The road to Roadburn

Roadburn festival has been on my radar for a few years now but for one reason an another, I haven’t actually made it over there to join the festivities. 2018 was the year it finally happened so this is, in no particular order, my Roadburn.

A fairly early flight (via Eindhoven) meant that I was in Tilburg by lunchtime, checked into the hostel where I was staying and at the festival venue in no time. Strolling down ‘Weirdo Canyon’ I immediately spotted my pal Simon. In some contexts, Simon’s looks might make him stand out; bald head, great big bushy beard, extensive ink-age; but at Roadburn he rather blends in, so I was quite impressed that I managed to spot him so easily.

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A cold drink and a catch up was followed by a stroll around to the main 013 venue  to see what was what and as the Het Patronaat venue opposite had no queue, we went in and managed to catch a bit of a Q&A session with members of the Norwegian collaborative project, Hugsjá.

They talked about the development of an extended work exploring the origins, people, nature and folklore of Norway, and it’s relationships with the land and the sea and I ended up the next day seeing some of this work performed.

It consisted of songs or ‘movements’ in an extended storytelling of the first people to populate the land that became Norway, the importance of the sea, the ancient shipping routes and the harbours. The performers used familiar instruments like drums, guitar and violin, but also animal horns and a lyre. This work was very absorbing and I was glad to have caught at least some of it, although the lure of other artists (more of which later) proved too strong for me to remain for the entire piece.

This year’s festival had an ‘east meets west’ theme with the Artists in Residence, Earthless, from San Diego, colliding with Japanese bands on the Guruguru Brain record label, and with Damo Suzuki. I was very keen to see the ‘Japanese Psych Experience’ bands; Minami Deutsch, Kikagaku Moyo and Dhidalah, and also the incomparable Damo,  so I made a particular point of getting to the venues where they were playing well in advance. I was very glad that I did because it meant that I was able to get great views of the performances and not be squashed into a corner or totally unable to get into the venue. The Green Room, in particular, is one of those venues that looks empty for ages and then, all of a sudden, you can’t get in the door. It looked like plenty of my fellow festival-goers were as keen as I was to see these bands so the venues were very full.

So, Minami Deutsch, a great favourite of mine. I’ve seen them a few times, the first time at Liverpool Psych Fest, but don’t tire of their rather louche krautrock rhythms. They’re a great demonstration of how good it can be when you play exactly the same musical motif over and over again for about 5-10 minutes straight. If the motif is good to start with, 10 minutes of it is awesome. Judging by the crowd’s reaction to this, I was not the only one who approved. And you can actually dance to them 😀

  

Kikagaku Moyo, who I’d only previously seen at PXYK, also channel some of the kraut-y grooves, but in, perhaps a less single minded fashion. They mix up the rhythms more often and have a strong Indian slant to their psych music, including a sitar, played guitar-style. Their upbeat set built to quite a party party big-finish. A lot of fun.

 

Dhidalah struck  me at first as a bit more prog. Now, my prog tolerance is pretty low so I was pretty glad that they didn’t drift off too far down the noodle path but pulled out a strong, driven  psych set, a bit darker and harder-edged than the other two bands and definitely got me onside. I’d like to see them again soon.

 

Damo Suzuki, famously an ex-member of Can, was the lure that tore me away from Hugsjá. Damo played two sets over the festival, the first in the Koepelhal with Earthless, and the sitar player from Kikagaku Moyo and the second in the Green Room with Minami Deutsch. Both of these sets pleased me greatly. With Earthless, the set began rather slowly, meandering and building, with Damo’s familiar  ‘Waken to the Night’ refrain, basically a long long extended psych work-out, gradually growing into an absolute bit of a beast. The long run out had me actually thinking that someone was going to have to come on stage with a big long comedy hook and drag the drummer off-stage physically. The audience loved it.

Damo‘s second audience, in the packed Green Room , was equally thrilled with his ultra-krautrock set with Minami Deutsch. I’d gone into the room and adopted the position on the balcony super-early in order to get a good spot because this was one of my absolute dream  pairings. I wasn’t disappointed. Again the set started out quite mellow, with a long lead in, but ended in krautrock wig-out heaven. Damo and the guys from Minami Deutsch seemed made to be together. My dying wish is for these two Damo sets to be released as ‘Live at Roadburn’ records so that I can own them forever.

