Gig Review: Swans, Birmingham Asylum, 24th May 2017 by @INeedDirection

Swans, Birmingham Asylum, May 24th 2017

Writer and photographer: Tracey B

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I scene II:

Arial: All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure, be ’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding, task
Ariel and all his quality.

And so stands Michael Gira, centre stage, as if on an enchanted isle, amidst his admired musical collaborators, like Prospero and his spirit, Arial, conjuring and directing his storm; arms aloft, dark brooding eyes low, conducting each swell and each lull in the soundscape that surrounds him. With gestures as bizarre as a high kick or wild whipping arms, or as slight as a raised eyebrow or a lowered hand, Gira choreographs a ballet of ballast, a tango of tinnitus. The result is a sound that’s immense, immersive; a performance that’s intimate and personal. For though I am surrounded by a few hundred other people, I feel perfectly alone in my reverie. From my position at the front, slightly off-centre, I can easily make eye contact with the band and I take full advantage of this with each member in turn (save for the keyboard player hidden behind a stack of amps) holding my gaze, brazen and steadfast, until it’s acknowledged, maybe returned with a smile. What can I say? I’m a demanding and disarmingly direct viewer. But this is the advantage of small venues and the confrontational nature of performance works best when a connection can be made with its audience.

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Though Swans are widely credited as the loudest band on earth, current decibel levels are bearable (I wear precautionary earplugs nonetheless) and my ears vibrate instead with high-tensile energy. The sound is far from unrelenting aural assault; the set employs clever nuances of sound and technique, contrasts and builds. This tour promotes Swans 14th studio album, The Glowing Man, and also serves as a farewell party to the current cast of players, a line-up established in 2010 (Gira intends to play henceforth with a revolving cast of collaborators). The set list comprises a mere 6 songs, yet lasts 2 ½ hours. Yes that’s right, 2 ½ hours. Anyone aware of my views would know I usually insist brevity is the key to perfect music. And while that may hold true for pop music, it doesn’t apply to the experimental arena in which Swans hold court. I’m loath to promote Sting-endorsed ideology – especially in the middle of a Swans review – but there are tantric forces at play tonight. There is something to be said for drawing out pleasure; for elongating the process to elevate the desired result. And desire is key here. Have you ever felt on the very edge of orgasm for over two hours? My skin tingles in anticipation of each chime, each harmonic touch. I am transfixed, hypnotised, breathless, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Each note, it seems to me, is delivered with full awareness of the effect on its rapt recipients.

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The structure of each song relies on a well-honed ritual; a musical Kama Sutra: The guitar begins, gentle and impassive, strumming a held chord accompanied by tender arpeggiated lap steel passes. The bass joins slowly, the back of a thumbnail rubbed erotically along the strings. My pulse throbs to a low rumble of bass drum and isolated piano chords. As the piece builds and the pace gathers, the keyboard resonates, becomes a spectrum-filling electronic choir. Lap steel and bass: a forceful assault of strings, an arduous pounding. The guitar swirls in dizzying, swelling, ascending and descending fret board patterns all pinned down by a cacophony of percussion. And Gira’s voice, so vital, so primal; a wail that cries of all human emotion. And my heart thumps and my breath quickens. And. And. Oh and…

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And as if to acknowledge my need for the spiritual in addition to a physical and emotional response, in one of the few gaps between songs, Gira tells a Zen story he’d heard about a monk and a tiger. A monk out walking is confronted by a tiger and in his bid to escape he runs to the edge of a cliff, his only option being to jump. Falling, he grasps onto a vine but, as he hangs, a mouse begins to gnaw at the top of the vine. Resigned to his fate of death by tiger above or the long drop below, he spots a strawberry growing from the cliff, reaches out and eats it. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted. Gira says he has no particular words of wisdom to impart but to live in the present and make each moment count. Well tonight he made around 150 minutes count for everything and more. And it was the sweetest thing I ever tasted.

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The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, Charters Bar, Peterborough, 2nd June 2017 by @steverodz

The Dizzy Miss Lizzys

Charters Bar, Peterborough, Friday 2nd June 17

Writer and photographer: Steve Rodriguez

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Peterborough’s musical chameleon Gizz Butt rocks out Charters again with his talented The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, The Beatles and classic rock covers band.

The guys in this band, or Friday’s incarnation of this band anyway, have probably been in more bands than I’ve had pints of beer, and it shows. Gizz on lead and rhythm guitar and vocals, Simon Martin on bass and backing vocals, Thorin ‘Fozzy’ Dixon on drums and a surprising guest appearance by Richard Gombault [Editor: previously of successful Peterborough band Midget] on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Their sets are always entertaining and not a single song is given rough treatment or paid lip service to, it’s full on rock from the off. Although the AC/DC Thunderstruck intro that got the lads on the table nearby chanting along at the top of their lungs didn’t materialise into the full song, it gives an idea of what this band are there to do, please the crowd. That’s what they do. Any classic or hit rock song is in their repertoire and to compliment all this there’s a healthy dose of Beatles covers as that is how the band started, as a Beatles covers band. Sometimes the sets are split, half Beatles and half anything goes, but tonight it was all mixed in to a huge cacophony of guitar, drum and bass. There was the usual guitar solos from Gizz, but even a Fozzy drum solo made an appearance tonight, all the ‘rock’ ingredients were present.

