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Archive for February, 2006

THE WOODSMEN – Only Man In Heaven Wearing Black

Posted: February 23rd, 2006, by Tom Leins

Look who i’ve just found lurking in the woods after dark…

Brighton’s newest strange children The Woodsmen “are here for your souls, or whatever else you got”. Their first offering – ‘Only Man In Heaven Wearing Black’ sounds like Nick Cave challenging The Pogues to a knife-fight at a barn-dance, and is creepy enough to unnerve a carny.

The music rests its sweaty head at a grubby halfway-house somewhere between folk and rockabilly, but pitch-black rock ‘n’ roll blood still bubbles in their veins.

Their single – purportedly recorded on equipment half-inched from Pinewood Studios and haunted by the death rattle of Vincent Price and Peter Cushing! – is available for whiskey or hard cash.

Gawp at them at: www.thewoodsmen.co.uk

Self-Promotion Day

Posted: February 22nd, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I wasn’t going to do this either but what the hell. I’M GOING ON TOUR tomorrow morning and you should come see us because I’m not doing this again any time soon, not least because I have hardly any holiday allowance left. I leave in 12 hours and still have 4 million things to do. I am coming down with a cold and have just discovered an worryingly enormous bruise on my leg that I have no recollection of inflicting on myself. I also see we are bringing Scotland’s lovely weather with us.

So, yes, ÜTER in Oxford, Brighton and London. One of these gigs is with the mighty econoline, one we are supporting someone who used to be in Spiritualized and thus can’t play our Spacemen 3 cover and the other is FREE. Find out more here and come say hello. I even bought a dress, what more do you want?

(Actual content when I return – I am in the process of interviewing my 4 favourite up and coming bands in Glasgow. If anyone can guess them I will give you a prize*).

* it is not a video camera

WITCHES – In the Chaos of a Friday Night (Within the Woods CD single)

Posted: February 22nd, 2006, by Simon Minter

Ex-eeebleee frontman Dave Griffiths has a knack for writing obtuse, vaguely sinister lyrics and delivering them in a laconic, Bolan-inflected style which serves to accentuate their weirdness. The subject matter of the four songs here is a mystery to me – I’m sure they’re about something – but I prefer to enjoy the sound of the singing rather than the content. For a self-released single this is determined and ambitious stuff; music constructed with the typical drums/bass/guitar instrumentation is overlaid with trumpets and piano, then bent double with subtly odd constructions. Like Smog or Mercury Rev, Witches can take an average, well-written pop song and turn it into something special by adding certain touches of arrangement and contrast. At times the recording quality struggles to contain the vision at work here, but this is an impressive debut which doesn’t buckle under its own complexity. It takes a lot of skill to create songs which seem initially simplistic but which grow and develop on repeated listens, and Witches have a lot of skill.

Within the Woods/Witches

Speaking of iPods…

Posted: February 22nd, 2006, by Simon Proffitt

I wasn’t going to post this here because I thought it might seem too much like spam, but things have recently taken an interesting turn, so I’m doing this for your benefit. Yes, you.

A friend of mine from the icy wastes of Canadia is running a non-profit organisation, and their latest project is to get a bunch of young immigrants (‘new Canadians’) to make their own health awareness videos (because the people that normally make health awareness videos don’t really care or know anything about young immigrants), and they’re actually not that bad considering the kids that made them had never done any film stuff before. In order to get as many people as possible to watch the videos, they’ve done a quiz about them. Easy stuff, like ‘what colour is the girl’s jumper in video number 4’. The prize in the quiz is one of 4 new iPods (2 video iPods, 2 Nanos). Then there’s a ‘tell-a-friend’ contest where you get entered into another prize draw to win a Panasonic digital video camera just by getting other people to enter the quiz too. The more people you tell, the more entries you get.

