Sunday 29 June 2008

Oh hello world! I had a change of heart. Fave Tunes April / May 2008

The Chameleon - The Left Outsides Perfectly executed Barretty folkadelia

Glory To The World - El Perro Del Mar Happy heart and candyfloss head

I Fell Asleep In The Sunbleached Grass - Skygreen Leopards Sounds like what it says

No One Word - Vetiver Summer trees ruffled by breezes, swallows swooping the sky.

Girl Of The Skies – The Canterbury Music Festival Instrumental soft-pop rarity on RevOla re-release. Just the right side of queasy.

Subterranean Bazaar – The Dilettantes Blammin’ pop-sike for doing beatkid dances too.

Tallahassee Bop - Slowdown Tallahassee Sugar buzz nursery rhyme drone-pop

The end of the summer on Bookbinder road – Cocoanut Groove Long lost baroque pop that The Left Banke dropped down the back of the sofa

Sweetness I Could Die In Your Arms – Horowitz Delicious fuzz-coated Razorcutty cuteness

Sundropped – Earthling Society Harmonia swirls become Teardrops Exploding through a sun-psych prism. Perfectly titled.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

My Bloody Valentine - The Roundhouse, 23 June 2008

Hallo. I went to see My Bloody Valentine again and it was EVEN BETTER than on Friday.

A rearranged set-list, clearer sound. I can hear Kevin and Bilinda's vocals enough to recognise individual words tonight, whereas on Friday their voices drifted in and out of the fog, so you'd have to strain to identify them. Tonight I also get a great position in front of Kevin, one person back from the barrier, so I can peer at his pedals and marvel at his selection of guitars.

Best song of the set is 'Come In Alone', a majestic beast, storming in a stately manner. 'Sueisfine' is rendered almost unrecognisable again, rattled out as a hardcore thrash, complete with backdrop of irradiated blue skies full of fluffy white clouds whizzing by dementedly. ‘Soon’ expands into a repetitive beat drone dreamscape. I can clearly hear/feel (thanks to the blasts of warm sound-waves on my face) the way the sound is ratcheted up throughout the set. Bass kicked up monstrously for 'Slow', and up again to nearly unbearable levels for 'Feed Me With Your Kiss'. I scrunch my earplugs in deeper, preparing for the finale - the blasting away of time and space in the middle of 'You Made Me Realise'. It's like being strapped to the outside of a rocket on blast-off (I imagine). Shivering chaos. And then further noise gets piled in on top, deep, boneshaking. Its not just the awe-inspiring loudness, but the pressure of it effecting your whole body. I stand still and try to absorb it, watching Kevin tinkering with the sound. It's not just a testosterone fuelled noise mush, crazy shrieking frequencies blend in and out, now and then a pedal is tapped introducing or removing slices of noise. I start to hear ghost symphonies playing deep inside the maelstrom. Towards the end the frequencies creep upwards, creating the feeling of being plummeted back towards earth from outer space, tearing up the atmosphere. A sickening trajectory.

The back projection is showing a disorientating freefall of images – like a cross between falling out of an aeroplane and seeing your life flash before your eyes. Three quarters of the way through the twenty-two minute (we timed it, we nerds) aural assault the images cut to a black screen with slashes of white light strafing up and down horizontally. As each light beam passes over Kevin’s face, it reveals him watching the crowd through narrowed eyes, looking kind of evil, trying to figure if we deserve more punishment. Clearly we do, when the chords of the song finally fall back into place and we’re released from our suspended state to grab onto the tune like it’s a life raft, we find it’s a life raft adrift on a sea that’s aflame, the remainder of the song just discernible beneath an unearthly shriek. Horribly brilliant.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

M. B. V. Good

It's My Bloody Valentine Season!

Thursday 12th June sees a flurry of excitement from the Kitten old-skool gig-going masssive as we discover My Bloody Valentine are playing at the ICA over the weekend. The ICA? That's (relatively) tiny! Tickets and guest list places are secured, though not for me as I have an urgent weekend appointment to run round and round a garden with two dogs and two small boys.

