Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Mission of Burma in Leeds

Mission of Burma were one of the main attractions at Stewart Lee’s All Tomorrows Party in Prestatyn so four days later a trip to Leeds to hear them in action again seemed a good idea. Before they played a similar but slightly different set, a Leeds quartet Rats on Rafts warmed the stage with some dynamic indie rock. Whilst not overtly goth they had a sound that had Leeds band all over it. Their best moments were when a song stopped dead and revved up again on a drum break. Their weakest link was the undistinctive vocals. They seemed to have almost as many records for sale afterwards as Mission of Burma!

Just like Prestatyn Mission of Burma started with “Funworld.” There was a small delay after Roger Miller strummed the riff for “Spider’s Web” before bassist Clint Conley and drummer Peter Prescott were ready so I got to do a little acapella “world flips when an animal gets its soul” in the interim. Clint’s first lead vocal of the night was “2wice” if I remember correctly, and Peter’s “Sectionals in Mourning.” Mission of Burma have a sound a like a juggernaut crashing off the tracks and taking half the road with it, although the experience is a hell of a lot safer. Maybe not so safe for the ears though, as it’s well documented that they had to stop in the eighties due to Roger Miller’s hearing damage. Peter Prescott still wacks the drums hard, and there is still a perspex screen between him and Roger both this and the Prestatyn performance were not as loud as they have been on past occasions. “1,2,3 Party!” had a roadie in a Ramones T-shirt join them to say the “1,2,3” part but had to be aborted at first attempt due to transformer problems. Bob Weston filled in with some varispeed digital loops of guitar drone and about five minutes later they were ready to resume the party. “Let Yourself Go!” hollered Peter, so we did, as he drummed like a ten car pile up. There was some neat manic slide guitar from Roger on “This is not a Photograph.”  There was a new song they didn’t play in Prestatyn, unless it was some obscure cover version. “I’m so tired…” sang Roger at the start of “New Disco” which perfectly described my physical state all week after the Prestatyn party. Then he looped himself out of a personal grudge. “Fame and Fortune” was still a stupid game. I forget which song it was but towards the end Roger knocked his microphone at a tricky angle and had to lean over to sing into it. After falling into the water and reaching for their revolvers they escaped their certain fate by walking off for a quick break. Despite singing them a bit of “Wounded World” I didn’t get my song request but the encore was a triple wammy of “Peking Spring,” “The Ballad of Johnny Burma” and “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate.”

The next day they should have been playing the cancelled All Tomorrow’s Party curated by Drive Like Jehu but instead had arranged a last minute support with Fire records label mates Pere Ubu in London. They ended up backing David Thomas on a rendition of “Heart of Darkness.” Then they flew to Belgium. Not quite the heart of darkness perhaps. More like the heart of chocolate and strong beer.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stewart Lee's All Tomorrow’s Parties April 2016

“No fun beyond this point” read a sign near my chalet. It seemed an appropriate motto for a weekend that might end up being the last event like this, considering all the behind the scenes financial problems. It could also describe only too well how everything that happens for the rest of the year will pale in comparison, it really was such a wonderful weekend. Some witty punter had actually taped over the word “bikes” in “fun bikes” on the sign. If I describe everything I enjoyed it’ll take up about a third of this zine, so here are just some snapshots of my fondest moments.

The new BARDO POND song that had a chorus where Isobel Sollenberger channelled the “Day in the Life” McCartney when he went into a dream that could be their best song yet. I cried tears of joy during their set including some older surprises and at least three, maybe four new songs.

The moment of the first drum beat in BOREDOMS set. They began with a very long subdued drone that slowly increased in volume and the tension grew…that first beat made one guy whoop and that made everyone down the front laugh. They then sounded like they’d never done before and also made me cry tears of joy, despite only having two drummers now.

Terrie Ex grabbing my hat and having a short tug of war with me towards the end of his hilarious set with brilliant drummer Han Bennink. It was Han’s seventieth birthday. What a fantastic celebration!

Needing full on rock action after a pleasant mellow Saturday afternoon and getting it in spades from THE HEADS. Just like curator Stewart Lee it was the first time I’d seen them play and they were even better than I’d hoped.

