Category Archives: Gig reviews

Five Years: The Quietus’ 5th Birthday Party


The Quietus now fills more or less the same place that the NME did for me in the mid-1980s – smart, impassioned, and funny, as well as generally spot-on with its opinions. It has, amazingly, been going for 5 years now and last night they threw a party featuring some of their favorite acts. Luckily these are also some of my favourites.

East India Youth, on first, played a slightly different set to the one I heard at End of the Road last weekend – fewer songs and more of the noisy electronic pieces. It will be interesting to see where he goes next – possibly towards the banging end of things. There’s going to be a Vince Clarke remix of something soon, anyway – which sounds promising.

Teeth of the Sea provided the meat in the night’s sandwich, powering through material from Your Mercury and the brilliant, and imminent, 3rd album MASTER. Seeing them between two more obviously electronic, dancier, acts (instead of the usual Gnods or Goats) emphasised not only the fact that TOTS still seem like a band, but also what a great party band they are. Ok, they’re not exactly what most people expect from a soul revue, but they certainly had us dancing.

Finishing off the main part of the night were Factory Floor, who are also about to release a hotly-anticipated album. I didn’t see as much of this as I would have liked but as expected they struck a balance between smart invention and irresistible hooks and rhythms. Are we about to enter a new age of great dance music, as a reaction to woeful EDM? One for my Manchester colleague/Techno Editor…

Three great bands, plus DJs – party music as imagined by the Quietus. Well done, people – here’s to the next five years.



A Midsummer Psych’s Dream: Horrid, Dwellings & Druss, and Mugstar


Bonged out openers for this much anticipated psych-fest were Horrid, a band I literally had passing knowledge of: I’d caught sight of them through a window at this year’s Sounds From The Other City, but given the offer of only Heineken to drink in the venue half of our party had decided we weren’t to stay. That afternoon, bedecked in hoods fashioned from sacks, they were making a wonderfully trashy and lurching racket. Thankfully tonight the costumes and the sounds were present again as they performed what was apparently or allegedly only their second gig. Consisting of one long industrial/spaced-out throb piece, interspersed by chants seemingly emanating from under the singer’s head sack, Horrid’s set was perfectly timed in its peaks and troughs, and got a series of heads nodding. Horrid are definitely worth keeping a (third) eye on (sorry).

d and d

Next up were Dwellings & Druss, two (core) members of the GNOD collective and the originators of the submerged techno dread of GNOD Presents. For some the idea of watching two blokes twiddling knobs on an array of samplers, mixing desks, compact synths and looping pedals is not entertainment. For me, however, it is heaven. Reversed sampled voices mixed and layered with reversed engineered neo-Acid. White noise and serrated interference stitched with bubblings and bangs. It’s hard to describe and praise enough this set of rabidly diverse leftfield rave noise. This is how improvised electronica should be and attests to the brilliant artful talent of GNOD and their multifarious offshoots.

mug 1

I thought the evening had peaked. Then along came Mugstar and battered us with a truly sonic assault of riffed-up space rock. Pete Smyth shook his head from side to side with so much vigour you wondered whether he was auditioning for a remake of Jacob’s Ladder. Steve Ashton’s drums and Jason Stoll’s bass were unyielding. It was beautifully relentless. The music and strobed visuals held out a meditative intensity that made you question whether you were being subjected to and/or incorporated into some ritual of unknown aim and intent. Amazing and the best I’ve seen them.

And all of this for five pounds. Yep, five pounds. My gig of the year so far. All hail the Solstice and all hail Grey Lantern and Soup Kitchen for making it happen.





End Of The Road 2012, Saturday – TOY

TOY provided a much-needed blast of excitement in the Big Top on the Saturday – the Laurel Canyon/Dream Pop found elsewhere at EOTR can be a bit samey after a while, and my morale was sapped by the appearance of crowds of chair-sitting locals who cluttered up the place while moaning about how they didn’t like the music. Not too many of those down the front for TOY though, I think they were blasted back to the edges of the tent by the enormous wall of sound.

This is the second time I’d seen the band, and they were far more impressive than they seemed supporting British Sea Power in Manchester – maybe it was the better sound, or maybe they were just more intent on making a statement the week before the release of their debut album, but from a distance of about twelve feet they were earth-shakingly loud, completely wrapped up in the noise they were making, and impressively accomplished.