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Songs like Get Back, Help, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hey Jude, All the Young Dudes, Sweet Child O Mine all blend in to the same set seamlessly and in the case of the quieter Beatles songs, all get a suitable ‘turn up to 11’ type treatment with heavier bluesy guitar solos and driving bass.

The personal highlight of Friday for me and possibly a few others was Firestarter, the Prodigy classic from ‘97. For those not familiar with Gizz Butt he was the Prodigy live guitarist during their fat of the land tour in the late 90’s and has played with many household names, including Foo Fighters. Firestarter, although apparently not rehearsed much or 100% perfected, sounded spot on. Gizz is probably at his best vocally on songs like this as Punk bands are pretty much his mainstay, Janus Stark and English Dogs two of his previous bands are steeped in punk roots, albeit the former with a more metal edge.

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If you haven’t had the chance to see The Dizzy Miss Lizzys then go,the next time they’re playing, your ears and throat will hurt but guarantee you’ll remember dancing to Hey Jude with your arms round whoever…

Gig Review: Skinny Lister, 3rd May, Nottingham & 4th May, Cambridge, 2017 @SkinnyLister

Skinny Lister – Devil Heart Fight Tour with Support from AJJ band

Rescue Rooms – Nottingham 03-05-17 and The Junction – Cambridge 04-05-17

Written by Martin Tillyer, Photos by Martin Tillyer, Edited by Fi Stimpson.

The first time I saw and heard Skinny Lister was as support for Frank Turner along with Will Varley in November 2015 at Rock City – these artists are all on the Xtra Mile Recordings label.

Since that date, I have also had the pleasure of seeing them headlining on the first part of the Devil Heart Fight tour in 2016 and then as support for the Dropkick Murphys in London in January 2017.

As soon as the dates for this year’s UK tour were announced I ordered tickets for both of the shows being reviewed here, from this you can gather that yes I do like their music and I also had an idea what to expect from them.

The support – The AJJ Band from America – were new to me, having only seen one video clip on YouTube. “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye” comes over as a very quirky American pop type track. I have to say that having now seen them live they are so much more than that.

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The Rescue Room gig was sold out and the room was nearly full for the AJJ set, some of crowd had obviously seen them before and knew what their shows were like.

As they came out it was obvious that there was kit sharing going on as the drummer was using Skinny Lister’s kit. I think that this was a good thing as they are then not forced to be cramped up onto a stage and left with no room to move and also allows for a quicker change over between bands, some of the more well-known bands should perhaps take note of this.

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AJJ are touring as a four-piece band and start off with “Cody’s Theme”, the first track on their latest album “The Bible 2” which soon had the crowd moving around. They then played through a mixture of back catalogue and new songs that varied in pace, the slower numbers having the crowd listening to the thoughtful lyrics which showed the band’s observations on life. They are definitely a tight band and have the audience hooked; the energy they show is highlighted near the end of the set with the singer doing forward rolls around the stage. Anyone that likes Will Varley and Beans on Toast would definitely enjoy this and I know I will go to see them on their next tour.

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The room fills up to capacity as we wait for Skinny Lister to come on with most having already seen them before; it was good to see people in the crowd that we had met previously at the Bodega gig last October, it feels like a big friendly party is about to start and it does with as they come onto stage to start off with “Wanted“ the first track off Devil Heart Fight, a real upbeat punchy number. They then proceed in the usual Skinny Lister party mode through tracks take from all of their Album releases with the majority of them from Devil Heart Fight (9), Down on Deptford Broadway (7) and Forge and Flagon (6).

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Mid set they fitted in a new song “Thing Like That” which still has the typical Skinny punch too it, could well get to be a crowd favourite once more people know the lyrics.

There is a variance in pace as they slow down for some very soulful vocals from Lorna on tracks like “Bonny Away” sounding reminiscent of Sandy Denny.

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Skinny Lister certainly entertain with a flagon of rum passed out among the audience (sad to say that the Flagon had disappeared at the end of the night).

Party George, Lorna and Max’s dad, was in the crowd and Lorna set off to see him going crowd surfing in a dress, she certainly is one very brave lady.

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Scott Milsom the double bass player is certainly fitting in well having replaced Michael Camino – although I will miss his crowd surfing with the double bass.

They ended up with a three-track encore “Beat it from the chest”, “Hamburg Drunk” and “Six whiskies”, a track that should be played at the end of the night in any pub (it is on the playlist in my local).

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It was interesting to go to The Junction 2 in Cambridge to see both bands the following night to see if they could party just as hard, this gig wasn’t sold out, this was possibly because of the band Alabama 3 playing in The Junction 1 next door.

Both bands produced sets that were of the same excellent quality as the night before with some variance in the setlist order. Skinny Lister had to resort to sending a bottle of rum into the audience due to the replacement flagon they had obtained needing to be cleaned out before it can be used.

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The Skinny Lister audience is growing and I think they will soon be having to tour in larger venues, take your chance to see them in these smaller more intimate ones whilst you still can.

Both bands are very approachable and always spend time talking to the audience after the show, helping out with the merchandise sales and signing CD covers

Skinny Lister are a really hard working band and will be appearing at various festivals over the summer and continuing the Devil Heart Fight tour into Europe later in the year.

They are definitely worth seeing live – go to see them if you get the chance.

http://www.skinnylister.com/

Black Star Riders, 14th March 2017, Rock City, Nottingham – review by Martin Tillyer

Black Star Riders supported by Backyard Babies and Gun, Rock City, Nottingham,14th March 2017

Having been away for the weekend watching a selection of tribute bands at Legends of Rock ‘Yarmageddon’, I came home on Monday evening to a message offering me the chance to go see the Black Star Riders at one of my favourite venues. I knew I wouldn’t turn it down.

