Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thalia Zedek interview

I interviewed Thalia Zedek for Perfect Sound Forever.
Read it here

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Plank "Hive Mind" (Acoustic Anarchy)

Around the time of their debut album "Animalism" the trio Plank lost original drummer Johnny Winbolt-Lewis who now concentrates on Douga. Liam Stewart, who many regulars at the best Manchester gigs will recognise from such bands as Nasdaq, FTSE 100 and most recently Seatoller took over, bringing a heavier style. Whilst "Animalism" had a lot of instrumentals named after animals, "Hive Mind" is a concept album about insects and the trials they face in their existation. Prime Planker Dave Rowe, who plays both guitar and keyboards, has added more overt prog licks to his Neu-ish muse, however the band they share most ground with these days is Trans Am, which makes it appropriate that they should be supporting them when they play Ruby Lounge on November 10th. The single "Aphidelity" comes on like a cross between Pink Floyd's "On the Run" and Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and "Dark Web" throws up some ominous King Crimson heavy riffs that dramatise the peril of a fly in a spider's parlour. "Swarm Behaviour" likewise alternates a skittery calmness with a great big riff, evoking an influx of bees. Perhaps the most telling song title is "Metamorphosis" as this is what Plank themselves have done, brought on by their change of drummer. The track in question is festooned in a synth strings and a light click-clacking rhythm with a positive atmosphere, and a sample of a Slinty American voice is buried deep in the mix. "Mothlover" has a similarly upbeat beauty and features another American talking about moths, ending questioningly before "Drone" drones in. "Waterboatman" sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a close up film of a waterboatman surfacing tension. The last two tracks "Cricket" and "Khepri" segue seamlessly, and together form the highlight of another fine Plank album, climaxing with a triumphant ascending guitar solo. They play an album launch gig at the Klondyke on Burnage Range in Levenshulme on June 27th.

Douga "The Silent Well" (Do Make Merge)

Former Plank drummer Johnny Winbolt-Lewis formed Douga to sing the songs he wrote and after some changes in line up he's settled into a duo with John Waddington for "The Silent Well." Raul Carreno plays additional guitar on three songs and the tall man of many bands Dan Bridgewood-Hill (dbh) plays violin on all but the first two songs but didn't play at the album launch gig where they utilised two guitars, bass and drums. "Kids of Tomorrow" opens hopefully, a hard edged dream pop number. "Still Waters" rocks harder and has an intriguing chorus: "I'm not a yes man but I'm lying in the middle of the road, stopping traffic on a habit of mine, I'm not comatose." Then somehow Johnny makes a distorted guitar chime. "Albatross" has a Nick Drake wistfulness, and sad sunset violin strains whilst sampled voices chatter unintelligably. Dan's violin sounds more hoedown on "Accidents" which trots along a gurgling tunnel of psychedelic guitar swirl trapping distant rabbit receivers. "Beat Konductor" and "Blue is Nothing" reflect on depressive tendencies. "Chains" lays it on the line to corporate whores; "When will this be history? An end to all the travesty." Then a jumpy Afrobeat inspired rhythm gets sliced by some clanging guitar strikes. They only made 99 copies of this, so you'd better snap one up quick.