The challenge with making this kind of music is to keep it from becoming one-dimensional – no one wants to go back to Birdland, do they? – and while this isn’t such a problem live, TOY do need light and shade in amongst the racket and the motorik grooves. And they have it, courtesy of the keyboards but also changes of pace and intensity. I reeled away at the end with a big grin on my face and my ears ringing.

Here’s one of the tracks that got them noticed in the first place, one of the highlights of the live show.

The band site is here. Review of the album coming shortly!

Beer notes: The all-conquering Funky Monkey proved the perfect accompaniment, from the Frome Milk Street Brewery. Lovely.


End Of The Road 2012, Saturday – Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard

This is the first time I’ve seen Jeffrey Lewis, but it’s nice to put a face to the music. I suppose some grouches might find his popular culture renaissance man schtick annoying, but he’s genuinely passionate about comics, music, politics etc etc – and a genuinely talented musician and artist. And when you see him live you realise just how charismatic and funny he is. A real anti-star. His band – the Junkyard – can’t stop grinning throughout, mostly grinning at him.

His early evening appearance on the Garden stage was another classic End of the Road moment – the crowd cheered and sang along in this lovely clearing in the woods, and the sun shone. We got a few of the ‘hits’ plus some covers, including a very fine version of the Fall’s ‘Kurious Oranj’ from their late 1980s purple patch. Lewis and the band then popped up at a ‘secret’ gig in the Tipi later that night, running through his brilliant illustrated lecture on the history of punk on the Lower East Side and more. Marvellous.

Here’s a song that featured on Audio Antihero‘s charity compilation Some.Alternate.Universe, which you can buy here.

Jeffrey Lewis’ site is here.

Beer note: My notes are very hazy but at some point on the Saturday I think I had a pint of Whitstable Bay. Nice enough, but Shepherd Neame aren’t my favourite brewer and I seem to have drunk a fair bit of this in bottles recently, because nothing else was available. Still.


End of the Road 2012, Friday – Peggy Sue

Peggy Sue packed out the Tipi Tent, as you can see above. Katy Young and Rosa Slade’s voices are extraordinarily powerful and their angular pop is perfectly held together by some subtle, tricksy, drumming and, on this occasion, a borrowed bass person (didn’t catch his name, sorry). What started as a two-piece works pretty well as a full band, and it’s interesting to see how this might develop. Peggy Sue recently played at a screening of Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising and have just released an album of covers of the tracks, called Peggy Sue Play The Songs of Scorpio Rising. It’s really good: here’s ‘(Love is Like a) Heatwave’ and the video for ‘Hit The Road Jack’, which they played here, to the audience’s obvious enjoyment.

‘(Love is Like a) Heatwave’

‘Hit The Road Jack’

Why aren’t this lot all over the charts, then? Buy Peggy Sue Play… here, more here.

Beer note: Don’t know if I had any while listening to this lot, but Friday was the day I discovered Tring Brewery’s Mansion Mild, a perfect afternoon pint.


End of the Road 2012, Friday – Mountain Man

Mountain Man - courtesy S Kneale

Mountain Man opened the Garden Stage on Saturday, but almost didn’t make it – they’d got stuck behind the traffic for a nearby Traction Engine festival (more on this later) and arrived a little discombobulated. Still, they overcame the obstacles – including an unfamiliar guitar “like a Cadillac” (above) – and got on with the business of singing their hearts out. Strange mix, Mountain Man – one minute singing their a cappella songs in the purest, sweetest voices imaginable, and the next explaining how they suffered from the ‘Sultan’s Revenge’ while on tour in Istanbul (actually, the songs on their 2010 debut Made The Harbor are much more complex than they sound – just because they’re beautiful doesn’t mean they’re twee).

There was also a display of the dancing they do while acting as backing singers for Feist. They had the audience in the palm of their hands, the sun shone, and everything was just bliss. A good start to Bella Union’s birthday curation of End of the Road.

If you haven’t bought it already, go buy Made the Harbor here.

Beer note: I drank a pint of Beer! listening to this – that’s the ale made by the Milk Street Brewery in Frome, exclamation mark included. Very nice it was too, wish there’d been more of it.