I had not seen either of the support bands before so it was going to be interesting to see what the build up to the headliners was going to be like.

Gun came on with the crowd already building up, they brought their own blend of traditional British rock (Scottish to be more precise).

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Their set had a good balance from their back catalogue including the cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” and a cracking new track “She Knows” from Gun’s forthcoming album.

Set:

Let It Shine

Word Up!

Don’t Say It’s Over

Better Days

She Knows

Steal Your Fire

Shame On You.

Band – Dante Gizzi, Vocals – Jools Gizzi, Guitar – Tommy Gentry, Guitar – Andy Carr, Bass – Paul McManus, Drums

Following these were Swedish rockers Backyard Babies, This was a band I hadn’t previously heard of. From the start they were into a set that had far more pace with a harder edged rock with a heavily Punk influenced sound, bringing to mind bands such as Hanoi Rocks.

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Set:

Th1rte3n or Nothing

Dysfunctional Professional

The Clash

Brand New Hate

Bloody Tears

Nomadic

Minus Celsius

Look At You

Band – Nicke Borg, Vocal – Dregen, Guitar – Johan Blomqvist, Bass – Peder Carlsson, Drums

Each of the support acts played for about 40 minutes, leaving about 30 mins until the Black Star Riders which soon went by. This was to be the third time I had seen them – the first was at Download. At that time I had not heard of them, but did initially think they sounded like a good Thin Lizzy covers band (we were not near enough to really see the stage and the weather was shocking)! I was so impressed with their original music, and when I returned home to investigate them and found that they had Scott Gorham on guitar it became a lot more obvious why! I bought the first album at that point. At that time the set was actually split 60 – 40 % of new tracks to the old Lizzy tracks.

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Tonight, they started off the set with the title track of the new album “Heavy Fire” before leading into “Bloodshot” and “The Killer Instinct”. It was then back to the new album for “Dancing with The Wrong Girl”.

It is becoming obvious that they are a really tight unit giving their own blend of rock still with Irish influences which you would expect with Ricky as a front man.

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“Soldierstown” and “Hey Judas” lead to two more of the new tracks, “When the Night Comes In” and “Cold War Love” which is a slower number, one of my favourites from the new album.

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“All Hell Breaks Loose” speeds it up again next, followed by a track that I, perhaps controversially, feel didn’t need to be in the set, “The Boys are Back in Town”. Time has moved on and now into their third album they are definitely a band in their own right and in my opinion they don’t need to keep the Lizzy Link going.

Back then to “Hoodoo Voodoo”, “Who Rides the Tiger”, another faster punchier number, followed by “Blindsided”.

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“Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” and “Testify or Say Goodbye” from “Heavy Fire” lead into penultimate tracks “Kingdom of the Lost” and “Bound for Glory”.

With the finale of “Finest Hour”, BSR had been on stage for well over an hour and I wish it could have lasted much longer – an amazing performance as I had expected.

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I did hear people saying at the end they wished they had played more Thin Lizzy… but to me, they are the BLACK STAR RIDERS and nothing else is required.

Thank you, until the next time…

Review and photos by Martin Tillyer

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Album Review: The Virginmarys – Divides (reviewed by Steve Rodriguez) @thevirginmarys

The Virginmarys – Divides – review written by Steve Rodriguez

1. Push the Pedal

2. For you my Love

3. Halo in her Silhouette

4. Free to do Whatever they Say

5. I Wanna Take You Home

6. Walk in my Shoes

7. Kill the Messenger

8. Into Dust

9. Moths to a Flame

10. Falling Down

11. Motherless Land

12. Living in my Peace

The Macclesfield trio’s second studio album to follow up 2013’s King Of Conflict. Divides was released 6th May 2016 on Cooking Vinyl.

The Virginmarys are: Ally Dickaty (lead vocals / guitar), Danny Dolan (drums / backing vocals), and newly recruited Ross (bass / backing vocals).

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It’s all too easy to pigeonhole bands into a particular genre and if you can’t find one then you make one up. Nu Metal, Punk Pop, Hardcore, Industrial . . . . etc. etc. For The Virginmarys, you could try and stick them in a category, or make one up, or just accept that they really do have a bit of everything going on and are very very good at doing it.

Push the Pedal kicks off this album and on the sound of the dirty bass intro you start to think it’s 1992 and Layne Staley is still alive, then, the drums and a vocal echo enters the fray and you’re in 1996 and listening to a new Oasis track. Precisely why this band can’t, and shouldn’t be, categorised. It’s a powerful guitar drum and bass driven track, but what would you expect from a 3 piece, and Ally gives it the rasping, powerful vocal treatment it deserves. In a very unsubtle way, it says play this album on 11 . . .

For you my Love follows where Push the Pedal left off but is more of an instant hit with an almost Flea/Frusciante intro and a Stipe vocal over the top. This quickly gives way to the more familiar vocal sound and again it’s a powerful riff driven track that keeps the album driving forward purposefully.

Halo in Her Silhouette is the most sing-a-long track so far and you just knew that chorus line was going to repeat in that tried and tested late 70’s punk style. Don’t be lead down a path of thinking this band are a 3 piece punk outfit pulling a 3 chord trick from their sleeve at every opportunity though, there’s a lot more going on here and it’s another affirmation that this band cover pretty much all musical bases.