This review was written for Que Vida 2

LOOP & GODFLESH @ Leeds Cockpit 3rd June 2014

Loop were the first band I ever went to see twice on the same tour, in Liverpool and Manchester on the "Fade Out" tour in November 1988. I bought their last two albums "Fade Out" and "A Gilded Eternity" on the days they were released and saw them play five gigs before mainman Robert Hampson moved on to more experimental soundscapes with Main. This co-headline show with Godflesh was the third time I'd seen them since their surprising but most welcome reformation, which was initially just to play and curate All Tomorrow's Parties and has now grown into something bigger. In Leeds Loop opened and their set was very similar to, although a little shorter than their performances at All Tomorrow's Parties Camber Sands and Leeds Brudenell Social Club in December 2013. The big surprise was a change of drummer. John Wills was gone and in his place was the drummer from The Heads. Loop seemed a little tighter than in December. This is probably because they've been playing longer now, but the change of drummer could also be a factor. However it was perhaps telling that "Vapour" had been dropped from the set as the sped up then decelerating coda must be their most tricky drum part. They also had no time for the Can "Mother Sky" medley and yet again opened with "Soundhead," a possible manifesto for Robert's obsession with sound. There is also some irony or relevance in this being the opening song in that the first song is the one where the sound might not be quite right and needs a some tweaking. It sounded fine but they really nailed it with "The Nail Will Burn." Although Loop's aproach to rock is more considered and cerebral, I think their prime antecedents are the Stooges as their songs combine killer riffs with hypnotic mantric effect, Robert's vocals delivered in a an almost monotone. "Soundhead" could be the unholy offspring of "Not Right" (riff) and "We Will Fall" (mantra). "Straight To Your Heart" could be their "I Wanna Be Your Dog", the song lodged deep in the set (fourth actually). Few were caught out by the lull before the psyched out coda, suggesting that despite an abundance of Godflesh T-shirts, people knew Loop music well. One lady near the front was struck by Loopmania and started whooping and shouting, "Robert!" between songs. "Well someone's having fun," remarked Robert. Everyone down the front was having great fun, feeling the "Pulse" as heavy as it should be. The tremelo on Scott Dawson's guitar shimmered, "It'll happen some time," and legs akimbo Neil Mackaye bassed raw power. There were two songs in succession that mentioned hearts; "Fever Knife" cut with deliberate precision, a tunnel for the ultra-familair riff of "Collison" then the highpoint "Arc-Lite" revealing itself with stop-start circularity as one of the best dance tunes ever. At the end of the eighties Loop all looked alike with long black hair hiding their faces. Now Robert sports a silver bowl cut and Neil and Scott have their hair cut short. They might look different but the music sounds the same, a timeless artistic legacy that could last "Forever." They'd played everything but the title track from the first side of "Heaven's End" but I'd really love them to play "A Gilded Eternity" all the way through. There was a little more of that with "Breathe Into Me" then a rewind to their earliest days before Neil and Scott were in the band for a slow "Burning World." Since this gig Scott Dawson is rumoured to have left Loop. Soon after Loop were gone Justin Broadrick and GC Green were battling the drum machine in Godlesh, a more metallic proposition, but sharing with Loop a love of the riff and monotone vocals, although delivered with much more aggression. The only song I recognised was "Antihuman" but I enjoyed their brutal wall of noise, albeit from further back in the room.

This review was written for Optical Sounds 7

Thursday, 12 June 2014

June Records

New musical artefacts I acquired in June 2014:

1.6 Sibelius - Symphony No 1 in E Minor (from cheap record stall in a street near the Roadhouse)

1.6 Travel Expop Series #2 Great Britain: The Oscillation / Mugstar / Listening Mirror / Ben Nash (from Mugstar at their Roadhouse gig, the second to last copy they had)

7.6 Restless Palms - Impasto CDR (from Restless Palms at Hotspur House)

9.6 Tara Jane O'Neil - Companions to Where Shine New Lights tour CDR (from Tara Jane O'Neil at The Castle)

10.6 David Grubbs - Records Ruin the landscape book (from David Grubbs at Kraak)

16.6 Skullflower - Kino IV: Black Sun Rising CD (Given to me by David Armes of Last Harbour and Little Crackd Rabbit in May but only listened to it on 16.6)

17.6 Nope - Walker LP (from guitarist Andy Abbott after Nope played Gullivers)

19.6 Pere Ubu - Carnival of Souls (CD promo posted to me by Fire Records  of great new album out in September)

21.6 Guided By Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit CD (shrinkwrapped for a fiver in Vinyl Exchange and their best album since reformation)

23.6 Shatner's Vex
I didn't have long enough in Vinyl Exchange on Saturday so I went back on Monday afternoon and went through the CDs a lot more thoroughly and bought this lot, except the Harmonia CD (new in Fopp) and the Shatner's Bassoon CD, a mere fiver after they played a nice long jazz-prog set at Krobar to about twenty paying listeners. All CDs were a fiver or less, except the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project and Harmonia.

Harmonia and Brian Eno - Tracks and Traces CD 1976
High Dependency Unit - Fireworks 2001
Robert Pollard - Music for "Bubble" (a Steven Soderbergh film) CD 2005
Robert Pollard - Coast to Coast Carpet of Love 2007
The Takeovers - Bad Football 2007 (Robert Pollard)
The One Ensemble - Wayward the Fourth 2006
Macrocosmica - Art of the Black Earth 2003
Crent - Pink Album
Crevice 2
Stephen Todd & Richard Youngs - Georgians
Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project - Axels and Sockets 2014
Lau Nau - Nukkuu
Tomorrow We Sail - For Those Who Caught the Sun in Flight
Thee Oh Sees - Drop
Led Bib - The People in Your Neighbourhood 2014
Shatner's Bassoon - Aquatic Ape Privilege 2013

