mic gaffa-taped inside a sweaty frightmask. So far, so good. Where it differs from Lightning Bolt is subtly, but noticeably. In the absence of Brian Gibson’s ridiculously elastic bass noise, Black Pus has an oscillator triggered by the kick drum, streaking the percussive detritus with eerie, twisted bursts of treated sound. It’s also a surprisingly more reserved beast in places, with a few more mid-tempo pieces veering dangerously close to y’know, songs. Not that you should expect it to be anything less than exhilarating sandpaper-to-the-face fare live, though. Dan Friel, meanwhile, was keyboardist/guitarist in ace Brooklyn noise/punk outfit Parts & Labor, until their 2011 hiatus seemingly called time on their steady evolution from trebly blasts of keyboard scree and hardcore-influenced noise towards ostensibly more conventional but still fiercely ambitious nuggets of sandblasted noise, bellowed vocals and gloriously anthemic melody. His 2008 solo debut Ghost Town took the 8-bit shudder and almost-pop of P&L and re-soldered it solely for knackered keyboards, loops and computers, creating a naggingly catchy digitised stew like a Dan Deacon that didn’t want to crush beer cans against your head. The experiment continues on this year’s Total Folklore, a follow-up of often jaw-dropping scope which suggests he’s benefitted from the extra focus of going solo. Absurdly distorted electronic farts and claps reverberate throughout the monolithic ‘Ulysses’, playing against lengthy digitised wig-outs and clusters of twinkling computer noise. It’s not unlike an entirely mechanised Lightning Bolt, in fact. How about that.
BIRDSKULLS / BAYY, Le Pub, 21st
Did you see this brilliant and inspiring piece on the identity, individualism and attitude of Newport’s live music scene? If not, set aside half an hour and do so. It reminded me of some brilliant gigs at TJs in the late 90s – Royal Trux, Make-Up, Blues Explosion, Rocket From The Crypt – in a dive bar with cheap canned lager and disastrous toilets, in a town a half hour bus ride from my house in Cardiff but with a sense of crazed, drunken spirit I’d not seen in venues at home. Anyway, I’m not the person to talk about the state of Newport’s live scene 15 years on – the article does that, and if you by our man InteriorMonologue a drink he’ll do so far more eloquently than I could. There is an undoubted resurgence in the city lately though, with Le Pub hosting Rolo Tomassi, Pirate Ship Quintet, Castrovalva, the Diverse birthday shows (see below) and this dark horse. Birdskulls are a dispiritingly young trio from various bits of Southern England who do fuzzed-up slacker-pop nuggets like ‘Rolling Tongue’ with nicely wayward Mascis guitar lines and knockabout punk-pop tempos and whose debut release for Art Is Hard came as a woolly hat/cassette combination. That’s two separate items, just to clarify. If you’ve seen and enjoyed Rough Music lately you’ll like Birdskulls, and if you haven’t been to Le Pub lately/ever then you should rectify that. It’s cheap, it’s easy to get to and it’s bloody good fun. Cassettes are still shit though, kids.
WIRE / XAVIERS, Fleece, 25th
Wire need little selling. Thirty-five-plus years at the vanguard of post-punk and art-rock, their regular tours in the decade since their reformation have said as much about their audience as about themselves; the punk dads hold out for memories of 1977 but the band are about as interested in such retreads as they ever have been. The clipped, austere delivery and deliciously oblique, cryptic lyricism that have been their singular constants in decades of patient evolution are delivered with a poised and mercurial precision befitting their longevity, but the jarring volume and bracing physicality of reinvigorated youth. Object 47 and Red Barked Tree are as good as pretty much anything in their catalogue, and the careful repurposing of long-shelved first-wave material on this year’s Change Becomes Us is as fitting a metaphor for Wire’s outlook as you could want. Their choice of support is pretty fine here, too; London-based improv trio Xaviers, consisting of Yuki and Monchan of the mighty Bo Ningen on guitar and drums and Kenichi Iwasa on synth, seldom play live and never rehearse, yet pound out euphoric, transcendental psych-noise freakouts of magnificent intensity. There’s a few 10-minute excerpts on Youtube which I highly recommend checking. Apparently they’ll be recording each set on the Wire tour and posting them online the following day for one-day-only download. Excellent stuff.