More punk style sounds ensue on the next track, Free To Do Whatever They Say, with a snarling, spitting vocal and guitar fuelled intro that builds into a bridge and chorus with some perfectly placed repeated backing vocals. It’s a chant, a probable crowd pleaser and again has all the energy that the first 3 tracks set the bar for.

The energy doesn’t subside on I Wanna Take You Home, but things do slow down a little here and enables Walk In My Shoes to follow with it’s more sombre and deep feel. The piano comes to the fore much more prominently this time and compliments the almost haunting backing vocals perfectly.

Kill The Messenger keeps the keyboard but layers of distorted guitar and bass ride over the top and makes for a Pink Floyd-esque sound with it’s low chord changes ebbing and flowing through the chorus line of the song.

Although there’s a hell of a lot of energy in this album the band resist the obvious temptation to be more crude with their language and instead express their lyrics in a much more subtle and well crafted fashion. It’s a surprise then when Into Dust starts with the F word in the second line. This is not the recurring theme of the song however and it quickly develops into familiar expressive and well crafted lyrics.

Moths To A Flame is arguably the album’s standout track and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is a three piece band when you hear such a vast, complex sound all rolled into one song. It has emotion and expression in abundance and this carries throughout the whole track from the Kings Of Leon sounding intro to the Biffy Clyro-esque ending.

Sandwiched between Into Dust and Falling Down, Moths To A Flame would possibly sound completely out of place on any other album, but, as The Virginmarys have so many influences to draw from it’s no surprise that Falling Down starts with a vocal that’s everything Mick Jones in both its sound and delivery. More proof that not only the band have a range of sounds but Ally is equally adept at displaying his own vocal range to suit the songs, lines, syllables . . .

Motherless Land is a nostalgic trip back to the early 80’s and if John Cougar or Springsteen had written this one then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, although neither do we here and instead get caught up in the story of the song, listening intently as it builds and builds to a crescendo, a well placed clean sounding guitar solo and a very fitting sudden ending.

If Moths To A Flame was arguably the album’s standout track then it would be fighting with Living In My Peace for the title, and it would be a closely run thing. The album’s closing track, draws on everything that’s gone before, energy, haunting backing vocals, a big vocal range, guitar driven melodies with pounding drum fills and beats and an emotive, expansive and atmospheric crescendo. It typically rises and rises then drops in that well fitting sudden ending to leave you thinking about what may have happened next.

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If you’re a fan of music, listen to this album because I really think there’s something here for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. The north west seems to give us a lot of very respectable bands and The Virginmarys although not the typical shoe-gazing, jangly-sounding 60’s influenced mods that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this neck of the woods, they can undoubtedly claim to be part of the club if they wanted to, but then again they’re likely to be perfectly at home being slightly different, and not in any way pigeonholed . . .

* Photos are from Ally’s recent gig in Peterborough as part of The Virginmarys’ People Help the People tour in aid of local food banks. Photos taken by and copyright to Fi Stimpson.

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The music that changed my world… by @precenphix

Written by @precenphix

Prior to ever hearing the term “techno” or “industrial,” my exposure to electronic music was fairly limited. The pulsing arpeggios of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” from Dark Side of the Moon and McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary” from 1980’s McCartney II were my first taste. I loved The Cars album Heartbeat City and became an ardent Prince disciple a little while later. Both artists seemed to have a mastery of this sound I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but found captivating. Without some finagling, synthesizers were strange, frigid instruments I assumed you needed a degree to operate or play and they were used only sparingly in pop tunes, peppering the sonic landscape as an afterthought. You certainly couldn’t build an entire song with them, as far as my young mind was concerned. It wasn’t until 1984, when I heard the Beverly Hill Cop theme, that I became aware that these were actual, playable instruments. I had to have a copy of that record…and a dinky little Casio so I could play along. I begged my parents for both. As happenstance would have it, my dad mistakenly brought home a copy of Herbie Hancock’s “Rokit” on 45. The A-side was great, but the B-side “Megamix” was incredible. I was in love.

Flash forward to 1994. I was 15 years old when a friend let me borrow his copies of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP and newly released The Downward Spiral concept album. The summer was gone, the colors of autumn had faded and I had just been dumped by my then girlfriend of a whopping nine months. That’s a decent swathe of time in dog years and about twice as long for a teenager with a freshly broken heart. I was utterly shattered and needed something to quell my existential angst in a hurry.

My friends at the time were into metal, but it just wasn’t me. I craved a broader palate of sound beyond slappy bass drums and palm-muted guitars. Reznor’s work was right up my alley. The Broken EP hooked me, but I stayed for the fearless experimentalism of The Downward Spiral. Suddenly, everything I knew about the use of electronics in music was wrong. Here were the sounds I thought I knew having new, visceral life breathed into them. This was music that sounded remarkably heavy, academic, dark, sexy and vulnerable at the same time.

Fueled by a rearing on The Beatles’ groundbreaking production techniques while being an avid listener of dense hip-hop a la The Bomb Squad, I had an insatiable appetite for unique music. Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet – hip-hop meets musique concrète. Bob Power’s work on A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, with the rest of the crew taking notes for their third record, Midnight Marauders – this took the idea of constructing a tune solely from samples to a new level. Newcomers Wu-Tang Clan’s debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – there was a dirt and grit to the production that lent a hand to the subject matter. These were my real precursors to pure electronic music. Paired with a newfound love for the more guitar-driven work by then up-and-coming Seattle acts Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam; as well as the volcanic art-rock of Sonic Youth, the transition to Trent Reznor’s work as Nine Inch Nails was a natural progression for me.