There was more east meets west action later on with an actual ‘East Meets West’ psych jam featuring Earthless and Kikagaku Moyo. Beginning with just two players on stage, Earthless’ Isaiah Mitchell on guitar and Kikagaku Moyo’s Ryu Kurosawa, who were joined by other players, one by one, two by two until the stage was filled with musicians and the main hall at 013 was filled with the sounds of (what appeared to be) a semi-improvised jam involving guitars, basses, various kinds of drums, sitar, shaky-tappy-things and a gong! A big gong!

Who else? The Heads! There was me, down the front, bopping away to loud heavy psych whilst nudie sex films played in the background. Aye me! In any case, this largely instrumental set was good and heavy and a lot of fun, even if the background blow-jobs were a little distracting at times. Honestly, I didn’t know where to look!

 

I remarked afterwards that one of the things that I kinda like about The Heads is the way they get on, RRRRROOOOCCCCCKKKK!!!!! and get off. No messing. There was some proper happy-bopping during this set (Simon was up on the balcony and remarked that it was one of the sets that didn’t just involve the audience in ‘head nodding’ but in full on dancing).

With Godflesh I had a bit of a dilemma because of schedule clashes so I only saw a bit of the set. It sounded pretty typically Godflesh; loud, intense, crushing but also quite sparse. No frills. In fact the only frill on stage was Justin’s new (to me) long-ish hair!

My disappointment at missing most of their Roadburn set was offset by the fact that they’re playing at Raw Power next month, so I won’t be going without for long.

Godspeed you! Black Emperor played in the main room of 013 and I went in after The Heads had finished. This is a big room but it was packed to the gills, especially so after The Heads’ packed crowd piled in. I managed to find a spot high up on the top balcony where I could see and also, eventually, sit down on the step. From my eyrie I was able to allow Godspeed’s somewhat melancholic winds swirl around me. Dark music in a dark room to people dressed almost exclusively in black.

Dark.

I was only able to see a bit of Boris‘ set because of their proximity to The Heads, but I do enjoy their sense of theatre and the intensity of their performance. They use silence to put their audience on edge because we know what’s coming after. Noise.

So, there were some specific bands that I was very keen to see but in between those I was quite happy to meander into this venue or that and just see what I could see. It’s a fairly relaxed sort of a festival so it’s pretty easy to chill out in between bursts of frantic activity. One of the gigs I wandered into was Sólveig Matthildur.

Playing solo with electronic music and vocals, this felt like quite an intimate show; a lone performer, a small venue with a low stage and the personal revelations between songs – a song written as a piece of coursework, judged critically and given a low grade but nevertheless feeling special to the writer. I’d be happy to see more of this artist.

Thaw are Polish black metal. I’m not particularly a black metal fan but I don’t mind a bit here and there and I did quite enjoy this. All that darkness in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon. One of the songs was even a sort of black metal duet, with the different voices expressing different parts of the song. Lovely. Talking of black metal, I also caught a bit of מזמור :: MIZMOR which was fun.

 

More generally, I just really enjoyed the festival. The venues are very nice, although sometimes a bit difficult to get into if there’s a popular band playing. Strategic planning is the key if there’s a band you particularly want to see. The new venues a short distance from the main 013 site were good, and I really liked the little warehouse/railway-sidings area they were in.

It’s a bit of a mare to find accommodation and it’s not particularly cheap, you can basically wave your money goodbye, but it’s pretty easy to have a good time and Tilburg is  a nice town with decent shops and cafes, and a lovely ice cream shop. The Roadburn crowd is generally pretty chill so it’s not a stressy or aggressive festival and, although there is all day drinking, it doesn’t descend into the kind of  rollocking, drunken vomit-fest that we see with so many festivals.

So that’s pretty much my Roadburn. Not very doom-y, not very black metal-y and just two days this year before I went off looking for Roman stuff, but there are already plans afoot for next year, together with an expanded crew. There’s even talk of camping :/

Oh yeah, Roadburn socks 😀

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The sounds of the middle lands

Last year a mate of mine, let’s all him ‘Dave’, took redundancy from a job he’d been working in forever and embarked on a well deserved period of freedom from the rat-race. One of the first things he did was get another job! But this was a little different. Instead of toiling away for ‘The Man’ in a not-particularly-interesting job just for the money, he started doing something that I’ve been doing for a while myself; working for the love of it. I’m talking about volunteering.

His chosen volunteer role was at The Coventry Music Museum – ‘The Sound Place to See’.

