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LEVENSHULME BICYCLE ORCHESTRA – “Nine Doors” (Concrete Moniker, CD/Download)

Posted: June 27th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Nine Doors cover

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. That’s gotta be one of he best band names of all time. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. It’s so satisfying to say. It’s almost as satisfying to type out, time and again. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. The best thing about the name is that it’s wholly accurate: Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra are a troop of musicians¬† based in a certain district of Manchester who come together to make music from all kinds of instruments, including bicycles. They’ve been a going concern for a few years now, but this is their debut release; a full-length CD album (or download if you’re so inclined) capturing nine of their collective improvisations for posterity and general confusion.

“Marlon. Marlon Brando are you the famous film star?”

And he says, “yes I’m afraid I am.”

“Why aren’t you happy with your existence?”

“Well that’s the question isn’t it?”

Confusion? Yes. It’s not like they don’t warn you: open up the beautifully packaged CD, pull out the bonkers fold-out poster and look on the back; you’re confronted with what reads like the ramblings of an insane man and a small disclaimer: “All lyrics improvised at time of recording and sung by Zeke S Clough”. Pity the fool that volunteered to transcribe them.

Zeke S. Clough (voice, synthesizer, percussion), perhaps better known for his insane artwork for Skull Disco that also adorns this release,  is just one of the quartet of fearless improvisers that make up Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Huw T. Wahl (bicycle percussion, clarinet, piano, voice), David M. (for Magnus) Birchall (bass, small instruments, percussion, voice) and Josh J. Kopecek (synthesizer, piano, flugelhorn) are the other constituent parts that make up this glorious whole.

So what is the sound of confusion? The album opens up with some typically deranged moans from Zeke, before some clattering of bicycle percussion, fizzing pedals and rhythmic random percussion. This builds up to a point of tension before Zeke begins his first sermon, quickly accompanied by bass thrums and other assorted layers before it all collapses into the next song. “Starved Dog” features a piano accompanying what sounds like someone playing a bass guitar with a slide, a kazoo and god knows what else. “Oily Film” features what sounds like the ghost of crazed organist playing the soundtrack to Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, accompanied by creaks, groans and moans and the odd whoop here and there. “Whale in a Duckpond” almost sounds like an actual, recognisable song at various points, with some welcome musicality as David plays the bass like an upright and Zeke croons in his best Geno Washington impersonation. Then it all goes wrong; maggots start crawling over the windows and hell gradually breaks loose. “Marlon Brando”? Well, you know how that one goes. Everything starts falling apart by the time we reach “Primate Engineer” and Huw’s clarinet starts wailing over the top of abstract piano phrases, phased bass rumbles and some beatboxing. Eventually it all comes to a crashing, triumphant halt with final track “Nine Doors”, which runs a full 20 minutes and encapsulates virtually everything that precedes it, mutating from broken-down church organ jam to skeletal percussion workout to bizarre melody hopscotch, all held together by another bizarre, nonsensical story. A glorious hymn to the power of collective free improvisation, it’s probably the finest moment on this fantastically cock-eyed album.

“Nine Doors” is the sound of what happens when you lock four like-minded musical voyagers in a room for 2 days and distill their inevitable improvisations down to something that approaches the coherent “music” your lazy brain desires. Live, Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra must sprawl all over the place as they take different paths towards collective enlightenment. On record, you’re served the mere highlights of their wanderings, jumbled-up and thrown together to create this mind-flaying assemblage of sounds, textures, noises, words and song. Running nicely over an hour, it might be too much to take in at one sitting, but keep listening and it’s the collective inspiration that frazzles your mind. Awesomely inspired and dazzlingly weird, simply nothing sounds like Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra.

LBO are out in the mainland of Europe right now blowing minds night after night. If you’re anywhere near anywhere they’re playing, I suggest you take a trip and check them out:

28th June – Basel @ Obst & Gemuse
29th June – Dornbirn @ TIK
30th June – Geneva @ Cave 12
1st July – Grenoble @ Le 102
2nd July – Stuttgart @ FFUS
3rd July – Prague @ Final Club
4th July – Leipzig @ Conne Island
5th July – Berlin @ Madame Claude
6th July – Hamburg @ Golden Pudel
7th July – Mainz @ Walpoldenakademie
8th July – Amsterdam @ Delicatessen

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra website

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra on Myspace

Concrete Moniker website

KONG – Leather Penny (CD, Brew Records)

Posted: December 9th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

Manchester-based misanthropes Kong return with their second single, this time on CD and everything. “Leather Penny” is another track from a forthcoming-in-2009 debut album called ‘Snake Magnet’ and is backed by two versions of a song called “Count Too Nine” featuring special guest vocalists from bands The Bronx and Future of the Left that I can’t tell you about because there’s just the one track on my promo copy.

So then, first single “Blood of a Dove” showcased a band weaned on the sharp edges and heavy weight of early ’90s Chicago-based rock bands such as The Jesus Lizard and Shellac (I know, both are still going in one manner or another…), with an admirable feeling of dread looming over the disjointed riffs and malformed chords. It sounded pretty great too.

“Leather Penny” continues in much the same vein of skullfuckery, featuring another killer riff that hooks itself to your brain and refuses to budge, despite the song lurching all over the place rhythmically. The bass and guitar woomph and screech appropriately, whilst the drums do the inevitable pounding on your cortex. Dramatic pauses to emphasise the weight of the band’s attack mean the vocals take a full minute to come in, and it’s no bad thing because they’re spat out in a manner so venemous it would make Johnny Rotten proud (and, hopefully, ashamed of hawking butter on television). Frankly, I really don’t like the sound of the guy’s voice much, but that’s almost a boon to this type of music.

I haven’t got a clue what the fuck the lyrics are about because I couldn’t understand a word of them. It’s not really an issue because what Kong are all about is SOUND. Sheer fucking brutality of juddering rock ballast slamming against your earlobes SOUND. Running a blunt knife down the back of your knife and boxing your ears for a laugh SOUND. The vocals are just another part of the arsenal they employ to onslaught your ears. They’d be a great band to see live.

Just two singles into their life, Kong are still a young band, even if their members have apparently been around the musical block once or twice. Their sound is pretty great and they have cool riffs seemingly coming out of their ears. At this stage, originality isn’t their strongest suit, but I, for one, will be watching with interest to see where they go next.

Kong Myspace page

Brew Records website

“Leather Penny” official video

“Leather Penny” live video on YouTube