Prior to this, my knowledge of sampling was constrained to hip-hop’s crate-digging culture, mining Motown records for breakbeats or cutting up old George Clinton tunes over deep, bass bin-shaking 808 drums. Downward Spiral opener “Mr. Self Destruct” sounded as if a microphone had been laid beside the tracks of an elevated train, acting as a texturizer to the song’s verses. The guitars of the chorus cleaved through the mix like the teeth of a saw blade. Just as the close of the song reached a fever pitch with white noise bucking and aliasing from my speakers’ tweeters, a bank of coarse feedback guitar loops and scrapes filled the void where the tune’s refrain dropped off – only to be interrupted moments later by the comparatively serene, slinky second track, “Piggy.” This was an artist who understood how to dress the set with aural contrast and certainly had a penchant for theatrics. It was exactly what I needed.

I bought both singles from The Downward Spiral and also flagged down a copy of the Broken EP’s remix disc, Fixed. It was around this time I balked at the naysayers’ idea that this was a self-indulgent process. These records introduced me to the idea that remixes weren’t reserved strictly for house tracks, club music or the occasional hip-hop re-work. Both the “March of the Pigs” and “Closer” singles were shining examples of taking a tune, re-shifting its direction and bludgeoning it into abstraction, yielding a barely recognizable version of the original. It was refreshing to hear an artist put a different spin on his own music as well as having other people the artist respected deconstruct the same work. It wasn’t an entirely foreign idea to me, yet the methods employed on these NIN records were. But it wasn’t until 1995’s Downward Spiral companion remix album Further Down the Spiral that I would once again have my eyes opened to what music (electronic or otherwise) could be. It was the recording that properly introduced me to the music of Richard D. James, otherwise known as Aphex Twin.

Further Down the Spiral went out of its way to be abrasive, focusing primarily on the tracks from The Downward Spiral album that had no earthly chance of becoming a single. Rick Rubin contributed a remix of “Piggy,” while Coil, an act I was only marginally familiar with at the time, reworked the album’s title track. But it was an instrumental track contributed by Aphex Twin that really turned my head. It seemed to fit the landscape of despair that created by the album, but no source material from the original record was used. “At the Heart of it All,” was a sprawling, 7-minute slab of industrial doom that sounded as if the seven horns of the apocalypse were bleating directly from within my sternum. It was a purely electronic composition that stood out from the rest of the pack yet retained this intangible organic feeling that elicited an almost overwhelming emotional response. I couldn’t explain it, but it just felt like “home.”

I had to have as much of this music as I could absorb, so I began working backwards, flagging down as much of the Aphex discography I could get my hands on. Distribution wasn’t what it is today, so it took some work finding shops that carried these records. I was able to pick up copies of …I Care Because You Do and the Ventolin EP. …I Care was more of a compendium of his work that was largely taking cues from the artist’s work in ambient electronic music. It wasn’t what I was expecting. While being marginally familiar with the work of Wendy Carlos, this was the first time I was hearing truly composed, contemporary experimental electronic music. The Ventolin EP was a stark contrast of much less polished garage techno that was playful yet caustic at the same time. I was almost loath to admit that I liked it so much. Prior to this, I was riding the good ship Indie Snob, a vessel where “techno” was dismissed as unemotional, push-button drivel that had very little value in terms of having something to say. But these records were proving that theory dead wrong. I had to have more.

Once I finally worked my way around to picking up Selected Ambient Works Volume II (commonly referred to as SAW2), I was curious as to what I would be getting. It was a double CD album with a foreign, weathered, almost alien-looking logo of some sort on the record’s cover. It spanned 23 untitled, largely beatless tracks that were represented by a color coded series of pie charts in the album art. Once again, I was taken aback. I knew who Brian Eno was and had heard enough of his production and music to understand what might have been an influence to James, but the music of SAW2 was so far into the abstract that the similarities were fleeting. One thing this wasn’t was “new age” music.

This music could be anything you wanted it to be. Warm, almost nostalgic tones on this expansive record could easily move one to tears in one breath while searing, glacial sheets of terror-inducing noise could send a shiver down the spine of even the most seasoned horror film veteran. This music ran the gamut of the human psyche without uttering a word. For a period of years, I would put SAW2 on the deck to concentrate on the music itself just as much as I would play it to study, sleep or get ready for the

day. It seemed as if it were custom built for my purposes and it was my go-to recording to unwind, meditate, brood, love, eat or sleep. It was a miraculous record in that it was my final gateway drug to so many artists I would have previously dismissed as “not my thing,” because “this music has no soul.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

If Nine Inch Nails introduced me to the work of Richard D. James, Richard D. James opened the door to a whole new world of sound for me. I found Autechre, Boards of Canada and Björk as well as a host of more obscure music by RDJ himself on his own record label, Rephlex. I began to take notice to Beck’s methods of production, DYI ethic and sample-mining. UK act Portishead showed up on the scene with an amalgam of jazzy, noir-infused beatnik soul, rife with layers of turntable antics. Drum ‘n bass was beginning to take hold with its frantic, skittery rhythms pushing the envelope of speed and micro programming. I discovered Jack Dangers’ act Meat Beat Manifesto who spent a short stint on Reznor’s Nothing Records imprint. All this was just the tip of the iceberg. Friends and I would trade mix tapes of the strangest music we could find.

