Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Throbbing Gristle, Tramway, Glasgow, Wednesday 17th June 2009

When a band waits 30 years before playing their first ever Scottish show, they run the risk that they're time will have already passed and that the Scots will have forgotten them. Thankfully, there's no such worry for undeniably ageing industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, as the buzzing crowds filling the cavernous converted space of Glasgow's Tramway venue prove that the band's pulling power has only increased over the years that they've ascended to iconic counter-cultural heights.
Beginning with an improvised instrumental soundtrack to a grainy black and white film by artist Cerith Wyn Evans, Throbbing Gristle's first set is a darkly ambient accompaniment of slowly pulsing heartbeat bass thud and tortured electronics, sadly let down by the band's seeming disinterest in proceedings and the overblown obliqueness of Evans' creeping images.
When, after a short DJ break, Throbbing Gristle return to the stage for a celebratory greatest hits set, the die-hards' years of waiting are finally proved worth it. With the stage swathed in light and the crowd craning over Genesis P-Orridge's every move, Throbbing Gristle power through a rapturously received set of classics and hits, obviously enjoying highlights such as the aggressive stomp of 'Discipline' or 'Persuasion's eerie dirge, while 'Almost A Kiss' avoids mawkishness to become heartbreakingly poignant.
While they've lost none of their individualism, and can still tap into their original punk power, when Throbbing Gristle bow out, sans encore even after all this time, it is their emotional honesty and intensity, and, in particular, Genesis' amazing connection with the fans and audience that sticks most searingly in the mind. Here's hoping that the wait is never quite so long again.

Photos of this gig available here.

Throbbing Gristle

Hermann Nitsch, Instal 2009, Glasgow University Chapel, Friday 20th March 2009

Long sustained tones, blocks of wood across the keys, tones and overtones, elegiac, long, slow, gradual, a bass note and overtones that sound then fade, add, subtract, harmonies, disharmonies, discordant notes, slow waves, foghorns sounding on a misty sea, the imagined sounds of space, the cosmic drone, layers build, rise and fall, reverberating, hearing pulses, nothing pure, sound of radiation, "if the stars had a sound it would sound like this", fades to a single beautiful mournful note then just as the bells chime quarter to (eleven) in the distance a low basso profundo solid tone with higher layers on top, like the air slowly reverberating, the background hum of the universe.

Photos of Instal 2009 and this performance available here.

Hermann Nitsch

Instal 2009

Rolo Tomassi, Captains Rest, Glasgow, Wednesday 22nd April 2009

With a last-minute downscale to the tiny basement of the Captains Rest attributable just as much to the presence in town of fellow Sheffield mathrock youngsters 65daysofstatic splitting the crowds as to Rolo Tomassi's arguably over-frequent visits to Glasgow wearing their pulling power thin, confusion and chaos were rearing their heads before the gig even began tonight. Perhaps befitting the added sweaty intimacy afforded by the last-minute change of venue, Rolo Tomassi largely jettison their more proggy aspects this time round in favour of a frenetic show of youthful hardcore exuberance. From the moment they make it on stage, Rolo Tomassi race, with barely a pause, through a breakneck set, all flailing limbs and ungodly screams, their mathy technicalities distilled into ferocious synth-driven spazzcore blasts (political correctness be damned!). With the band's slightly unhinged energy just about matched by that of the party-hungry crowd, it's not long before the P.A. begins to topple, shirts are removed and circle pits, stage-diving and crowd-surfing ensue, on a night that proves just how essential and exciting live music will always be.

Photos of this gig available here.

Rolo Tomassi

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unearthly Trance, Ramesses & Black Sun, 13th Note, Glasgow, Friday 17th April 2009