The museum tells the story of the the musical heritage of Coventry, and other parts of the Midlands, but it’s probably best known as the ska museum. This is hardly surprising as 2-Tone and ska (along with heavy metal) have played such a prominent role in the Midlands music scene. 2-Tone certainly does feature heavily, with a 2-Tone Cafe, an extensive permanent collection dedicated to the genre and, at the time of my visit, a temporary exhibition about Neville Staple, of Specials and Fun Boy Three fame. This exhibition features a large number of artefacts on loan from the man himself, together with some amazing documents and photographs.

However, it isn’t just about the ska, there is also a permanent display celebrating the work of electronic music pioneer and doyenne of Doctor Who, Delia Derbyshire.

And there are cases highlighting other local bands, musicians and musical styles including the Primatives (Tracy Tracy’s Mum also volunteers at the museum!), Hazel O’Connor, Bhangra, and, one or two gems (which I also actually own) from Spectrum and Spiritualized (not actually from Coventry but from just down the road in Rugby).

There is also a display of objects and documents relating to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s visit to Coventry in 1968. Here we see a calendar showing John and Yoko plating acorns for peace. As you do.

So my mate, ‘Dave’, took me on a grand tour of the museum and introduced me to some of the goodies on display. I’m just adding a very small number of photos to this blog post, just to whet your appetite, but there’s so much in this small museum that you’re bound to find something you like.

The museum has a local, but not parochial, feel. It’s about its place and its people but not in a Royston Vasey sort of way. This is a museum that welcomes visitors from all over the world. I like local museums because their are so rooted in their geographical space and tell the stories of that place, often from quite a personal point of view (I like national museums too, but they do different jobs).

There’s a really good range of artefacts on display, many of them donated by the artists themselves, and the museum is able to tell some really strong stories. There are also some great film clips playing, including a special exclusive that you can’t see anywhere else.

You can see if you can spot if you’re favourite Midlands artists have visited by checking out the autographs. Here’s two of my favourites.

There’s a room where visitors can go and play various musical instruments, including a theramin! And they serve a decent cup of tea in the 2-Tone Village Cafe.

So there you have it, The Coventry Music Museum and Ska Village. If you’re in the neighbouhood, I’d recommend a visit. It’s not a big museum but there is a lot in it so do give yourself a bit to time to have a good look. And say hi to Tracy Tracy’s Mum!

 

Blast into the future

Last weekend saw three days of loud. Three days of bands playing loud. I like bands playing loud so, obviously, I was there.

My travelling companions on this trip were Ellen, Rob and Simon, who had descended on The Smoke for the occasion, and also Jeremy on the Saturday. Over the course of the weekend I saw a whole range of bands but it was impossible to see everyone so I’m just going to focus on a few of my favourites who, for me, really stood out (n.b. other favourites are available but these were mine).

I started the weekend wishing that I’d arrived just a little earlier, as I only caught the last song from Flowers must Die and it sounded great; funky and bouncy is a good way to get things started. They were swiftly followed by Julie’s Haircut who played a cracking set with a little bit of jazzy sax and a lot of krauty-rock.

I spent all day Saturday at an archaeology conference (which was very very good BTW. See #lamas18 for some tweetage) and then sprinted over to The Garage straight afterwards to wreck my hearing. Unfortunately I’d missed Temple Ov BBV and Mamuthones and, just to make it worse, my friends were all raving about them. 😦

Gnoomes, from Russia, reminded me of 1990. They’re that shoegazey moment before it went all fey and a bit too shimmery-dreampop. There was something about them that reminded me of The Pale Saints, although they don’t actually sound like The Pale Saints. They’re definitely the pop end of the weekend and I liked them. I liked them enough to go and see them again a couple of days later.

I’ve seen Housewives once before … maybe I should qualify that statement as they played in pitch blackness so I couldn’t actually see them, but I heard them all right. From that first hearing my general impression of them was that they were a band that plays on the intensity of the experience. Mainly confusion. This time they played in the light, all dressed in white with bold colourblock back projections.

Tricky time signatures were a strong feature of the set, so not the most obviously poppy sing-a-long but nevertheless pretty dancey but also intriguing. The thing I think I found the most disconcerting on this viewing, was that the bass player looked, and danced, like he was in Haircut 100.

I like Hey Colossus but they’re a band that I don’t seem to see very often. I like how heavy but funky they are and they do have some cracking tunes. Seriously, ‘March of the Headaches’ is such fun 😀 . They didn’t play it on this outing but they did play a seriously good set. Very intense, heavy and relentless but they’re also a band that you can really dance to. I really like ‘Back in the Room’ which is on the newest album Guillotine – “3,2,1 you’re back in the rooooom”. More of this please.