Now – this is the interesting bit – the quiz has so far backfired quite spectacularly, because people are obviously so used to seeing epilepsy-inducing spyware-packed banner ads for FREE iPODS NOW L@@K!!!!11 that they’re just not entering. And they’re even less interested in winning a video camera. Kids these days are just so spoiled. So far, after 3 weeks of the quiz being open, and I don’t think it’s too unethical of me here to pass along cold hard figures, only 70 people have successfully entered the quiz. The best (or worst) bit though is that so far only 2 people have entered the digital video camera contest. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out from that information that if you enter, you have a pretty good chance of winning. You don’t even need to get the answers to the quiz right to enter the referral thingy. How hard can it be?

Here’s the quiz page
Here are the videos (one of which, iQuit, is actually quite good)

I’ll even tell you the bloody answers if you want.

THE CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENT – Interstellar Autumn EP (Fortuna Pop!)

Posted: February 21st, 2006, by Dave Stockwell

It is with some embarrassment that I note the release date of this double ‘A’-side/25-minute EP was a while ago, but it is with no small enthusiasm that I recommend you go and dig this sucker out from your local indie store.

By all rights, the Chemistry Experiment should be an institution. Wilfully idiosyncratic and fascinatingly off-kilter, their brooding and experimental pop music deserves far more recognition than it generally receives. Plus, their devotion to perfectionism should be lauded – not many bands would have the patience to spend so long tweaking and fiddling with their debut album, with such spectacular results. Now, after slaving for five years over that rightly lauded album (released last year), they’ve already got around to banging out another four tracks (plus a song off the album) for this EP, led by a characteristically strange and sprawling amalgamation of two songs by other people.

Pressing play for the first time on this CD, I was struck how the first ten seconds sound like a snatch from DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing” album, but then I realised that this was the Experiment playing “Forever Autumn”, a song best-known for its inclusion in the famous War of the Worlds soundtrack (no, nothing to do with Spielberg). And a grand job the kids do in tackling a fairly drippy song,

Around four and a half minutes in they start vamping it up and you realise that the dreamy wistful melodies have been replaced by chaotic echoing slide dobro, droning synths, clattering drums and smears of cymbals that gradually peter out before regrouping and kicking into that familiar chord progression from “Interstellar Overdrive” by Messrs Barrett and those other cunts. Then, just to top it off, the Experiment pull a double-reverse and segue straight back into one final refrain from “Forever Autumn” as one final cherry for as proof of the pudding for this feast of a sonic gateau.*

Twee enthusiasts and apologists who might be feeling scared by this point, please note: the radio edit of the title song and album track “You’re the prettiest thing” (serving as the other ‘A’ side) save this CDEP from all-out prog nonsense. Don’t worry, the Experiment haven’t forsaken you entirely. But watch out! The remaining EP tracks include disco beats with swashbuckling wah-wah guitars on “Karin”, and then lots of heavenly squiggling synths alongside some neat vocodering of Steven J. Kirk’s distinctive vocals on a cover of “Belt and Shoelaces” originally by The Butterflies of Love.

Something of (another) triumph from The Chemistry Experiment then – a fantastically good-value-for-money deal on a serious chunk of music, along with a cracking couple of covers. Go seek it out.

[*Yes, I said sonic gateau. Sorry.]

www.thechemistryexperiment.co.uk
www.fortunapop.com

KAT VIPERS – Mother Superior (Py Records)

Posted: February 21st, 2006, by Dave Stockwell

Yeesh; bit of a weird one this one. The prodigiously talented Ms Vipers wrote, arranged, performed and produced this 6-song, 3-track, 26-ish minute “single”, which calls to mind Kate Bush, This Mortal Coil, opera singers, prog rock and god knows what else. Primarily driven by pianos and a gusty set of lungs, this release is guaranteed to sound out of kilter with pretty much everything else musical you would encounter in an average day.

Kat Vipers comes from Greece, and (inevitably enough) is very much classically trained. Trained enough to tire of just doing all that classical crap and start experimenting with songs herself, apparently throwing in “alternative rock”-influenced catchy bits (I think I must have missed those) and “jazz”y flourishes in something of an over-rich cavalcade of music inspired by many sources. The resulting mixture is certainly thick and voluminous. The tracks on the CD range from seven to eleven minutes long, each incorporating two distinct movements. The longest, closing track is one long overblown epic which goes all over the place like some never-ending story of a song. Her music is very difficult to do justice to in print – I suggest visiting her website and sampling some music for yourself if you’re thus far intrigued.