Sounds From The Other City 2012

[We are proud to have the nearly award winning Pete Collins on board for this review. His interjections are cleverly formatted in italics for your extra pleasure. Normally, he can be found here. Plus some of the pictures are his]

With home printed programmes, highlighted with our preferences for the running order, we discussed our day at Sounds From The Other City with a warm up pint. What we should’ve done is fashion said printouts into little boats and sent them down the bloody Irwell given the use they were – this turned into a day of enjoying the odd full performance, but mostly catching glimpses of bands, the ends and beginnings of sets and completely missing others. What laid waste to our wish lists were inappropriately-strong-for-early-doors bottles of booze from the Gnod bar at Islington Mill and a nice glass of sherry kindly provided by the Manchester Modernist Society and their pop-up shop. Bless and blame them both for the paucity of this review.

It was after drinking at the Gnod bar that some of the day’s events began to resemble what can only be described as a strange trip. A very strange trip indeed. Now, I’m not saying that the two things are necessarily related, that’s for you to decide.

The first slither of a set we did catch was from Electrelane’s Verity Susman: replete in moustache, sampling a recorder into some haunting electro-pop, the one tune we did catch was a lovely opening to events.

So, a woman with a moustache. Not the oddest thing ever, but that was only the warm up to seeing a group of people dressed in tin foil jumping up and down. And up and down some more. They might have wiggled a bit too and made some noises, but I was too busy rubbing my eyes in disbelief.

Via the delights of the MMS, we then managed to catch the whole set (crikey!) by NASDAQ as part of Bad Uncle and Hear Here’s stage at The United Reform Church. As a highlight of last year’s SFTOC we knew this stage would be worth the punt given the idea of acts soundtracking a film. NASDAQ chose to accompany the 60s French SF abstractions of La jetée with (mostly) their ‘Dead Peasants’ piece and it worked nicely.

Plus, there were three deflated party balloons hanging limply from the ceiling, which normally could have looked quite tragic but instead I thought added a certain something. But remember I had just followed up some sherry with a can of red stripe. A heady mix.

Schedules falling apart further, we headed back to Islington Mill for Sunless 97. Whether it was our timing (most likely), a no-show or the damnable booze again (second most likely), but this three piece had somehow morphed into a twenty-odd strong drum collective bedecked in black cloaks. Given the propensity of BBO for anything in cloaks this was more than fortuitous; pounding rhythms with proper dance floor breakdowns obtusely gave the old minimal techno bone a good scrub up and jolted the senses perfectly.

I believe it was a laptop meltdown, and the market for unplugged electronica isn’t that big yet (although no doubt that’s a genre for somebody…). But people dressed in black cloaks banging drums added to the weird way the day was going. And they made everybody in the room smile. It was enough to even make my cynical face crack into a grin.

Mistaking the upstairs of the King’s Arms for its downstairs (yes, indeed) we caught the first two tracks of Molly Nillson’s set instead of Apostille. The hipsters and the fey seemed out in force for the former and we reacted with some surprise at the queue to get in when we took our leave.

It was becoming clear that the more people there were in the audience wearing woolly hats the less I’d enjoy the band. And Molly Nillson had plenty of people wearing woolly hats watching her. And worse still, people in woolly hats and the dreaded red trousers. Get out of the way and let me down the stairs people! The rabid pigeon eating a chip in the road outside was more fun.

At this point, something granted us serendipity and grace for our arrival at the Underachievers stage at The Salford Arms furnished us the surprise package of the day – The History Of Apple Pie. The sound and its origins might be obvious (think shoegaze, think Pixies, think The Primitives) but through the power of sweet melodies and a three guitar attack, grins and exclamations of delight were delivered to our jaded and cynical party. Really great stuff.

I also liked that there was a man who looked like Eugene Levy stood right in front of the band, and every so often he would lick his index finger. I don’t think this was a sexy display or anything. At least I hope not. But now I can dream that someone stumbles upon this review by typing the words “Eugene Levy licking his finger” into Google.

Time to walk back to Islington Mill again to catch a much hyped new band. Would we make it in time? Well…

The last song of buzz outfit Pins sounded good as probably the rest of the set would have if we’d made it on time (bored yet?). And given their association with Jack White the first twenty minutes of the goth attired Black Belles made comparisons to The White Stripes inevitable (in a good way, mind).