Unfortunately Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs had had to cancel due to a family medical emergency. We all hope everything is OK and look forward to seeing them again in the future (they’re playing at Raw Power. Go to that!).

A lovely chilled out Sunday afternoon? Don’t be silly.

I made sure that I got down to The Garage fairly early to catch the great bands playing in the afternoon, starting with Bonnacons of Doom. Honestly, the afternoon couldn’t have had a better start.

A bit of theatre with shadowy figures dressed in robes and reflective disk masks, some great music and a fantastic front-woman (Kate?), throwing all manner of shapes and blending her vocals in with the other instruments, mostly sounds rather than words. And a gong!

I’d really been wanting to see Kuro, as I’ve managed to miss them a couple of times, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. In fact I’d say that they were way more than I’d expected. I’m not exactly sure what I’d expected but this was more. This is classical music for doomheads. Kuro team a deep electric bass (Gareth) with violin tracery, screams, squalls and snippets of melody (Agathe), building a big, dense soundscape / soundtrack which draws us all into its reality. It sounds like either the creation or the destruction of worlds. Take your pick.

We’re also treated to the spectacle of Gareth on hurdy-gurdy! It’s not often you see someone whip out a hurdy-gurdy at a gig. I mean, it does happen (c.f. France) but not that often so it brings a touch of “ooh, look at that” to the proceedings. Great stuff.

Anthroprophh feature Paul Allen out of The Heads (seriously, why the hell weren’t The Heads playing!!!?), Gareth out of Kuro back again, and wonder-drummer Jesse Webb.

Paul Allen’s rock guitar wig-outs and wailing vocals are held firmly in place by the absolutely monstrous rhythm section. This is probably the best rhythm section this side of anywhere. The last time I saw Anthroprophh, Paul ended up with his trousers half way down his legs. I don’t know how that happened but I was interested in seeing if this was a regular occurrence, or just a one-off special. Turns out it was a one-off special. Clothes stayed firmly on, which meant no undue distractions from the absolute onslaught of choons 😀.

Closing out the weekend was Gnod. Rob’s new favourite T-shirt band.

Gnod don’t do things by half, they do things by double.  Twin basses bring an extra helping of heavy to go with the loud.

They’re great for fans of repetition (me) that builds and builds to a veritable avalanche (also me). I felt compelled to go and find my own little space so that I could just dance on my own. Just me and a bloody big racket. The final song of the set, a ~20 minute long juggernaut left everyone a little dazed but happy :D.

A word about the weekend’s visuals. That word is stonking. Designed by John O’Carroll from Rocket and Sam Wiehl of Liverpool Psych Fest fame, each band’s sound and scene was expressed by their own background visuals and lighting and that really added to the overall feeling of this being a special event. Not run-of-the-mill.

This blog is generally quite lightweight and easy going so I don’t want to suddenly get all ‘gender politics heavy’ on you but I will say that it was nice to see such strong representation from the female contingent of the ‘Loud’n’Heavy’ community. These types of events can, and in the past certainly did, end up being total sausage fests but Rocket Recordings is definitely not pushing the women aside. I’m not talking about absolute gender parity here, we go where the music takes us, but I can’t help noting how good it is so see a few more ‘girls to the front’. Nice one Rocket.

And I can’t finish this post without mentioning the merch stall. Merch stall? Merch room actually. With an ever-changing selection of goodies, this proved fatal to any sense of fiscal restraint. I’m happy with my purchases but I’m not buying anything else this month!*

Thanks to everyone at Rocket Recordings, all the bands and everyone else who chipped in a little or a lot to make this an amazing weekend. We all limped home a little bit broken but happy.

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*Except that Rocket has just sent out an email notification of a new release by Gnod. Damn you Rocket *shakes fist*.

2017 and all that

Some of you, if you are Facebookies, may have been inundated with ‘Year in Review’ videos which are, frankly, rubbish. Facebook is crap at picking the images that tell the story of your year and always end up with old, reposted pictures, your ex who just dumped you or that one from where you saw an old mattress dumped in the street. The only way to do it is to chose your own images and tell it your own way. So here’s mine.

Around the world

In 2017 I’ve mostly been interested in Northern Europe. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it was. So, here’s a whistlestop tour through my whistlestop tours.

Boom!! Cologne

Bang!! Paris

Wowee!! Rome, with The Couple Formerly Known As Trowelsworthy (TCFKAT).

Kablammo!! Orvieto

  

Crash!! Mainz

 

Kapow!! Bad Durkheim

Badabing!! Frankfurt

Bazinga!! Bavay

Wow!! Paris (again). Thanks for the cheapo tickets Eurostar.