The world was my oyster once these records changed my opinion of what music could or should be. And this is why I’d be doing myself a disservice to pick a favorite artist when the story of finding them all is so interwoven with personal milestones and moments growing up as a ravenous devourer of what was considered unusual music.

These two records, Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral and Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II opened my slumbering third eye to a world that had been quietly lying in wait. I’ve followed both artists since 1994-1995 and marveled at their output prior to those years and everything that has been released since. Not only were they pioneers back then, their music is just as relevant today. My life would be incomplete without it. Hearing the work of both artists gave me the confidence to try things with my own writing that I might have otherwise sloughed off. Most importantly, I had found two artists who used electronic and sample-based production techniques because they liked these sounds independently. They weren’t employing these methods to mimic more traditional, physical instruments. They took care to make sure these sounds stood on their own as a backbone to their compositions.

It wasn’t just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. These were artists who held a mastery of their craft while stepping firmly outside the Venn diagram of sounds typically used in popular music. But somehow they made their work accessible while simultaneously being influential zeitgeists in their respective genres of music. Reznor’s point of reference lay more in 80s post punk while James culled more influence from the rave culture in Detroit and UK scene. Yet both could produce music just as emotional and moving as any classical passage. But with their output, the studio became an instrument itself in the same way George Martin and EMI’s engineers had done with Beatles recordings of yesteryear. So if I were forced to pick a favorite artist of all time, both James and Reznor would receive the same accolades. They’ve changed my life for the better and I couldn’t imagine a world without their music.

Gig Review: @Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Written by Zoe Spencer

It’s been 11 years since I last saw Pixies, at the Aircraft-Hanger-esqe Alexandra Palace. It was the fulfilment of a childhood dream. We camped out for hours in the empty hall to be sure of a front row spot. My other half had never really heard of Pixies but he still describes that night as one of the best live gigs he has ever seen. I was the stereotypical fan girl, totally smitten from first note – utterly blown away – it was a real high point of my gig going career. So, to say my expectations were high would be a gigantic (get it?) understatement.

Upon arriving at the 02 Academy I was treated to a very thorough frisk (I’m not sure the third bottom squeeze was entirely necessary…) and a bag search – sadly there was nothing more exciting than a notepad and pen (much to my friend’s amusement at how “old school” I am). Looking around at my fellow concert goers, I was hit with a sense of my own impending middle age; where were the Grungers? The Punks? Where were the bloody teenagers? I was awash in a sea of hipsters and ridiculous moustaches. My sense of displacement was further deepened by catching sight of the tea towels on the Pixies merchandise stand… what every middle-aged rocker needs….

Taking my place in the 5000-strong throng, a shadowy Pixies took to the stage, and without so much as a “hello Brixton” pre-amble, they are straight into the good stuff with the anthemic sing-a-long, “Where is My Mind?” The band is on form this evening, Black Francis’ vocals are as strange and wonderful as ever as they motor from one classic to the next – the set is relentless and spans all seven albums with even a couple of b-sides and covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and Scottish veterans The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (featured on Pixies Trompe Le Monde Album) getting a look in.

The set sways from one decade to another, in a collection of songs spanning nearly 30 years. And yet, there are no songs that jar, of course the “Doolittle” and “Surfer Rosa” tracks are the ones that have the crowd singing along – the irresistible nod at a pop love song “Here comes your Man” is a particular highlight for me, and “Havalina” was beautiful. But newbies like “Tenement Song” from “Head Carrier” stand strong amongst the classics.

If I’m being completely honest there were times when the sound guys could have been working harder – bass and vocals were feeding back at several points in the first hour but Pixies have always had a rawness that can take a bit of buzz. I would have been disappointed to have left without a little bit of a headache!

The set motors on, song after song (although of course most Pixies songs come in short bursts) with not a peep in between – the stage is dark and back lit, full of smoke and the lack of banter adds to the surrealness they do so well… I was happy to see that guitarist Joey Santiago was completing the line-up after his recent stay in rehab with signature unpolished surfy tones. However, the real revelation for me was the wonderful Paz Lenchantin – having seen the original line up featuring Kim Deal, bringing a splash of colour to the monochrome stage with a large floppy red flower attached to the headstock of her bass. After so much time I wonder if the comparisons to Kim Deal become galling (Gigantic was a notable exception to the set – Monkey’s Gone to Heaven also sadly absent) however Paz stood her very leggy ground. The bass was deliciously punky and growly and her vocals strong – in that quirky way Pixies do so well.

When this 2-hour marathon draws to its tumultuous conclusion with a fantastic last run of “Hey”, “Gouge Away”, the magnificent “Debaser” and finally the throat wrenching “Tame”, the band take their bows in silence and leave the stage. Still not a word.

They return to the stage for their encore and the whole room is flooded with smoke – seriously it was like walking into a cloud – Pixies humour perhaps, because Paz then delivers a haunting version of “Into the White” before they disappear in the smoke screen like ghosts in the night.

In short as loud and weird and wonderful as you would come to expect although, next time guys, maybe say “hey” – after all we’ve been “trying to meet you”.

Set list;

Where is my mind?

