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'être, 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

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Parts & Labor, Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow, Saturday 6th October 2007

Parts & Labor's drums, bass and keyboard line-up may not seem like a recipe for rock enlightenment, but the New York trio create a noise that belies their humble stature and nerdish appearance. With amps turned steadfastly to 11 and everything pushed deep into the red, theirs is a gloriously fuzzed-up and feedback-drenched sound, shuddering on the edge of melodic collapse. Their strength lies in the marrying of this raucous noise with a wonderful ear for anthemic, danceable tunes and infectious pop hooks, pushed to near breaking point by the walls of distortion. Anchored by the rock solid drumming of new recruit Joe Wong and the distorted bass of BJ Warshaw, overlayed with Dan Friel's melodic keyboard and guitar lines, they strike a near perfect balance between chaotic frenzy and pop nirvana. For those who always wished that Lightning Bolt were less intimidating and more catchy, Parts & Labor could well be the answer to your prayers.

Parts & Labor

Friday, March 09, 2007

Matthew Bower, Chris Corsano & Heather Leigh-Murray, Glasgow University Union, Glasgow, Saturday 24th February 2007

Matthew Bower, Chris Corsano, Heather Leigh-Murray... any one of these names alone should be enough to bring a joyful sparkle to the eye of any discerning fan of experimental/underground music. But tonight Glasgow University Union's the Hive was the incongruous venue for the spectacular treat that was their debut live trio performance. Matthew Bower is one of the veterans of the UK musical underground, having released a truly daunting body of elegiac heavy rock, drone and noise, most notably with his Skullflower, Sunroof! and Hototogisu projects, and to see him play with Volcanic Tongue honcho Heather Leigh-Murray and Chris Corsano, one of the world's most exciting and talented free drummers (soon to be heard on the new Björk album), promised to be a truly special experience.

Thankfully, this was a dream line-up that more than lived up to even the most hyperbolic expectations. When the visceral raw energy of Matthew Bower's monolithic walls of feedback and guitar distortion, Chris Corsano's kit-destroying thunderous stabs of percussion and Heather Leigh-Murray's primal howls and ravaged pedal-steel reached their awesome peak it was as if the world was collapsing around your head. Ear splitting, brain melting and emotionally draining, this was a night not to be forgotten.

Photos of this gig available here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

0° Of Separation (Juana Molina, Vetiver, Vashti Bunyan, Adem), ABC, Glasgow, Tuesday 16th January 2007

The idea behind the 0° Of Separation tour is one that is sadly relatively rare. There is no support or headliner and the lines between the artists are blurred, as musicians come and go in fluid combinations and collaborations, experimenting with old arrangements and new compositions.

That said, Juana Molina's solo sets were easily the highlight of the night. Alone on stage she created hypnotic rousing folktronica, starting from simple guitar lines, looped and layered, with beats behind, all driven along by her wonderfully strong vocals. Even with the snow that had started to fall outside, it was easy to get lost in the foreign warmth of her Spanish and be transported, at least temporarily, to a different place.

Vetiver's rootsy Americana was similarly able to bring energy levels up and to get even the seated crowd moving, and it is just a shame that neither act was given more of a presence during the evening, as, unfortunately, neither Adem, nor rediscovered folk songstress Vashti Bunyan, were anything like as entertaining.

In comparison to Juana Molina's strength and vitality, Vashti Bunyan's voice was weak and lifeless, a failing not helped by her apparent nerves and lack of confidence onstage, nor by her overly sentimental and uninspiring songs. Adem fared better in the bigger group collaborations, but stripped down, neither did his songs really have the strength to fill the hall.

Bringing like-minded artists together in an innovative way, 0° Of Separation is a great idea, but sadly there was too much distance between the strength of the performances that night to really do it justice.

Photos of this gig available here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Birchville Cat Motel, with Alex Neilson & Richard Youngs and Opaque, 13th Note, Glasgow, Tuesday 9th January 2007

Sonic terrorism is probably the best way to describe what Opaque do tonight, as four sinisterly masked men, dressed all in black, stand motionless in front of us, their guitars screaming beautiful symphonies of feedback and aural desctruction in the darkness, building to staggering crescendos of white noise.

Though without quite the darkness and violence of Opaque, Alex Neilson and Richard Youngs give just as ferocious an assualt on rock's confines. Jandek's original rhythm section perform tonight as a free-rock drums and guitar duo, Neilson's driving percussion melding perfectly with Youngs' e-bowed and distorted guitar work, the highlight coming when they are joined by Birchville Cat Motel's Campbell Kneale on additional guitar.

With a table full of equipment and tangled nests of wires it's perhaps not surprising that there are technical complications before New Zealand's Birchville Cat Motel can start weaving his powerful layers of drone. Soon overcome, he masterfully balances beauty and violence, shreaking almost unheard through distortion over his loops and electronics, and the only thing that's missing tonight is the truly transcendental volume of 2005's Instal performance.

Photos of this gig available here.

Birchville Cat Motel