Black Sun became a Glasgow institution long ago, perhaps because, rather than despite of, their steadfastly uncompromising musical stance. Kicking proceedings off tonight, they are as true to form as ever, with an unrelenting ferocious intensity, expressed through crushing riffs, feedback howls, pummelling slow drum salvoes, monolithically heavy bass and rabid vocal screams.
Ramesses, especially with such illustrious Electric Wizard pedigree and some fine releases behind them, are an unfortunate disappointment. Despite some tight drumming, on a kit featuring what must be the largest cymbal known to man, with the near inaudible vocals lost behind buzzsaw 7-string guitar and grumbling bass, they are left lacking anything like the monstrous punch on either side of their set and fail to show enough life to transcend their classic doom blueprint.
Thankfully, when Unearthly Trance come crashing through a howling wall of feedback into their sludgy doom metal riffing, we are back in the land of physically pulverising heaviosity. With a technical deftness that could easily be lost beneath the dark distorted extremes of their sound, they shift seamlessly from their sludge beginnings to heavy-as-hell crust punk scorchers and then back all the way to full-on epic doom, showered with slow slow riffs and funereally paced stick-shattering drum crashes. This expert combination of dynamics, progressive experimentation and sheer brutal heaviness leaves the crowd stumbling from the Notecave's sweaty depths with suitably ringing ears and clawing fists.

Photos of this gig available here.

Unearthly Trance
Black Sun

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mono, Stereo, Glasgow, Monday 23rd March 2009

After 10 years as a band and nearly 6 years of seemingly relentless international touring, including more visits to these Glasgow climes than you can shake a heartbreaking minor chord guitar arpeggio at, there are certain things one has come to expect from Japanese post-rock titans Mono, and, in front of an enraptured crowd, they certainly don't fail to deliver tonight. As John Peel used to say "it starts quietly, very quietly...", with guitarists Yoda and de-facto band leader Takaakira "Taka" Goto seated heads-bowed on either side of the stage, cradling their guitars over ranks of pedals, true shoegaze style. Still adhering to the quiet-loud dynamic so beloved of many a post-rock instrumentalist, Mono have it honed to a fine art, building epically from interweaving twin guitar lines and subtle bass and cymbal washes to gloriously soaring peaks of ear-shattering noise, complete with diminutive bassist Tamaki Kunishi rocking out centre stage and Taka's stool-toppling, feedback-soaked guitar histrionics. With a set aptly focusing on the cinematic new album 'Hymn To The Immortal Wind', released that very day, the only real disappointment is the lack of even a small string section, which leaves the new tracks feeling a bit empty in places, at least until the band really gets into its stride with a midway step back to earlier times via a rousing version of "Yearning" from the previous 'You Are There' long-player. Followed by a magnificent rendition of the current album's "The Battle To Heaven" and the beautiful "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" before set and current album closer "Everlasting Light", new musical ground it may not be, but when you do it as well as Mono, that really doesn't seem to matter.

Photos of this gig available here.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Action Beat, Flying Duck, Glasgow, Thursday 26th February 2009

With a host of vigorous young musical oddness in support at this multi-headed underground extravaganza, it's nearly 2am by the time Action Beat make it to the central mini-amphitheatre that counts as a stage here at the Flying Duck. Even at such an ungodly hour, the proudly Bletchley-based multi-piece rock ensemble are certainly not lacking in energy and dedication to the instrumental art-rock cause. Playing tonight in a relatively stripped down 6-man incarnation consisting of 1 bassist, 2 drummers and 3 guitarists (though sadly lacking their occasional violin, trumpet and saxophone augmentation), they blaze through a set of balls-to-the-wall melodic riffage and high-intensity rock action. What they do may be simple, with a heavy debt to the discordant accessibility of early Sonic Youth and the massed instrumental rock orchestrations of Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, but there's no doubting that they play it like they mean it, broken strings, bleeding hands and all, and their passion and well-toured tightly-honed assurance gives an infectious delight in the sheer, simple power of guitar-based rock.

Photos of this gig available here.

Action Beat

Monday, February 16, 2009

Crystal Antlers, Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow, Friday 30th January 2009