Nimrod’s Son

Break my body

Brick is red

Winterlong (Neil Young)

Blown Away

Mr. Grieves

La La Love You

Ana

All the Saints

Here Comes your Man

Motorway to Roswell

Magdalena 318

Tenement Song

Classic Masher

Head on (The Jesus and Mary Chain)

U-Mass

I’ve Been Tired

Velouria

Havalina

Snakes

Caribou

Rock Music

Baal’s Back

Isla de Enchanta

Oona

Planet of Sound

All I Think About Now

Hey

Gouge Away

Debaser

Tame

Into the White

Gig Review: @wolfalicemusic by @jenbren1976 , O2 Forum, Kentish Town, 27th March 2016

Wolf Alice must have been feeling the weight of lofty expectations and quite a lot of pressure on night 2 of their sold-out 4-night residency in the O2 Forum, Kentish Town. This is their home territory, a 4-night sell-out and alas their bass player Theo Ellis was sick-noted due to a swollen elbow.  This resulted in a last-minute change to the support line-up where Kent duo Slaves were drafted in. Mercifully myself and my fellow attendee deliberately arrived too late to see them and got to the venue in time to see the final support act Bloody Knees. The young, grungy Cambridge quartet had no problem pleasing the crowd and filling the cavernous venue with their dirty guitar sounds amongst highly dextrous melody.

Thankfully the stage times and tour staff were quick and efficient in clearing the stage and the gap between BK and WA was very short, enabling Ellie and the boys to enter stage at precisely 9.30.   Strobic torch lighting was used beautifully, giving lead singer Ellie Rowsell a suitably iconic rock n’ roll silhouette.  Despite Theo’s absence, Gengahr’s bassist John Victor did a sterling job at standing in and there was no loss in power or audio quality. In fact, WA were impressive audibly, particularly drummer Joel Amey who performed superbly throughout.

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The first track performed was “Your Love’s Whore”, a staggering, climatic and mature track from a band who are unfairly labelled as “youth-only”.  It sets the scene nicely for those who are unfamiliar with the band’s work (as my partner-in-crime was).  If I was to generalise their sound, anyone familiar with sub-grunge bands of the first half of the 90s such as Belly, Lush, Veruca Salt, Breeders et al would be on to a good starting point. However, Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics and vocals show a sophistication and maturity as well as confidence beyond her years.  Her effortless stage presence is impressive – it almost feels as if the very idea of her being anything else other than her calm, ethereal self is ludicrous, no Gallagher-style uncouthness, no need to flash flesh – just sing or scream the songs and thank the audience.

Curiously, the band commence their set with 3 of their most popular tracks, following up with “You’re A Germ” which is a daft few minutes of screamy but enjoyable mosh pit nonsense – admittedly it’s my least favourite WA song and I was relieved to see them get this out of the way early. Wonderful summery Madchester-style pop followed in the form of “Freazy” – gloriously self-referencing the band name in its own chorus. Who needs marketing gimmicks when the music can do the talking? And indeed, as the song marvellously states – “You can hate us all you want but it don’t mean nothing at all”.

The set appeared to zoom by, only lasting an hour due to the band having one album’s worth of material.  However, this was an hour full of confidence, hypnotic and layered guitar sounds and the always-judgemental mosh pit were clearly in full approval. Mellow moments ensued during “Swallowtail”, crooned by drummer Amey and Ellie was happy to take a backseat at this point, again showing zero ego issues apparent within the band. The encore gave us a truly sublime version of “Turn to Dust”, an opiated softly strummed, hypnotic yet tender reflection on mortality, all the more touching from the mind of one so young.  Ellie’s vocals became more soprano-esque at this point and didn’t once waver. The final track was their previous set-opener Giant Peach which hugely satisfied the crowd, and towards the end the big guns were pulled out which confirmed Wolf Alice’s soon-to-be-mainstream status – the confetti guns, that is. This now appears to be not-so-secret record industry code for bands who are about to embark on the Big Time so no doubt arena tours will beckon once 2016’s festival season concludes.

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Overall, an incredibly impressive and quietly confident show where Wolf Alice have proven themselves to be a band who let the music do the talking.  I’m not known for my predictive skills but the US would no doubt welcome this band with open arms. World domination awaits… you have been warned.

Set List:

  1. Your Love’s Whore
  2. You’re a Germ
  3. Freazy
  4. Bros
  5. Lisbon
  6. 90 Mile Beach
  7. Silk
  8. The Wonderwhy
  9. Storms
  10. Swallowtail
  11. Fluffy
  12. She
  13. Moaning Lisa Smile

Encore:

  1. Turn to Dust
  2. Blush
  3. Giant Peach

Gig Review: Therapy? @therapyofficial at @rescuerooms , 12th March 2016 by @moff76

Words and pictures by Adam Moffat.

Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms saw the final date of Ireland’s alternative rock pioneers Therapy? playing their Infernal Love album tour.

“Infernal Love” is the band’s third album following on from “Nurse” and the massive “Troublegum”. It received mixed reviews on its release in 1995 as it showed a change in direction from the bouncier, punkier “Troublegum” to a more groove laden sound.

There was a big turn-out of Therapy?’s loyal following and the Rescue Rooms was packed out.

The band walked on to a rapturous reception and opened with “Infernal Love”’s title track “Epilepsy”. The heavy opening riffs and “I’ve Got a Problem” creating an instant sea of bouncing bodies and singing voices. The intro rolled straight into one of the album’s finest features, “Stories”.