This said; I’d better make some effort to give you an idea of what you should expect though. Consider some key elements: First of all there’s Ms Vipers’ incredibly surreal, warbling voice, coming on a little like a husky Kate Bush with an extended vocal range. There’s a hell of a lot of pseudo-classical and Tori Amos-inspired piano. Ghostly wailing background vocals pop in and out, even predominating from time to time. The first song has an annoying bunch of wind chimes, and the last song has a drum kit popping up here and there to complement and emphasise sections. Oh, and don’t forget a bunch of synthesised strings popping up every so often to punctuate and unctuate with abandon. The construction of the music itself is certainly hard to pin down – there’s little pop-conventional repetition of phrases or melody, and there’s a lot of meandering minimalism and soaring vocals.

Mix together these ingredients and see what comes out: self-indulgent prog nonsense or refreshingly ambitious idiosyncratic music? Whatever your initial reaction, you’ll certainly need a few listens to digest and process such a rich soup fully. You should probably decide whether you want to risk indigestion for yourself.

www.katvipers.com

www.pyrecords.net

ANTHONY SAUNDERS – Ikh Khoring CDR (Troniks)

Posted: February 16th, 2006, by Graeme Williams

Noise is too often a lowest common denominator game with far too many charlatans armed with effects pedals, circuit bent electronics, and ring modulators thinking that their racket is somehow worth listening to, or worse, is challenging, when it’s really just lazy. Thankfully ‘noise’ is a broad umbrella and for all the fifth rate would-be Throbbing Gristles out there, there are sometimes gems. New Jersey’s Anthony Saunders is one of them. Ikh Khoring is three long tracks on the more ambient spectrum of things.

The CD begins with a long track that starts with a dark droning background overlaid with electronic chirpings and twitterings and is reminiscent simultaneously of the microsound glitch of Tetsuo Inoue and the electroacoustic compositions of Louis Dufort. The piece becomes denser and more frantic before gradually fading into a subterranean drone again overlaid with skittering electronic noises. The second track continues much in the same vein, bringing to mind subway tunnels populated by fragile but menacing digital structures, becoming something that sounds like cricket noises. This leads nicely into the third track, which leaves behind these nightmarish soundscapes for mammoth gently oscillating drones. It’s rather soothing.

It’s obvious that a lot of thought and work went into Ikh Khoring and it is a richly textured and evocative work, bringing to mind a lot of nightmarish subterranean images. Highly recommended.

Anthony Saunders
Troniks

iPod Walking Tours

Posted: February 14th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Free iPod Tour Guides – I am really starting to see the possibilities of podcasting. I laughed initially when given a huge phone on a necklace when I went to the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate but it was actually pretty cool being able to hear the artist talking about the work while you looked at it. Walking tours seem like even more fun, especially if they are like ‘turn left here, after the post office. Look at that!’. I always like wandering in cities I visit but it’s rare you get to find out anything about the buildings you see.

Anyway, my main reason for posting this is The Glasgow Indie Music Tour!

You’ll discover:

– the hang-outs, rehearsal spaces and even workplaces you’re likely to run into band members such as Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian and more.
– What Glasgow’s got that makes it musically hot!

Imagine!

Of course what this will amount to is having a pint in King Tuts (where Oasis were discovered!!!!) and going to the Safeway on Byres Road (where Belle met Sebastian!!). I wonder if it includes popping into Monorail to gawp at Indie Legend Stephen Pastel!