Hailing from Long Beach, California and hitting UK shores for the first time in the wake of Touch & Go's CD reissue of their originally self-released 25-minute long 'EP', Crystal Antlers are definitely riding a still-growing wave of interest and anticipatory buzz. The basement venue at Nice N Sleazy is absolutely packed, from the front stage to the back doors, with barely room to move, let alone get down and dance or even nod along, not that plenty of people don't still try it once the band's infectious garage rock grooves kick into action.
With the sound gloriously in the red right from the very first notes, it's this psychedelic garage rock fuzz that rules the early part of the set, with Andrew King's guitar-playing going straight into frenetic Acid Mothers-esque aim-for-the-stars soloing, while front-man Jonny Bell blasts out over-driven heavy fuzz-bass riffing and suitably scorched vocals. Accompanied by Victor Rodriguez's vintage organ riffs and the percussion, melodica and dance skills of the wonderfully named Sexual Chocolate, a.k.a. Damien Edwards, who adds melodic flourishes and emphasis to the solid propulsive grooves laid down by main drummer Kevin Stewart, the five-piece Crystal Antlers generate a heady cosmic squall, whose closest touchstone is probably fellow Californian psychedelics Comets On Fire, or their more user-friendly offshoot Howlin' Rain.
At first the sound is too thick and over-driven and the weight of all this action is too heavy, making it difficult to hear the subtleties and complexities hidden away amidst the psychedelic garage-y fuzz, but a fortuitous bass string break forces a slight ease in the tempo and intensity, and we're treated to an interlude of spacey guitar and organ drone, before the band launches full-bore once again into a massive multi-part psychedelic garage prog jam, more intense than ever, but with the magnificent sonic collision of psych, garage, prog, blues and desert rock that they offer now coming through loud and perfectly unclear.
Even with barely half-an-hours recorded material behind them, the heaving crowd and accompanying adulation that Crystal Antlers generate is more than well-deserved on a night with a performance like this and, if they can live up to their early promise, then the forthcoming album, Tentacles, could be, along with tonight's live experience, one of the highlights of 2009.

Photos of this gig available here.

Crystal Antlers

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Earth, Stereo, Glasgow, Saturday 9th February 2008

Despite having birthed the camp excesses of Sunn O))), there is a true solemnity and a sense of deliberate restraint to Earth and their music. This seriousness is prevalent more than ever on their most recent albums, 'The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull' and in particular in its 2005 predecessor 'Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method', which heralded the band's reappearance following several years of inactivity. While their unrelenting austerity and unerringly slow pace can sometimes lead to a dry and, dare I say it, somewhat dull listen on record, with the emotion scorched from the music, like listening to the sound of a lonely wind blowing across an empty landscape, there is no danger of this when seeing the band live. The immense gravity may still be there and the pace may still be relentlessly mournful, but somehow it all aches with feeling, still of sadness sure, but within that there's a glimpse of warmth and a glimmer of hope and humanity. Maybe it's the sight of Dylan Carlson and his current 4-strong lineup melding together so perfectly up on stage that gives the Earth live experience the involvement that can be missing from the albums, or maybe it's their utterly immersive live power. The band, currently consisting of Dylan Carlson on guitar, Adrienne Davies on drums, Don McGreevy on bass and Steve Moore on keyboards, drones and trumpet, are so incredibly tight and together and the sound they generate is so massive, with each slow thud of the bass and thunderclap of the drums hitting you physically full on and slowly reverberating away, that it feels impossible to be anything but completely absorbed.

Photos of this gig available here.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Kling Klang, Barfly, Glasgow, Saturday 27th October 2007

From the ranks of vintage synthesizers crowding the stage, to the flared red corduroy trousers of the band's de facto leader Joe McLaughlin (not to mention his more than passing resemblance to Neil from the Young Ones), there's something decidedly retro about Liverpool's Kling Klang. Taking their name from that of Kraftwerk's private music studio (and also the opening track on the album 'Kraftwerk 2'), the band wear their krautrock influences unashamedly on their sleeve. Kling Klang's debt to genre pioneers Kraftwerk extends further than mere nomenclature however, as their sound is strongly reminiscent of the repetitive groove-led krautrock jams that were the staple of early Kraftwerk. Simple repeated synthesizer lines are the driving force behind Kling Klang's vocal-less music, with the three synth players accompanied by Ali MacDonald's suitably motorik live drumming and McLaughlin occasionally switching to guitar to augment the analogue electronics with heavy guitar riffing to beef up the more "rock" moments. While the repetitive simplicity of their sound is often the band's strongest suit and is arguably their very raison d'ĂȘtre, it unfortunately feels like a weakness tonight, as, not helped by a lack of punch to the sound quality, it seems as if the band are treading water. The performance lacks the propulsive energy and dynamics needed to really drive the grooves along and transcend mere head-nodding rhythmic intensity and preservation of the original krautrock spirit and allow Kling Klang to create a truly original and necessary sound of their own.

Kling Klang