Bob Mould "Beauty and Ruin" (Merge Records)

"Silver Age" found Bob Mould back at what he does best: playing loud guitars and energetic songs in a power trio. The follow up "Beauty and Ruin" happily continues in that vein, although the opening song "Low Season" is so far down it could fit in well on his dark "Black Sheets of Rain" album. His recent live set included more old Sugar and Husker Du songs than "Silver Age" songs, and both bands' legacies are refected in songs herein. The speedy "Little Glass Pill" could sit happily on "Candy Apple Grey" and would actually improve the album if it replaced one his weaker Husker Du songs. "I Don't Know You Anymore" sounds like a classic Sugar single and lightens the mood despite a thousand pieces of Bob's heart getting scattered on the floor. The enthusiasm of bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster are enough to glue it back together so "The Kid With Crooked Face" can rev up some chaos that's vaguely reminiscent of "Real World" from "Metal Circus." "Nemeses Are Laughing" has a tripped out circular motion like "Hoover Dam." Probably the most heartfelt song "The War" is a tribute to Bob's late father, a regretful reflection on mortality. Side two begins with the lightest song "Forgiveness" which could lyrically be the opposite side of "I Apologise" from "New Day Rising," although musically its more like Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind." "Mr Grey" is sixties pop hammered into hardcore shape. "Fire in the City" is the song that sounds most like something from "Silver Age" and the "tumbling down" refrain recalls "Spiraling Down" from "Life and Times" but its theme of destruction, impermanence and change could be a prequel to "The Descent." The last three songs conclude the album more hopefully. "Silver Age" obviously referenced the first Sugar album "Copper Blue" with a more precious metal; "Beauty and Ruin" echoes the second Sugar album "Beaster" in that the title repeats the first three letters. I hope Bob Mould has plenty more FU:EL to burn tomorrow morning and fixes up a gold album sooner than it took to turn copper into silver. 

Short Reviews for Que Vida 2

There have been a lot of great new releases spinning in the home of Hell in May and June 2014, too many for longer reviews, so here are some short ones!

Swedish experimentalists Skull Defekts "Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown" on Thrill Jockey is a spirited spiritual gothic masterpiece fueled by tribal drumming worthy of Killing Joke and Kukl and features some godly guest vocals from Daniel Higgs. Scandinavian hexen zone!

Yoshimi P-We is best known for drumming in Boredoms and battling Flaming Lips' pink robots but she has another all female band OOIOO and their "Gamel" album on Thrill Jockey finds them adding their idiosycratic take on gamelan rhythms to their funtime chants.

Former Come guitarist Chris Brokaw's "Now, Forager" on Dais is a soundtrack to a film about love and fungi. Judging by the finely picked guitar instrumentals mushrooms are American road movie fuel and the ambient noise interludes could be the sound of them growing through the cracks in the sidewalks to infest Wall Street with hallucinogenic music.

"Konokon" on Lancashire and Somerset is the second album from Nottingham trio Kogumaza and finds them at their most melodic and majestic, with no loss of slowburning raw power.

Goldring / Thomson "For All #1 Noises" on Lancashire and Somerset is a one sided vinyl only recording of some guitar strum and drone culled from an installation made by two men best known for their axe work in Enablers. One for hardcore Enablers fans maybe, more ambience, little rhythm. The only downside is that they could've included these guys recent Touched By A Janitor instrumental tape on the wasteful blank side.

Monkey Puzzle Trio "The Pattern Familiar" on Slowfoot is the second album from former This Heat drummer Charles Hayward's trio with Viv Corringham's portentous multi-layered electric voice and Nick Doyne-Ditmas electric double bass. It's a stranger beast than their debut, and that had enough weirdness for a whole gang of stooges. Their shoes were made for walking to the river, where it sounds as though some disaster is about to happen.

Mugstar's mighty "Sun, Broken" album has been reissued on beautiful black and white vinyl by Cardinal Fuzz and as there are only 500 of this latter day heavy psychedelic classic you'd better run to the record store!

Kreidler "ABC" on bureau b is yet another foot tapping dose of post-Kraftwerk synthpop instrumentalism from this long running and rather under-rated German group, this time with the subtle addition of a Georgian choir.

New York hardcore kids Big Ups came to Kraak Gallery and almost blew the roof off with their Gray Matter / Minor Threat inpsired blasts. I snapped uo their "Eighteen Hours of Static" CD on Tough Love; they needed the tour money and I needed to clear the wax out of my ears.