SPIN SPIN THE DOGS Nottingham Red Rooms

Posted: February 14th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

“Spinspin the dog? Being the pervayer of high culcher that I am I can onlistly say iv neaver seen anything so GOD FUCKING AWFULLY SHIT in my HOLELIFE! ..and iv seen the fucking Marzvolta! oh but ther just so weard and creative!”
“spin spin the dogs are WANK. the only reason i wasn’t there last night was cos of my exam but any other day and i would have slapped the singer quite happily”
“Why are people making such a big deal over that piece of shit band (Spinspin the fucking cunt dog)? They are fucking gay and thats that!!!!!!”
“Id forgotten about Spin Spin The Dogs. I fucking hate the drummers smug gitface of “we’re making music you couldnt possibly contemplate, understand orappreciate.”
“Maybe Im not quite advanced enough to understand it. To me it came across like an excuse for not having any SONGS!!!!”
FUCK OFF.”
“Got there to see Spin Spin the dog(s) to see if they really were that bad… I wasn’t disappointed. They truly are the biggest pile of try to hard to be weird turd I’ve ever seen. How about learning to sing and/or actually writing some music. Why did I let curiosity get the better of me…..? Everyone deserves a chance I suppose. except them”
“FUCKING ARTY TWAT SMUG SHIT! YOU’RE NOT FUCKING FUNNY! ARRRRRRRRGHH! PLEASE SAVE YOUR BEEFHART IMPRESSIONS FOR YOUR LITTLE BROTHER. YOU MIGHT FEEL IMPERIOUS THEN BUT EVERYONE ELSE THINKS YOUR A TWAT. YOU TWAT.”
“I don’t even CARE about what music SSTDs play. I don’t care how groundbreaking or original they are. I just think they are RUDE
“kill kill the twats”

Over time, SSTD have earned a coveted title: The Most Hated Band In Derby.
No mean feat considering they come from Nottingham. The folk at the other end of the A52 can’t deal with the Dogs at all. (See the thoughtful internet comments above that were so good at the time I had to find an excuse to include them: spelling and grammar author’s own).

The main criticisms I can decipher among the death threats are: they can’t play and they are some sort of art prank. The first point is not up for debate. SSTD can play. John might look as comfortable with a guitar as the Queen holding a 15-inch hard-on but he can play the arse off anyone. Someone should change his name to John ‘Fingers’ Wilson.
In fact, I just did.
He seems supernaturally linked to bassist Dean like some governing hand is controlling them both simultaneously. Drummer James provides the perfect foil in a way, in that his drumming means it’s never powerhouse but more like The Fall in that it’s always urgent and never brawny.
What makes people think they can’t play is that no amount of precision and sixth sense can counter singist Vincent’s desire to reek havoc wherever he goes like a child smearing poo on the bathroom walls.
Which brings us onto the art prank accusation: if it were an adult smearing poo anywhere it’d be an art statement. Everyone would look for the meaning:

“Perhaps the poo is a METARFUR for his inner feelings that he is unashamedly revealing?” “Maybe the poo is a SIMBOLLIC protest at life?” etc.

I could be wrong but I think with this band (like a child): a shit’s a shit. And if it’s funny to smear it then it’ll get smeared. They’re not an art happening because there’s no underlying pre-decided message. It doesn’t mean they’re vacuous, it means they’re of the moment and not contrived. Most importantly, they’re all willing to make an ass of themselves to express the moment – a long forgotten virtue if you ask me.
Too many people aren’t willing to compromise themselves for what they believe in because all they’re really doing it for is to establish and emphasise their own ‘cool’. You go see screaming hardcore bands and its bullshit, they stick to a plan, they mock-confront, they throw themselves into the crowd in a manner that is contrived and it just perpetuates this crappy act of theatre that people have seen for so long they think it’s real. Vincent’s willingness to make an ass of himself, the thing that so annoys people, just shows how desperately hard he wants to break that state. One of my fondest gig memories is Vincent stepping on a milk crate onstage in Newcastle and then hobbling around for the rest of the gig with it stuck solid on his foot as though it wasn’t a problem at all.
Tonight it takes him about 40 seconds to clamber into a small space between a shelf and the air conditioning unit. A female punter yells “You’re shit!”which is met with the retort “SEXY!” from Vincent. Later on the woman seems to think it’s her mission to get things sensible when everyone else just wants to go crazy. She keeps shouting, headmistress-style, “GET DOWN FROM THERE!” and “STOP BEING SILLY!” to Vincent, who has decided he likes the ledge/air conditioner position so much he’ll spend the gig there. “SEXY!” he replies.
They seem to delight in the chaos of it all, John seems especially animated, whacking his guitar into the cymbals and when he swaps with James they both seem to relish getting to attack an instrument that doesn’t belong to them.
Much as I am sure they would recoil at the word, SSTD really rock. They always have done. Not to be confused with some sort of macho swagger, which they definitely don’t have. It’s no sausage party. It’s like ‘Container Drivers’ by The Fall with every other note being one you don’t expect. The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid minus the pelvic swing. It’s twitchy and insect-like. Spiny.
Having said that I was pretty leathered by this point so my memories are blurred. I don’t add that as a kind of Lester Bangs / Hunter S Thompson gonzo-journalist comment but more as a resigned admission that I can’t booze properly anymore and I am essentially a 2 pint screamer.