Diverse 25th Birthday: ISLET / HOUDINI DAX / THE VESTALS / SCIENCE BASTARD, Le Pub, 27th and PAPER AEROPLANES / STEVEN JAMES ADAMS / POLLY PAULUSMA / M.G. BOULTER, Le Pub, 29th
Three days, in fact, of celebrations at the aforementioned Le Pub to herald a quarter-century of Newport’s bastion of independent music retail. Getting Islet is a bit of a coup a week or so before their own album launch gig for Released By The Movement, and they should be incredible in a small, sweaty venue like this. Good supporting cast of Newport’s finest, too, in particular crowd-bothering math-punk lovelies Science Bastard. The middle night sees The Sick Livers headline a boozy rock ‘n’ roll affair, while Sunday night’s wind-down comes courtesy of the beguiling folk of Diverse Records signee Polly Paulusma and a very welcome return for Steven Adams, most recently trading as Singing Adams but about to release solo recordings under his own name. A splendidly witty, affecting songwriter and a very nice chap to boot. Happy birthdays, Diverse. Drink sensibly.
Loserpalooza 2013: SONANCE / SPIDER KITTEN / GHAST / ATOMCK / POHL / HOMOH, Moon Club, 28th
The third annual Loserpalooza gives about as much quarter as in previous years, i.e. none; six bands, including hosts Spider Kitten, and a wide-ranging and excellent array of heavy music. Stepping up at relatively late notice to headline this one are Bristol’s Sonance, whose two-track, forty-minute epic Like Ghosts is a slow, terrible (in a complimentary way) and monstrously loud slab of atmospheric sludge that alternately screams bloody murder and ebbs away in stoned, unsettling contemplation. It’s a beast. Ghast, meanwhile, are a seldom-seen trio who do pretty much classic Black Metal tackle with huge, bass-heavy doom overtones, a loud/louder/loud trick that works just fine on their Terrible Cemetary EP. They are called things like Arrrrrrach and Myrggh but fuck making jokes about that because, well, you never know with those BM chaps. Pohl swerve between big-boned stoner riffs and hyper-steroidal math-rock and will go down well with anyone who enjoys the music of Big Business, while Homoh (I know, sorry) have tuned their grungey, metallic thud into something nicely sludgy and powerful. Good howling, too. All this plus Spider Kitten doing next album stuff and Atomck’s brisk and welcome grindcore malevolence for as little as £4. They’re practically giving it away!
RICHARD DAWSON / JOHN McGRATH / BRISTOL SACRED HARP, Cube, 28th
A welcome and swift return to touring for the very lovely Mr Dawson, who over one dozen people were very fortunate to witness playing live for the Joy Collective earlier this year. Carping aside, it was genuinely magical stuff, and the reactions during and after the gig from those kind enough to attend were reason enough to put on gigs forever. The tumbling, ecstatic clusters of notes and thrillingly imperfect keening on ‘Wooden Bag’, a song as beautiful as the lyrics are bleakly, deftly funny, and the lung-bursting, exhausting acapella laments of ‘Poor Old Horse’ and ‘Joe The Quilt-Maker’ will stay with me for some time. It’s a unique and feverish interpretation of folk traditions, heartfelt and raw and bent on experimenting with the form. You should go to this gig, and buy The Glass Trunk, his wild, brilliant album of collaborations with harpist Rhodri Davies. Dawson’s love of acapella and Gaelic psalm is a strong part of his work, so it’s fitting that local Sacred Harp singers will perform here too; the intriguing take on Takoma fingerpicking by Dubliner John McGrath, with glitchy percussive notes and warm drones like an acoustic Four Tet, is well worth your investigation too.