Bang!! Senlis

Crash!! Leiden

 

Whoopee!! Amsterdam

Other places are available.

Tourists at home

It’s fantastic to visit far, or not so far away places, but home is best and being a tourist in your own home is great fun. On many of my touristic days out, Craig has been my travelling companion but I started the year, in traditional style, at the Twelfth Night celebrations on Bankside.

Then nose-hunting with Craig

And I also visited the London Lumiere with Pete and Dayna.

Me and Craig went to Freemason’s Hall.

And to the ‘Glad to be Gay: the struggle for legal equality’ exhibition at LSE. This celebrated 50 year since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain.

The City of London Police Museum.

 

We went to Banqueting House for ‘Long Live Queen James’, an evening exploring LGBT stories from the court of King James I/VI.

And we had a poke around the restoration works at Ally Pally.

 

The Supreme Court, with Jeremy

I went to Highgate Cemetery with Sacha and Stuart.

And with Craig and Jeremy to the London Transport Museum.

(“Exchange stations shewn thus”)

Plus loads more. Seriously, London is very cool. Go and look at it.

Moosic, moosic, moosic

There have been some stonking gigs this year. This isn’t all of them, but it is some of them. How many can you name?*

 

Random Romans

There are always more Romans about, so I went to have a look for some. I popped up for a quick visit to Newcastle and Carlisle to see some of the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibitions.

 

I went to Hull! I’ve never been to Hull before but they have a fantastic Roman mosaic collection so I decided to make the effort and go and have a look. Well worth it.

I managed a couple of short trips up to Glasgow and Edinburgh, taking in Bothwellhaugh Roman bathhouse in Strathclyde Country Park with Ellen and Simon,

 

the bathouse and Antonine Wall remains at Bearsden,

and finally made it to Eagle Rock at Cramond.

 

Back in town, the eagerly awaited opening of the London Mithraeum didn’t disappoint.

When I was in Germany, I popped down to Speyer to see the Roman Collection at  Das Historische Museum der Pfalz (The Historical Museum of the Palatinate).

What else? What else? Volunteering on a schools’ project at the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive (Me! Working with children!!), and I spent half the year working at Tower Bridge (actual paid employment!). This is surely enough to pack into 12 short months.

So that’s 2017 from me, and from my boys, Archie and Bertie. I hope you’ve had a good year and roll on 2018.

 

Oh, and here’s that one from where I saw an old mattress dumped in the street.

Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2017

And so finally, after more than a week, here’s my little round-up of this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest.

The Good

Loop.


Obviously.
There was a little bit of kerfuffle at the beginning of the set with Loop’s traditional ‘shot with a diamond’ intro drone and it was quickly abandoned for a fairly full on, slightly aggressive set.
There wasn’t really much of a lightshow going on as the ‘Psych Colony’ canopy had been removed before they started playing so, for some of the set, at least, the band was basically silhouetted against the background projections. This prompted the (now classic) quip from Robert, “these lights are about as psychedelic as my cat” (obviously this has now lead to a number of discussions about the levels of psychedelia in the feline brain. Cats can actually be pretty psychedelic at times).

Magnetix


Not new, but new to me. I walked into Camp, heard 3 seconds of music and sprinted to the front for a bop. This French band has the drummer-guitarist, 2 piece configuration, making fun, boppy, hilarious garage music. The guitarist looks like your square uncle, trying to act like he’s down with the cool kids. The drummer looks like the ‘way-out-of-his-league’ cool girl who somehow manages to make him cool, geek-style. This is fun 😀

Ex-Easter Island Head Large Ensemble


The Large Ensemble played on Saturday afternoon and was well worth arriving in time for. About 30 or so musicians on stage, all with guitars (laid out on tables), little hand bells, drums, tappy things, plucky things and I-know-not-what. And clapping. All together creating a varied and absorbing, almost orchestral sound. I liked this a lot and would like to see them again. Maybe in a space like a theatre or concert hall, or somewhere like the Union Chapel, perhaps. They did actually play in London recently but I couldn’t go on that date and just thought “oh well, I’ll see them in Liverpool”. I’ll try very hard not to miss them next time.