Prescott's "One Did" on Slowfoot is a quirky instrumental affair from a trio featuring former Stump bassist Kev Hopper. I'm not sure if I actually enjoy it but sometimes that can be a good thing.




Vertical Scratchers "Daughter of Everything " (Merge Records)

Vertical Scratchers is the new collaboration between John Schmersal of Brainiac and Enon and drummer Christian Beaulieu of Triclops! and Anywhere. Both Brianiac and Enon had catchy songs deserving of wider popularity than they attained, and with John's more experimental tendencies finding their outlet in his other band Crooks On Tape, which reunites the original Enon line up, the debut Vertical Scratchers album on Merge Records has enough direct pop hooks and Kink-y melodies to get Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices singing, which he does on "Get Along Like U." The fast escape route rhymer "Way Out" is the sort of song that should be number one in a revolution summer.

Swans "To Be Kind" (Young God)

On first listen I was thinking this could be the best album ever made. Without a doubt it's the best Swans album yet and album of the first half of 2014. Three albums into their reactivation Swans epitomise genuine progression. On the two gigs I saw on their recent tour they only played four songs from this album, and the claustrophobic "Oxygen" was so slowed and mutated as to be a new piece of music. Aside from "The Apostate" from previous album "The Seer" the rest of the set consisted of new songs. The highlight of those gigs was the final song about a black hole man called Joseph which bodes well for the future, but my favourite from this album was the accusatory "A Little God In My Hands" where hairy percussionist Thor Harris gets to blast the loudest trombone in the world. The epic "Bring the Sun" also survived Michael Gira's ruthless axe, and at Birmingham Supersonic they played the otherworldy tribute to Chester Burnett "Just A ittle Boy." Michael Gira's twisted vocal and the eruption of sinister laughter make this an unsettling song even by Swans standards. The last song on each CD of this double disc finds a calm after the storm, and Swans really are like a hurricane. Their ravenous need to make as much music as possible before fate deals its mortal blow has resulted in relentless magnificence. "To Be Kind" is two hours of transcendent tripping into musical regions no one else has dared open up before, a genuinely progressive vision of the violent mutation rock music should always strive for but rarely does.If you've ever liked Swans then you need this. If you have yet to experience their brutal hallucinogenic universe, then get this and move back in time album by album to find out what it took "To Be Kind."  

Supersonic 31st May

Bands I heard play at Supersonic in Birmingham Custard factory, in order of how much I enjoyed them:

Chris Brokaw
Ex-Easter Island Head 12 guitar
Agathe Max
Jenny Hval
Wolf Eyes
Sly and the Family Drone
Alien Whale

Records I bought at Supersonic:

Chris Brokaw - Now, Forager (
Chris Brokaw - With My Little Eye CDR
Chris Brokaw (Hidden Tooth) - Bicoastal Arsonista CDR (

Kogumaza - Konokon (39/500)
Goldring / Thomson - For All #1 Noises (
Agathe Max - Dangerous Days

June Gigs

1 Mugstar / Black Bombaim / 3D Tanx / Championlover @ the Roadhouse

3 Godflesh / Loop @ Leeds Cockpit (reviewed for Optical Sounds 7)

4 Shield Patterns / Vei @ Soup Kitchen
4 EMA @ Ruby Lounge (last five songs)

5 PJ Philipson / Pascal Nichols / Raz Ullah @ Sacred Trinity Chapel

6 Douga / Daniel Land / Juffage @ First Chop Brewing Arm

7 Restless Palms / Jon Collin / Chaines @ Hotspur House

9 Tara Jane O'Neil / Rough Fields / Elle Mary / Vei @ The Castle

10 David Grubbs / Sam Schlicht @ Kraak Gallery

12 Ceramic Hobs / Droput Wives / Klaus Kinski / Sump @ Krrak Gallery

12 Tekla / Seatoller / Suttree @ Gullivers

13 Desmadrados de Soldados Ventura / Zaimph / Heather Leigh @ Kraak Gallery  (missed Kelly & Pascal)

14 A Belied Guniko / Dave Birchall & Otto Will / Obsidian Alecs @ Sub Rosa (FREE!)

17 Nope / Body Hound @ Gullivers (missed Dinner Time)

21 A Carefully Planned All Dayer @ Gullivers (Sceaming Maldini / Aeroplanes Fly High / E Numbers / Hot Shorts / Pedro Don Key / 4 or 5 Magicians / Cecile Grey)
21 Cash-In Pumpkins @ Fuel Violent Femmes night

27 Plank / Man of Moon @ The Klondyke

Havin' a Kraakin' time!