The moment the mighty MISSION OF BURMA played “Max Ernst” and people started going wild down the front. Afterwards I bought Roger Miller’s new single by his new band Trinary System and he signed it and I can happily report that it is excellent. I’d met Clint Conley outside earlier in the day and during our conversation he told me that “Slow Death” by the Flamin’ Groovies is one of his all time favourite songs.

Roky Erickson having his shit together despite disgruntlement over money and going on with the show to play a blinding “Rollercoaster” even if the bass was cranked way too high for the whole set and the electric jug was inaudible.

Meeting my beautiful friend Annie Davey who I maybe hadn’t seen since the very first Shellac curated ATP.

My excellent chalet sharer Markus Moises, a photographer from Nuremberg.

THE EX. They always bring the party. The fact that John Cale pulled out shifted them to the perfect time slot later in the evening. I didn’t give a shit that Cale didn’t play. It was also nice that Andy Moor of The Ex was selling improv CDs from his Unsounds label for a mere fiver after his excellent set with abstract saxophonist John Butcher.

Saving Stewart Lee from a mithering critic near the start of THE NIGHTINGALES’ sadly under-populated set and making him laugh with the first thing I said to him. This guy was saying, “I like your early work but blah blah blah…” and I jumped in with, “I don’t like any work. I’m a lazy sod!” Mr Lee laughed and walked off.

Richard Youngs playing the very song a lady called Leonie asked me to request at the end of his second set of the weekend. It turned out to be the best song he played, although the one his seven year old son sang the day before with Damon Krukowski was the most entertaining.

EX-EASTER ISLAND HEAD packing out the small room upstairs with their Branca meets Reich precision guitar percussion just after THE NECKS expanded our heads downstairs with piano, double bass and drum improv; a perfect sequence of performances and a great way to start a Friday evening after a little bit of John Cage's indeterminacy.

SUN RA ARKESTRA taking us all on a golden suited trip to Saturn last thing Sunday. Joining their ecstatic conga line with Miriam, Martin and Lou and dancing from one side of the room to the other. Could this be the last time?

Thursday, 14 April 2016

WIRE Cosmosis setlist and chords

Nocturnal Koreans  EB  EGAE

Diamonds  ECDE – GBAE

Mekon Headman  FF#Aflat – A#DAflatC#

Sonic Lens  EGGflat    ECGA

Joust and Jostle  EB.EBB.DB

In Manchester  E – GA.BC

Sleepwalking  E.B  GGflat x2

Stealth of a Stork (Witness to the Fact)  BGflatGBflat

Split Your Ends  CDA.DCG

Used To  CDA.DCG

Octopus  ECGGflatA-DACB

Blessed State  AEGflatG

Harpooned  EF#.AGE

Thanks to Graham Lewis for allowing me to Take It.
I think this was Colin Newman's setlist, but not sure.

REV REV REV Cosmosis setlist


A ring without an end


We can but dream






Just a spot

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Albums I liked listening to so far in 2016

In the first four months of 2016 these were the albums that I was enjoying:
Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
The Stranglers – Black and White Live

Aluk Todolo - Voix
Wire – Nocturnal Koreans

PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
The Drones – Feelin’ KInda Free
Mugstar – Magnetic Seasons
Gnod – The Mirror
Rev Rev Rev – Des Fleurs Magiques Bourdonnaient
Rangda – The Heretic’s Bargain
TV Smith – I Delete

Glenn Jones - something beginning with F
Tortoise – The Catastrophist
Immersion - Analogue Creatures (EP)

Linda Sharrock - (In) The Abyssity of the thingy 3LP
Kiran Leonard – Grapefruit
Songs for Walter
I was also listening to these older albums:
Suzie Stapleton – 45 Revelations Per Minute (6 song EP)
Suzie Stapleton – Obladi Diablo (5 song EP)
Jozef van Wissem – It Is Time for you to Return

Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire
Rocket From The Tombs – Black Record
The Chills – Silver Bullets
Battles – La Di Da Di
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Live from KCRW
Calexico – Edge of the Sun
Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura – Clifton Park vol 1
Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura – Clifton Park vol 2
Flying Saucer Attack – Instrumentals 2015
Silo – Work
Talk Normal – Sunshine
Mono – Rays of Darkness
Mono – The Last Dawn

Low - 2015 album

Yo La Tengo - 2015 album
Fairport Convention – First five albums
Richard Thompson – You? Me? Us.
Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to see the Bright Lights Tonight
Super Luxury – Ten Solid Years of Applause
Black Sabbath – 13
Stiff Little Fingers – No Going Back
Bearfoot Beware – World Owes You Nowt
The Ministry of Wolves – Music from Republik der Wolfe

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

WIRE - Nocturnal Koreans (Pink Flag)

Eight new songs make up a new Wire album that in terms of studio construction seems to have much in common with their latter day zenith “Send” and its follow up, their latter day nadir “Object 47.” With a lighter touch than the darkness of “Send” this is closer to the bold and bright sound of “Object 47” and some of the earlier Githead tunes than their more recent albums, being recorded in the studio any witch way as opposed to being largely based on live performances of a four piece beat combo. Although there is nothing as heavy as my favourite song of 2015, the mighty “Harpooned,” overall I am enjoying this more than the album simply called “Wire” because it is more playful and adventurous and the lyrics are much more intriguing. Each song also has far more individuality. The highpoint for me is the final song, wherein Graham Lewis delivers his finest lead vocal since “Feed Me” collapsed the first side of “The Ideal Copy” nearly thirty years ago. Whilst musically “Fishes’ Bones” could be yet another endless remake of experimental touchstone “Drill,” the vocal is a silly Dome-like bit of daft ranting about chickens and back doors and mixing his metaphors counting rings in fishes’ bones. Perhaps this is a reflection upon aging? The song that presumably closes side one of the vinyl release recalls the private doom of “A Public Place.” Actually so similar is “Forward Position” in atmosphere and tempo that I keep expecting Bruce Gilbert’s abrasive rhythmic guitar clanks to juxtapose the desolate melody but of course they never do. When Colin Newman ponderously croons “From my room and long forgotten,” for the first couple of listens I thought he was singing, “From my room in Longford Garden.” However he wasn’t name checking the park on the Chorlton and Stretford border in Manchester, near where I live. This wouldn’t be so far fetched as Colin lived in Chorlton years ago. The opening ditty about “Nocturnal Koreans” was debuted in a slower form two British tours back. It has now been considerably tightened up and delivers what is presumably a metaphorical reflection upon the international isolation of North Korea. The word capable doesn’t scan with the tune so Wire lost a cap and did do some bad grammar, with Colin singing, “Do you think you are able of finding your way?”  That’s about as rock’n’roll as the nocturnal numbers get until the start of the second side when Colin references the “Pink Flag” song that britpap abominations Elastica raped singing, “Still willing to rhumba,” on the urgent “Numbered.” The upbeat song after that “Still” has fuck all to do with Joy Division and actually sounds rather like a robotised Guided By Voices trying to play Indians with Githead. “Pilgrim Trade” has a rolling beat that is very “Object 47” sucking cash out of pockets, air out of lungs and documents the worship of a triangular man. Who could that be? Maybe someone on TV. “Fishes’ Bones” have no TV and march into “Internal Exile.” This second song on the album is Wire at their lightest and brightest, a very optimistic tune that is better than the old “Send” reject  it lyrically references, “Trash/Treasure.” Inside “Internal Exile” are some very synthetic sounding trumpets with no pot to piss in. “An idle glance absorbs the terror.” But no, this is not Stiff Little Fingers or the Undertones cod soulboyism; neither is it as tasteful as the cor anglais on “A Mutual Friend.” The third song is the one I’ll mention last as it seems to throw up a good line with witch to end this review. Colin sings the verse of unlikely pathways and Graham sings the chorus about retrieving lost chapters from a distant forest on “Dead Weight” but don’t expect “German Shepherds” or serious snakes. Even if you can glide like butterflies you’ll be dead waiting for animals like that.

“Nocturnal Koreans” see the light of day on April 22nd.