The Telescopes


The question with The Telescopes is always “how many guitars?” They’re a band that can sound really quite different every time you see them and the guitar ratio is a major factor in this. I’ve seen them with from 1 to 6 guitars onstage, at Psych Fest, it was 4 (unless I’ve missed any out), so fairly guitary.
If you’re thinking of going to see them out of nostalgia, expecting There is No Floor and Seventh Sharp Disaster, forget it. They’ve moved on a long time ago, although they do still sometimes play Perfect Needle (not at Psych Fest), and that song works in the context of their more recent material. I like The Telescopes. I like their newest 5-track album, and I liked this set. I particularly like the Captain Caveman drumming 😀

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs


AKA, Pigs x7.
The venue where Pigs x7 were playing, District, can be a bit of a faff to get into at times, and doesn’t have the best views, especially if you’re short-ish, like me. So, wanting to make sure that I could get to see Pigs x7, I got to the venue nice and early. The band were setting up and soundchecking and a polite, tidy-looking fellow in a smart black shirt was tweaking his mic and requesting some pretty specific levels of echo and reverb.
The lights dimmed.
This polite, tidy-looking fellow then proceeded to tear off his shirt, roaring, leering, wrapping the the mic cord round his neck, elbow-bashing his keyboard, speaker-stack climbing. There was an incident with a sparkly pink cowboy hat. Buckfast. Oh, and some music too. Fun 😀

The Bug vs Dylan Carlson


The Bug vs Dylan Carlson played the late night spot after Loop. I had though that I was going to miss at least some of the set (see below) but late running meant that I was in Camp in time for the start. I think that they were struggling with some technical issues which, unfortunately, meant that much of the audience had wandered off by the time they got started. This was a shame because once it did get going, the sound was great. Loud, super bassy, and slllllooooooowwwww. This isn’t exactly music to bop to but has a really power and uncompromising intensity that makes it riveting ( and sometimes, frankly, hilarious). No psychedelic lightshows here, just a single red spot and billowing clouds of smoke. And that’s how you do heavy.

Sex Swing


After a battle-royale getting into Camp (see below), we managed get a good spot to see Sex Swing. I saw Sex Swing at the Transformer day over in Manchester and rather liked them. They play heavy, very rhythmic music. With a sax, so there’s also some honking. They played a new song (not that I’d know), which was really good.

Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi (DJ set)

Again there seemed to be a little bit of technical trouble (this year’s theme?) but once they got going, Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi provided all the bounce you need to stay later than you had intended. Lots of jazz hands, finger pointy, speaker-stack climbing and charging about the stage, particularly by Torabi. I stayed as long as I could, for the fun, and then had to head off to bed (seriously, I’d had 4 hours sleep the night before and was cream crackered).

 

Musings in Drone – AUDiNT : A Century of Zombie Sound


On the other occasions that I’ve been to Psych Fest, I haven’t managed to get to any of the Saturday afternoon talkie sessions, but his time I was keen to, especially the talk entitled ‘ A Century of Zombie Sound’. I’m glad that I managed to get there because it did cover some really intriguing developments, theories and uses of different kinds of audio and visual recording technology since WW2.
These included such jiggery-pokery as the US military’s WW2 ‘ghost army’; the positing of ‘Stone Tape Theory’ as an explanation for ghosts; the uses and abuses (real and imagined) of ‘backmasking’; and, more recently the resurrection of dead rappers as holograms. It alos looked forward to future developments, although not too far into the future, just to about 2050, so this was extensions and developments of existing technology.

The Bad
Trad, Gras och Stenar
OK, I know that these are on a lot of people’s ‘good’ lists but they were just way too prog for me. My bad.

Dirty Fences
Lordy-lord. Me and my pal walked into Camp and were confronted with what sounded like the Tweenies playing the Foo Fighters. This was not good. We left soon after.

KVB
I’ve seen KVB a couple of times before and found them a bit lifeless. It’s like they want to be all ‘pumped-up-power-pop-duo’ but they’re just so weak. In the biggish space of Camp they sounded even more weak and tinny. They just don’t excite me at all.

The food
What happened? A half-hour queue for chips? This is daft. The food offering was pretty limited and just not worth the wait. We learned our lesson on Friday and, on Saturday, we went out for an early dinner.

The crazy bouncer at Camp
Picture the scene: a band finishes playing and Camp empties out as people go off to catch other bands, buy drinks, have their brain scanned etc. A large crowd has formed outside Furness, as the venue is full with people seeing W.I.T.C.H and wanting to see Black Angels. People wanting to see Sex Swing start to make their way to the virtually empty Camp but are stopped by the bouncer who tells us that we have to go in via Furness. “But Furness is full!” we say. “They’re not letting anyone in because it’s full!”. The bouncer insists that we must go to Furness and then enter Camp via the little narrow corridor between the two venues. The crowd outside Camp grows a little larger. “Let us in!” people shout. “Furness is full” people shout. The bouncer become increasingly agitated, shouting, lunging at people, waving his arms around, adamant that no-one will pass. After about 10 minutes of this, there is quite a bit of a crowd outside, the almost completely empty, Camp when, suddenly, the bouncer just goes off in a strop. “He’s gone. Quick! We can go in” someone shouts. And so we all bundle in and disaster is averted. Sex Swing play to a decent sized audience rather than just the bar staff.
Random.