Which is pretty irresponsible seeing I am supposed to be telling you what the gig was like.

But that’s OK, I can do that – the gig was brilliant.

If this really was their last gig I’m going to miss them.

CLUTCH / STINKING LIZAVETA Nottingham Rock City

Posted: February 14th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

Opening up in the big room at Rock City is not an enviable task. You get about 10 mins to sound check, about 4 inches of room to play in as you squeeze yourself around the headliner and other support bands’ massive amps and every noise you make echoes straight back at you off the walls of the slowly filling room.
The chances of a band rising above this are slim. The chance of them playing one of the best gigs so far this year is next to impossible – which makes Stinking Lizaveta‘s efforts all the more superhuman, as they were amazing at 8 o clock on a Sunday evening.
I’ve seen these Philadelphians before in small rooms and they always put on a show and I always enjoy it but it’s surprising how much sense they make on a massive stage at a ‘proper’ rock gig. Surprising because they have an upright bassist, no vocals to speak of, a female drummer and a guitarist (brother of the bassist) who resembles something from Lord Of The Rings. Interesting enough to fill a small room but not the typical set up for an 18 year old in cut-off denim and a peach fuzz moustache sipping on a nervously-bought cider and waiting for the mosh parts. But people seemed to really get into it.
It’s hard not to though, when the band themselves are so committed. Guitarist Yanni is especially animated, balancing precariously on his amp, leaping around, screaming into his guitar pickups and at one point traversing the whopping Rock City ‘moat’ to strap his guitar onto an unsuspecting girl (after prying it from the hands of a gaggle of wannabe male guitossers) in the front row before returning to the stage to dish out wah-wah apocalypse on us while the girl stood there pawing the instrument. Lizaveta are super arranged, technical metal but by putting so much of themselves into the performance you forget about it, things seem natural, you don’t really try and follow the changes because you follow the people.
Clutch are a band I’ve heard on record plenty but never seen live. On record they have an unnatural heaviness that’s replicated tonight in volume but not in overall sound somehow. They are massively loud but the guitar especially sounds croaky and blubbering. Not to say Clutch don’t rock. They resemble a compressed, more aggressive ZZ Top with Dan Higgs from Lungfish on vocals – complete with bizarre shamanisms and facial hair. But whereas the mighty ‘Top have an elasticity to their rhythms that means I could listen to Frank Beard play a shuffle beat all day, Clutch rely a bit too much on a straight fonky rhythm that never allows them to break out and run. Couple it to the sometimes-overbearing New Orleans-y keyboard sound and it makes too much Clutch a bit hard to take. It’s lucky the sheer vocal presence of Neil Fallon is commanding enough to make it seem like they’re not repeating themselves even when maybe they are.
It was Stinking Lizaveta’s night though.
(Corrosion Of Conformity headlined but I tried to review two gigs in a night and didn’t see them. Here’s what my friend Annie thought: “Dark loud raw R-n-R, played old and new – heavy sounds from the deep” so there you have it!)