Monday, 11 April 2016

PJ Harvey – The Wheel 7” single

Is it any wonder that people don’t buy singles as much as they used to thirty years ago? Why pay seven or eight pounds for one song when you can listen to it for nothing but the fee you pay to a corporation that had nothing to do with making the song? The sound quality on youtube is probably inferior in terms of compression, however at least “The Wheel” isn’t warped on the internet and one doesn’t have to contend with a stylus bouncing off vinyl as it tries in vain to connect with the audio content which will upon album release be irrelevant anyway.  As there is nothing but a daffy etching on the flipside I doubt I’ll ever play this again once I have the album and have paid a smaller fee for the same song again. Piccadilly Records in Manchester, where I bought this, told me every copy they had was warped and it was doubtful that they’d be able to get any more copies in to replace the warped singles as Island records wouldn’t have pressed enough. I was happy to pay seven pounds for one song for two reasons. It’s a great song. Go listen to it on youtube if you haven’t already. The other stupid capitalist bullshit reason is that because Island records have inevitably pressed a limited quantity of this pointless and environmentally damaging artefact it’ll be worth at least twenty pounds in a couple of years, assuming the current monetary system still prevails.  Nevertheless I think Island records and PJ Harvey should do something to compensate everyone who bought this faulty product. If it wasn’t warped I could put up with the rip off of only putting one song on the singles, even though there are at least two songs that could have been used as a musical B-side:  the song about Guantanamo detainee “Shaker Aamer” that was given away as a download on pjharvey.net  or “The Water is Wide” a rendition of a traditional folk song recorded for a TV show I have never seen. Instead we get an etching of a coat of arms that is just a visual remix of “The Hope Six Demolition Project” album cover with a goat and a two headed dog cavorting about gaily in warped hell. Don’t try playing the etching. The stylus will reject that goat and dog even more fervently than it does the intro to “The Wheel.” Luckily “The Wheel” has a very long intro for a single, so it doesn’t matter that much if I have to skip the first five seconds or so just to get the stylus to stick in the groove and ride along a tale of missing children. If I want to hear that parping sax all the way from the very beginning I can always go on youtube can’t I? If PJ Harvey wants to make up for this warped single she is welcome to come and play in my house. I suspect she wouldn’t have time to do that for everyone who bought a warped “Wheel” so maybe a more practical apology would be for Island records to give everyone who has kept a receipt for this single a discount on the new PJ Harvey album. Fat fucking chance!

The Wheel without The Warp:

Shaker Aamer: better than an etching!

The Water is Wider than the Etched Warp...

The Warped Six Demolition Project

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Gnod "The Mirror"

“What happens when your dreams turn into your worst nightmares?” asks Paddy Shine. The brutal Swans inspired pounding mayhem that surrounds that question on “Learn to Forgive” seems to give part of the answer, or at least a cathartic reaction to “The rich man’s crime.” Tory scum got re-elected. Like so many people this pissed off the children of Gnod. Their incredulous frustration and hatred of the situation bled into the creation of this monstrous onslaught of doom. Reverting to their old ways they hit drums, guitar and basses to try to break “The Mirror.” Hopeless massed choirs lurched out of the darkness to wail and gnash teeth in tortuous agony, summoned by new Gnodster Steve Wagner from Sunday Mourning. The three long slow grinds that make up this bad trip must have shaken the walls of Islington Mill where Sam Weaver recorded it. Public Image Ltd’s wretched “Theme” and the second punishing side of Black Flag’s “My War” reflect from my mirror on “The Mirror.”  If we all put on blood red coats and went Tory hunting then this is the album to blast them with after tying them to giant speakers. Maybe if we gave them some real cuts then Gnod could sample the screams for a sequel. Gnod aren’t known for sequels, however, so maybe the next album will celebrate the infinite possibilities of happy calypso. Unlikely, as Paddy informs me that it’ll feature two drummers. Let’s hope the suicidal tendencies this music implies don’t overtake Paddy, Marlene, Chris, Alex and Steve and they live long enough to get even angrier about the greedy economically illiterate puppets who are selling off and fucking up our country.
This review was written for Optical Sounds zine.