Need to see more

Acid Arab
I had really wanted to see Acid Arab, enough to sacrifice some of The Bug’s set for them, but didn’t really work out very well. They were playing in District, which is a tricky venue and, having got past the door security which was enforcing 1-in-1-out, I couldn’t see them at all (really, not even a bit); I was surrounded by very tall people who insisted on carrying out very loud conversations, so I could hardly hear them either; I seemed to be on the route to everywhere so I spent the whole time being pushed this way and that, not by people dancing but by people going to the bar, going to the door, going to have a chat with the other very tall people, so I couldn’t even just have a dance. In the end I gave up and went back to Camp for The Bug (who were late getting started so I didn’t miss anything). I think I’d like to try again somewhere with a bit more of a conducive atmosphere and (hopefully) audience.

Nonn
Nonn are a Fuzz Club signing from Sweden. I like Fuzz Club and, although I’ve never actually been to Sweden, I’m quite prepared to say that I like it too. I was a little bit conflicted about Nonn though. On the one hand, I rather liked their electro-y New-Order-Lite set. On the other hand, I felt that they seemed to be in serious need of a bit of oomph. Maybe it was because I could barely hear the guitar (seriously, get some pedals on it and turn it up!). If only they would pump it up a bit I think that I’d quite like this band.

Didn’t get to see, dammit!

Gnod, WH Lung, Duds, Container. You’re on my list. I am (eventually) coming to getcha.

Right. So that’s Psych Fest for 2017. Good? Or rubbish?

Good 😀

There was lots of other stuff too; popping in and out of the venues to see a bit of this and a bit of that; the coffee tent; the drinks token system which worked well, I thought; upstairs at Furness is a nice place to just hang out. Some people have mithered a bit about headliners – are they psych? Are they big enough to headline a festival? Are they any good? I think that for me, Pysch Fest is a festival where the headliners don’t necessarily make or break it. They don’t have to be the main draw (for me). There are so many other bands to see, things to do, VR to play with etc, that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s a good way to spend a weekend.

Fin

Music makes me lose control

Frankfurt’s Museum für Kommunikation, on the Main riverbank, was founded in 1958 as the Federal Postal Museum (Bundespostmuseum) and its remit covers a pretty broad spectrum of all modes of communication. It’s currently undergoing a major refurbishment so much of the museum, including the permanent collection is currently off limits, but while I was in Frankfurt, I spotted a poster for a very tempting exhibition that I just couldn’t resist.

It’s ‘‘ Oh Yeah! Pop Music in Germany’, charting the history of popular music in Germany from the 1920s to the present. 😀

On entering the expo, I was giving a pair of headphones and directed to the first lot of listening stations for some modern German pop. This was pretty awful, but I’m not deterred by such things as it’s in the nature of pop for a lot of it to be pretty awful.

This was one of those exhibitions that’s a lot of fun, as well as being informative. There were loads of listening points to plug into, going back in time from the present to the 1920s, with cases of pop-star outfits and memorabilia, instruments, films, pop videos and posters.

 

The displays are grouped by genre/subculture as well as time period and there’s a whole section on Goths, with a handy guide showing images and detailing the key characteristics of the various sub-groups.

 

The stories of some of the musical movement are told in relation to the political and social upheavals of the 20th century and, clearly, Germany in the 20th century had some pretty notable political and social shifts. Some of the displays you can’t help but think of seriously. Nazi pop anyone?

With others, it’s a little more difficult to get past the terrible hairstyles and over-acted pop videos in order the reach any serious commentary on the politics of the day lurking beneath the froth.

I think that my favourite sections were the ‘build-up to the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall’ 1980s, the section on electronic music and the Krautrock. These included artists and songs that you just couldn’t leave out of an exhibition on pop music in Germany. Who could forget the time when nuclear armageddon was triggered by accident?

And here’s Nena is a slightly frothier guise.

Ahhh, the eighties *snigger*.

pop11

The section on electronic music had some great artefacts on display, and the most obvious exponents on the screen.

 

And then there was Can.