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Andy Cairnes was his usual witty self, engaging the crowd between songs. From here the set blasted through for 35 minutes of dark twisting melancholy until the end of “Loose”, when Andy called an abrupt stop to proceedings as some unlucky punter in the pit was taken ill. Much puzzlement in the crowd as the band called for paramedics and the unfortunate fella was stretchered out.

45 minutes later the band came back to the stage and launched into their cover of Hüsker Dü’s “Diane”, leading the crowd in a massive sing song, it was as though the band had never left the stage. With “30 Seconds” closing the Infernal Love set we rolled straight into a best of the rest set.

New songs “Still Hurts”, “Tides” and “Deathstimate” were plugged into the set next to classics like “Nausea” and “Teethgrinder” from the album “Nurse”. What came next was “Potato Junkie” with the crowd screaming the “James Joyce is fucking my sister” refrain so loud it threatened to drown the band themselves out. When the crowd’s singing died down we were reminded of a legend lost late last year Mr Lemmy Kilminster with a pit filling “Ace of Spades”, which they segued perfectly back into the end of “Potato Junkie”, the audience an ecstatic mass of sweaty flailing limbs.

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You couldn’t wipe the shit eating grin off of Michael McKeegan’s face with a Brillo pad as he played his winding bass lines. Therapy? had some extra help tonight as guitar tech Stevie Firth filled in on second guitar and keyboard duties giving the music an extra dimension.

The closing finale of “Troublegum” trio “Screamager”, “Knives” and “Nowhere” showed Neil Cooper’s amazing drumming; he was hitting his drums so hard that it threatened to break the skins with every beat. The crowd was sent off into the cold night with croaky throats and massive smiles.

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All in, an excellent end to the Infernal Love tour and a fantastic performance despite the earlier incident. The band took it in their stride and showed why they are one of the best live bands in the world and I for one can’t wait for the next chapter in the dark twisted world that is THERAPY?

Why I Love Slagerij by Kate @lovelybarmy

There’s a What’s On magazine locally called The Ocelot. On 24th June 2011, it celebrated its fifth birthday at Riff’s Bar, Swindon. There were three acts. I had vaguely heard of the main one, Evaline. The supporting acts were Gaz Brookfield and Slagerij, and I had never heard of either.

Gaz Brookfield kicked it off. He is great. Google him and see if he’s still going. At the time he was similar to a young, modern day Billy Bragg, touring the country with his guitar.

The next band were Slagerij. I remember Jamie from The Ocelot announcing them and saying something along the lines of, “and now for some skanking!” The person I was with looked at me with horror, as if I was going to be mortally offended but they never did know me very well. It was exactly my taste in music!

Three guys came on stage. I felt quite protective towards them – they looked like the nerds from school had started a band to be cool. I had the feeling they were going to be mediocre but decided I would cheer and clap them in any case for encouragement.

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Well, there is no way to say how completely wrong I was. They blew me and everyone there, away. All their music was original apart from one (awesome) cover at the end. It was powerful music – raw energy emanating from every pore. I skanked and danced for the whole set and whooped, clapped and cheered every song, as did everyone there. Evaline followed and I think they felt the effect of having to follow a band that had energised the whole venue and not being able to match them.

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I met Slagerij afterwards and was quite drunk so probably told them I loved them… a lot. I saw them live a few times afterwards and it wasn’t a fluke – they were awesome each time and I can’t wait to see them again when they come back to their home town, Swindon. It is THE BEST place to see them live.

That’s just a bit of background as to how I discovered them. Why do I love Slagerij?

I think it’s fair to say my life is quite hard sometimes (insert violins here). Without going into detail I get frustrated, upset and angry about many of the things that adversely affect my family. As a mother I’m expected to behave a certain way and be a certain person which is constraining sometimes, to say the least. I can’t play my music loudly at home – my children complain. I know right? It’s meant to be the other way around! So when driving, on my own in the car, I play my music so loud that I can feel it vibrating through my whole body.

When I listen to Slagerij’s “Swim for Shore” album at said volume in the car, it gives me a release in so many ways.

There is enough powerful RAAAAWWWRR for me to empty any anger by the time I reach my destination. With the music so loud I feel like I’m flipping the bird to all the people who annoy me – all the cliquey parents on school runs, teachers who’ve irritated me, anyone who’s judged me or my children unfairly, people who have preconceived ideas of who I am or should be. In fact, it’s like flipping the bird to the whole world in general. The sense of satisfaction this brings is immense.

Not only do Slagerij discharge my anger, they make me smile. There’s a cheekiness to many of their songs which never fails to bring a grin to my face. The fact that one song on the album is called, “I Wish There Was a Party so We Can Invite the Whole World/Universe…’cause That’d Be Ace!!!” kind of encapsulates this! So, on top of flipping the bird to the whole human race and grinning like a loon, listening to Slagerij puts me in the best frame of mind you can imagine. I feel on top of the world, cleansed and invigorated! The power of music at its best.

I’d just like to say that my favourite song is “Girls got Rhythm”. There is a video of me somewhere dancing to it at a gig, a bit like Animal from the Muppets – so much enthusiasm, very little rhythm. Unfortunately, it is not in my possession or I would post it. Despite the fact I don’t have much rhythm, I always imagine that it is written for me which makes me happy. When it ends with “Go home with me, baby” I, without fail, say to myself, “Oh, go on then” with a big grin. Music doesn’t get much better than this.

Editor’s note: I was intrigued about the meaning of the word “Slagerij” – incase anyone else is wondering, google tells me it’s Dutch for butcher.