Cant really go wrong with a group of black haired ladies with guitars can you? CAN YOU? I dont think so anyway.

And then to the main event: Teeth Of The Sea performing ‘Reaper’, their re-imagining of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday. This was never going to be missed given our love for TOTS here and we weren’t disappointed. The sheer viscerality of the music – comprising stabbing trumpets, military beats, e-bow scythed guitars, rumbling and soaring synths, four-to-the floor technoid rhythms and screaming – in combination with the cut-up and effected visuals – taking in burning corpses, future-medieval gladiator battles, Mad Max-esque car chases, screens soaked in splats and spurts of blood and fluid – was mind-blowing (possibly actually as well as metaphorically). I would recommend ‘enjoying’ this at your earliest convenience, but it’s probably the last time they’re going to do it. I say probably as I have it on good authority that an invite to perform it in Berlin or Hawaii would coach TOTS’ ‘Reaper’ from its gruesome pit.

I am holding TOTS (and probably the sheer amount of alcohol I consumed) responsible for me dreaming about being thrown into a burning cauldron of lava over and over and over, soundtracked to their music. They were quite simply magnificent though, so I’ll forgive them.

And to our very much more inviting and perfumed pits we returned in the knowledge that nothing else would surpass this finale.

(Note: half of our party chose the brilliant Lovely Eggs instead of TOTS. The account relayed to me by Miss S spoke of speaker climbing antics, banter and cracking tunes. This is to be expected as we know they’re fantastic, as below proves:)

So, Sounds From The Other City you are brilliant. Next time = less booze, more music.

Yeah, right.

Gnod: Schokoladen 21/4/12

Schokoladen is very much the Berlin alternative/anarchist social centre type place that most districts of the city seem to have a least one of: dark, effortlessly and beautifully shabby, oozing atmosphere before anything even gets going and constantly on the verge of being shut down. We’re here for an early start as the music has to be finished by ten due to complaints by the locals about the noise – y’know, the very music, as part of the area’s cultural capital of cool, that no doubt attracted the young and trendy to live their in the first place. It would be a more cynical man than I to suggest these are the same people that are trying to get the place shut down. Much more cynical.

Gnod appear just after nine and fashion the sizeable audience new orifices, as the hackneyed phrase has it. The divinity of Gnod is their ability to fuse a whole series of leftfield sounds into something bowel shakingly original – it’s a bastard saintly mix of space rock, psyche, drone, motorik, a different type of drone, ritualistic throbbing improv and some more differently tuned drone. Only Teeth of the Sea can match their magnificence and if they were up against them tonight it would be a close run thing.

The lead singer – well howler cum extra drone dimension – pops up from the audience, returns to the audience, screams, smokes, disappears into the audience again and returns to centre stage for some more echoed vocalisms at the end of the set. The guitarist – yes, I don’t know their names – enters a staring competition with the audience (although no one in particular) and puffs his cheeks as if he’s exhaling fire. And the two bassists are a blur of dreads and bopping concentration that combine with a fixated and zoned drummer to give Gnod their almost signature throb and strangely heavenly pulse.

A version of becoming classic ‘Tony’s First Communion’ finishes the set and the guitarist apologises for the lack of encore – Gnod don’t want to threaten any further the venue’s existence. Gnod are the sound of the alternative eternal and here’s hoping for the infinite longevity of Schokoladen too.

Afterwards, the nice guitarist gave me a copy of  Science and Industry – originally a US only release it can now be purchased as a handmade CDR here. And it is worth it: very much so, because not despite it being only two tracks, especially the ceremonial and gathering crescendo of ‘Deadbeat Disco in Paper Error Shocker’. And the other, ‘ Big Chief’, can be heard below.

Here’s Gnod at the Roadburn festival doing ‘Tron’, another highlight from their Schokoladen set:

Big Chief:

British Sea Power and Teeth of the Sea: The Ritz, Manchester.

[Picture of Teeth of the Sea courtesy of @PeteCollinsMCR of ‘Having A Party Without Me’ infamy]

The Ritz is renowned for its sprung dance floor and sticky carpet. Stories of its acrid and overpowering stink are less common amongst the residents of Manchester. And my word it pongs. This irrefutable fact must have contributed to the late showing of any form of animation amongst a generally sleepy crowd gathered last night to see British Sea Power and Teeth of the Sea: trying to catch your breath whilst moving and bopping only results in the inhalation of the stench of a very ripe Camembert to the point of near suffocation.

