Saturday, 10 November 2007

Sound Carriers / The Monks Kitchen / Limn / Mixedcases - 26 October 2007, Buffalo Bar

It's the last Friday of the month. This means it's time for The Beat Hotel, and there’s a bumper crop down at the Fortuna Pop! hop tonight. Every one’s a winner.

This is Mixedcases’ (otherwise known as Mark West from Fanfarlo and Wolfie) first live outing and to celebrate he’s playing in his socks so he can use his toes to manipulate the tiny buttons on the pedals and gadgetry that clusters round his feet. Mark has surrounded himself with equipment, creating a nice sort of bedroom studio effect on stage – it suits his softly glowing, synthy, robot-beat space-pop. It’s the kind of music you’d find snuggled on Sweden’s Labrador Records – gentle vocals atop comforting cough candy tunes that can vere towards the itchily unsettling. 'Time To Go Now' sounds like it’s the great grandson of ‘Space Oddity’, or the sound of streetlamps breathing quietly to themselves on a frosty night. Then it all gets a tad raucous with what sound like the birth cries of a new genre – a mash up of soft-hearted indie electro-pop and clashing, smashing d’n’b beatz. It sounds great – a bit uncomfortable, but invigorating.

Limn’s USP is that they have two drummers sitting centre stage FACING EACH OTHER! Fantastic. Sadly, this thrilling state of affairs doesn’t last long as one of the drummers then starts playing guitar instead; scritchy skree high pitched twingly guitar. Limn have a tendency to mix and match instruments, crunching out all manner of oddball sounds, keeping you on your toes, so you’re eager to hear which path of chaotic tuneage they’ll rush along next. There’s Ron Johnson Records-style awkwardly angled cacophony pop, and then a great sixties lounge ‘Take 5’ kind of moment and one that’s sort of jazz with a ‘My Sharona’ bassline (cripes!) Then Limn make songs that have me thinking, ‘Hmm, Battles but on a picnic, or maybe Animal Collective but without the picnic”. The tunes wibble and weave and allow your imagination to wander with them, so the last one, full of angularly tooting ‘Trumpton’ guitars conjures an image of Hank Marvin on a motoring holiday in idyllic English countryside. With a knotted hankie on his head. Joyful.

The Monks Kitchen seem like they should be Scousers, but I don’t think they are. They play foot-tappy, folk-stroked, shanty-ish songs that twinkle and rumble along on simple bluesy bass lines. A Rickenbacker and a capo-ed acoustic guitar provide a sound like freshly cut grass, full of lovely skittish melodies, whilst the combined Monks vocals add up to some irridescent harmonies. One song makes be go especially melty and unable to stop grinning, and I suddenly realise it’s ‘cos it sounds like The Butterflies Of Love. By the end of their set I'm thoroughly charmed by the sunshine-sparkling-on-the-waves songs that The Monks Kitchen have just conjured so unassumingly for us.

Finally, it’s all aboard a golden cloud with The Sound Carriers to scud about the ceiling on David Crosby’s floatiest, most marshmallow-iest trip. The Sound Carriers are news to me – and hurrah! it’s very good news, ‘cos this is a band that manage to cram in hints of everything you love about the West Coast ‘60s sound: The Byrds, The Buff, Love, CSNY; as well as the retro-futuro sounds of Felt, Stereolab, Broadcast - that dreamily vintage Radiophonic Workshop feel. And then The Sound Carriers throw in a dash of Tropicalia just to liven things up, getting really rarver funky in places.
The band are lead by a string-bending geezer who has an unfortunate default facial expression of deep smugness, as if he knows we're all thrilling to the layers of ringing chords he's knocking out. Maybe he is smug about it - there's no reason not to be. He's accompanied on vocals by a petite, keyboard-playing girl who looks like a cross between Francois Hardy and Juliette Greco, which is clearly a marvellous thing. Also worth noting is the bass player's guitar strap which is decorated with horse brasses - somehow this is quite disturbing. Anyway, a high old time is had by all, swooning and shimmying gently to The Sound Carriers' slightly sinister sun-psych. So much so that the band is able to introduce what could well be the very first drum solo to happen at a Fortuna Pop! gig and yet there is no indie-pop riot. Nice work.

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