This was a very fuzzy film of them performing ‘Spoon’ in 1972, with Damo dancing around in a red catsuit 😀

I was having such a good time listening to all the good, and terrible, music, that I ended up having to run like the wind to catch my train 😀 The exhibition runs until 25th February 2018, so if you happen to be in Frankfurt with an hour or two to spare, give it a whirl.

 

Three days in May

Loop. Three nights of Loop. Three consecutive, ear bashing nights of Loop. 😀

Ear bashing night 1: Bristol Exchange

Bristol. The scene of past Loop disasters and past Loop triumphs.

I met fellow ‘enthusiast’ Dave in Bristol and we went for a nice cup of tea before the gig. Then we trolled along to The Exchange, running into Soundhead Martin and guitarist Dan in the pub.

Support for the night was by Salope (Gareth out of Anthroprophh, Big Naturals and Kuro), which consisted of a drone of electric cello and theramins. I rather liked this.

When Loop came onstage to their usual drone-intro, which is when I always get a bit excited, they launched straight into The Nail Will Burn. The set included several older tracks and two tracks from the most recent Array 1 ep, Precession and Aphelion but, alas, not the groovy Radial.

Collision sounded great and Arc Lite was spot on 😀 Ending on Burning World is a lovely way to go out too.

I’d say that this was a good solid Loop gig, very enjoyable and a great start to the weekend of Loop gigs.

Set list:

Ear bashing night 2: London, Raw Power Festival

Baba Yaga’s Hut, one of the best London promoters, also presents one of the best London weekenders, Raw Power, now in its fourth year. At The Dome (Boston Arms) in Tufnell Park from Friday to Sunday evening various levels of psych heaviosity is hurled out onto an expectant audience. This year included some Loop heaviosity.

As is the way with me, I didn’t go for the whole day straight through. The Dome is not far from where I live so I can pop in and out. This time I popped in for Japanese New Music Festival (brilliant and hilarious), Qujaku (scary wailing), Cosmic Dead (very hairy) and, obviously, Loop. I think that Loop worked really well in the context of this event. They’re heavy enough to hold their own in the assembled line-up but also dancey enough for people who don’t really know them to just have a good old frug. The sound at the Dome was pretty well spot on so we were getting all the volume and distortion as it’s meant to sound without any mess or superfluous fuzz.

The audience was upbeat and totally went with the band on this journey into sound 😀 Robert was pretty jolly too so there was a nice level of banter: audience member, “play Fix to Fall”,  Robert, ” we can’t play that. It’s too hard” and (while tuning his guitar) “I’m having trouble with my g-string” (how we laughed!).

The setlist was the same as in Bristol.

Ear bashing night 3: Manchester, Transformer Festival

Ooh, controversy. When The Victoria Warehouse announced the ‘too good to be true’ line-up which included Swans, The Fall, Royal Trux and, of course, Loop, the gig-hivemind drew in its collective breath and said, “smells like Barry Hogan”. Barry Hogan; he of a swathe of ATP triumphs and disasters. This assumed connection, together with a couple of, frankly, disastrous and heavily criticized events at the Victoria Warehouse seemed to really put people off buying tickets, despite the hilariously cheap price.

Sure enough, when we got to the venue it was nowhere near full. On the plus side, this made it a much more comfortable experience than friends of mine have had there in the past; no queues for the bar or loos, no crushes getting into the different rooms, plenty of space to just hang out with friends and we were able to actually see the bands. On the minus side, the lack of bodies may have contributed to the extremely echoey sound, rattling around inside this giant box. The Fall sounded (from the back of the main room) like they were playing in a tin can and Loop’s set was definitely affected by an eerie echo.

It sounded like they spent the first couple of songs battling valiantly with the sound onstage before giving up on subtlety and wacking everything up to 11. I think that Wayne (drums) in particular, was having to work extremely hard to hold it all together.

Nevertheless, Loop playing a ridiculously loud, ridiculously heavy set in a disused warehouse is a scenario that I can happily get behind and I enjoyed the gig enormously, despite the problems. And I wasn’t the only one. New best occasional pal Rob was seeing Loop  for only the second time and responded with a level of joie de vivre that is to be applauded. He was giving out badges!

So, of the three nights, I enjoyed all of them but the London gig was the best. A great atmosphere, pretty heavy playing and excellent sound all worked together to make this the best one. Lots of Soundheads were out and about over the weekend so it was also nice to see people and catch up with them (you all know who you are. Thanks for being great company x).

And now I’m looking forward to Liverpool Psych Fest in September for some more Loop action.

PLAY RADIAL!!