Moving with haste beyond the olfactory, Teeth of the Sea lived up to my massively, and potentially disabling, expectations. Despite a relatively sparse crowd for their slot, through opener ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M’ and via ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’, their enormous sound translated as I hoped it would. No doubt their all-round impact would have been enhanced further with projections and some flashy lights (which a support acts, it seems, are rarely permitted), but the confederation of a flying-V guitar (played with e-bow, beer bottle and behind the head), moustache/side parted hair combinations, and zoned out/face strained drumming, made up for any deficiencies in illuminations and visuals. A wonderful slice of post-psychedelic trash indeed.

It has to be said, British Sea Power are just getting better and better with time. The niggling sense of mild disappointment I’ve experienced after seeing them in the past has been replaced by a feeling that they really knowing their sound and how to deliver it. My song of the year so far ‘Who’s In Control?’ opened proceedings and others from the brilliant Valhalla Dancehall sat nicely in a set balanced enjoyably between the old and the new – ‘Oh Larsen B’ and ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ were accompanied well by the all-out frenzies of ‘Stunde Null’ and ‘Thin Black Sail’, and a stonking encore opener of ‘Zeus’. Yet it was, as it has been many times before, the majesty of ‘The Great Skua’ followed by ‘Carrion’ morphing into ‘All In It’ to finish off the main set that had me thoroughly locked in. A somewhat reserved, but still grin-worthy bit of crowd surfing by Noble (minus flying helmet and without a backdrop of bear-wrestling) during ‘No Lucifer’, and the slight and soon forgotten discomfort of his boot on my forehead (again), finished the events for the night.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the exemplary practice of the merchandise stall: more bands should insist on such neatness in display and wickerwork baskets of fudge.

Teeth of the Sea – ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’:

Teeth of the Sea – ‘Cities of Gold’:

A glitch-rock remix of British Sea Power’s ‘Carrion’ and ‘All in it’ by Pressbutton:

British Sea Power – ‘Zeus’:

Just added. TOTS at the Ritz:


Buy TOTS and BSP here.


Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner and Ruby Lounge

There’s very little that vexes my senses more than the sound of a radio struggling to find reception. Until recently, of a similar ilk, was the crackle of vinyl: I remember the hope in a bright new future without jumps and scratches when I bought my first CD. Yet whereas the irregularities of vinyl are increasingly nostalgically re-remembered and now peeve me less, the former continues to send me de-hinged. Consequently, Gold Panda, through making a pleasure out of crackles, hiss and static, has achieved the apparently impossible and for that alone I stand and applaud.

Lucky Shiner is an album dripping and soaked in gratifying interference. It won’t be the first thing that hits you as you listen in that other electronics and sounds are more immediate: the high-end pitch and stomp of opener ‘You’; the minimal tech-stabs of ‘Vanilla Minus’; the Steve Reich alike repetition of ‘Same Dream China’; the glitch-becoming-stuck of ‘Before We Talked’; the crashes and reversals of ‘I’m With You But I’m Lonely’; and the global samples of ‘India Lately’ (which comes across a bit too deliberately ‘I had a spiritual experience on my gap year’ for true comfort). But the hiss and scratch is there alright – a subtle over and underpinning that adds an unusually pleasing depth to many of the tracks.

This hiss transforms into something else, and more, when Gold Panda steps out to play live: all subtlety is disregarded as crackles mutate into shredding white noise to segue tracks together (along with, unusually for an electronica event, a few proper stop endings and a shout of ‘thank you’). In fact the whole night, last week at The Ruby Lounge, was characterised by change and renovation as Gold Panda locked himself into a set that was simultaneously construction and deconstruction of Lucky Shiner and other parts of his output. This on-the-spot mutation lent the evening a sense of occasion and mostly eased the inevitable visual disappointment of a be-hoodied bloke behind a Mac and desk of wires (although he did jump around a bit).

Gold Panda’s output is worth pursuing (the bonus CD Unreleased Medical Journal that came with my copy of Lucky Shiner is as good as its companion). And I’ve got a feeling that his best is yet to come. Buy Gold Panda stuff here.

Vanilla Minus

Before We Talked


There’s another more pictorial review of the gig here

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