My Merry Musical Month of May

These are the gigs I went to during May 2014

2 Arc Iris / Nicole Atkins @ Night and Day

3 Former Bullies / Sex Hands @ Nick Mitchell's garden for Patrick Crane's thirtieth birthday

4 Sounds from the Other City: PJ Philipson, Thomas Long, Daniel Weaver, Picastro, MiSTOA PoLTSA, Monkey Puzzle Trio, Grumbling Fur, Chantal Acda, Sly and the Family Drone, ZZZs (see review elsewhere on blog and in Que Vida 1)

5 Big Ups / September Girls / MiSTOA PoLTSA / Hipshakes @ Kraak Gallery

7 The Sonics / Vertical Scratchers @ Leeds Brudenell

8 Plank / Vei @ Bay Horse

10 Anson Corner all day house gig w/ Tekla, Songs for Walter, dbh playing "After the Goldrush", Great Cop, Ugly Fruit, Yossaarians, etc

10 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion @ Gorilla
(reviewed elsewhere on blog)

11 Matt Gray, dbh piano blues combo @ Band on the Wall Acoustic Bhuna

12 Bo Ningen / Younghusband @ Deaf Institute
(reviewed elsewhere on blog)

16 Sex Hands / Human Hair @ Fallow

17 Carefully Planned All Dayer @ Gullivers w/ Cleft, Tekla, Ten Mouth Electron, Bad Grammar, etc
17 One-Five-Eight exhibition @ Kraak Gallery

21 Melt Banana / Young Conservatives / Legion of Swine @ Leeds Brudenell

22 Swans / Jenny Hval @ Academy 2

23 Fat Out Fest: Chicaloyah, Minimal Bouge, Nisennenmondai, Drunk in Hell, Charles Hayward Band

24 Fat Out fest: Raikes Parade, 2 Koi Karp, Barberos, Naked On Drugs, Championlover, MiSTOA PoLTSA, Die Hexen, Terminal Cheesecake, Melt Banana

25 Fat Out fest: Suttey and the End of the Worlds, Danny Saul, Lau Nau, Nadja, Gizeh records big band improv jam w/ Horrid, Charles Hayward, Nadja, Farewell Poetry; Dave Birchall & Andrew Cheetham, Cut Hands

27 Melt Banana / Glatze / Thrilling Headgear @ Birmingham Rainbow Warehouse

29 The Magic Band / Hopper Propelled Electric @ Band on the Wall

30 Hookworms / Novella / Omi Palone / Sex Hands @ Islington Mill

31 Supersonic Birmingham: Ex-Easter Island Head 12 guitar big band, Chris Brokaw, Agathe Max, Rattle, Alien Whale, Youth Man, Sly and the Family Drone, Wolf Eyes, Jenny Hval, Backwards, Swans
Amazingly, absolutely no one at any of these gigs did anything to piss me off, except the DJ who played that shiity Spandau Ballet song on Staurday night at Fat Out Fest.

More May Records

More records & CDs I acquired in May 2014:

Bo Ningen - Line the Wall (2013)
Buke and Gase - General Dome (2013)
Disappears - Era (2013)
Hookworms - Pearl Mystic (2013)
Hookworms - Hookworms EP
Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen (2013)
Robert Pollard - Mouseman Cloud (2012)
Kandodo - Kandodo (2012)
Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain (2012)

Oneida - Absolute II (2011)
Russian Circles - Station (2008)
Boston Spaceships - The Greatest Hits of Boston Spaceships (2008-2011)
Robert Pollard - Standard Gargoyle Decisions (2007)
David Yow - Tonight You Look Like A Spider (1999-2007)
Mugstar - Sun, Broken (228/500 vinyl reissue, somewhere outside time)
Richard Thompson - Grizzly Man (2005)
The Magic Band - 21st Century Mirror Men (2005)
The Black-Eyed Snakes - Rise Up! (also timeless)
Bonny Billy - More Reverie (1997)
Brian McMahon - 17 Volts (1996)
Nomeansno - In the Fishtank (1996)

Giant Sand - Storm (1987)
Giant Sand - The Love Songs (1988)
Giant Sand - Long Stem Rant (1989)
Giant Sand - Swerve (1990)
Giant Sand - Ramp (1991)
Giant Sand - Center of the Universe (1992)
Giant Sand - Black Out (1993)
Giant Sand - Glum (1994)