Saturday morning reports trickle across the wires:
'All good on the MBV front. AMAZING (really)'
'So the good news is that MBV still sound, and look, just like MBV. 15 songs, all post Ecstasy, one of which lasts for considerably more than 3 minutes.'
I start to feel excited about our rendezvous with the Valentines, we've got tickets for their penultimate Roundhouse gig. Then, a text from M. There's a spare place going for the opening night at the Roundhouse, do I fancy it? Er, YES!

Friday 20th June: a queue snakes from the Roundhouse doors up the road and round the corner. Anyone who isn't queuing is over the road in The Enterprise, There's Nat, the 'Bishop of Shoegaze', there's that bloke from The Early Years who looks like an owl...and here's M bearing Valentines tales and magic guest list words. And behold...a triple A pass. A ha ha ha! In your face, world!! (It turns out there's another pass I could have on Saturday, but I don't notice the text until Sunday. Why world why??!!!)

My Bloody Valentine wander onstage, start playing 'Only Shallow', and oh dear! every other band in the universe might as well give up now, MBV show us how far everybody else hasn't come in the twenty years since these songs were written. Now I remember why I was never totally taken by the likes of Ride and all that 'gazey lot, they were inconsequential meteor showers to MBV's whirling universe. By the time Lush et al appeared, we'd already gorged ourselves on Valentines and Spacemen and Loop. We were spoilt.

My Bloody Valentine still look exactly like My Bloody Valentine. Kevin, shaggy of hair and saggy of clothing, lurking nondescript to the left and just doing this...stuff with a guitar that nobody else in the whole world seems capable of, bending sound, creating ripples in smoke. Bilinda's apparently unchanged delicate looks bely the fact that she's complicit in kicking out this raging storm of music. That was always the beauty of MBV, they didn't need big characters or fancy staging (although there are some magnificent back projections filling the stage with colour and light tonight), each member was a vital component, but they just each did their thing and let the music destroy us all. There's the fabulous Debbie on bass. I'm glad to see she's still doing her vicious 'I'm digging your grave' attacking action on the noisy bits, throwing her whole body behind the chords. And of course, Colm's out of body drumming blur. I never could figure out where he found the stamina to hit things like that.

The set takes in tracks from the two albums and assorted EPs the band released after 'Ecstasy' - the record that saw them shift from trebly indie noise-pop scamps to sonic adventurers. I was always more of an 'Isn't Anything' girl than a 'Loveless' fanatic (although it's like saying I prefer breathing to eating). The more visceral attack of the likes of 'When You Wake (You're Still In A Dream)', the queasily punning 'Sueisfine' (which threatens to become unmoored tonight, a skidding and sliding maelstrom, I find it hard to catch its beat) and machine gunning 'Feed Me With Your Kiss' are the songs that make me grin the widest here. And then there's the oozing 'Slow' grinding along on monster bass, compelling the crowd to sway and lurch in time to its sickly rhythm. Oh, and 'Thorn', soaring and dive-bombing on drill-bit guitars - it sounds so vital, I have to do a bit of good old hair shaking to it. The softer textures and intricate layers of the 'Loveless' tracks, the fluffy fog of 'Blown A Wish', the looping, dipping, loopily dippy 'When You Sleep', the whalesong keening of 'I Only Said' seem to fill the Roundhouse with a tangible haze of downy sound. The audience reacts with the most glee to 'Soon', the familiar ticking rhythm and see-saw tune setting off a burst of enthusiastic dancing that dies down after everyone realises they're not as young as they were.

Finally, it's time for that behemoth of sound terrorism, 'You Made Me Realise'. How will the band top their previous performances during which they bent and stretched the middle of the song over one chord louder and louder for longer and longer until they were easily topping ten minutes, blitzing the audience with NOISE? I always had to stick my fingers in my ears when it happened. Thank the Lord that today I've had the foresight to nip into Boots for some earplugs (also available free at the Roundhouse bar). I love MBV but they're not destroying any more of my hearing.

So, the song starts up with its familiar bursts of atonal urgency, swooning and gliding across the verses, exploding into car crash patterns, until The Chord happens. Oh Sweet Baby Jesus and His Mary Chain! It. Is. LOUD. Nuclear Bomb going off loud. Rearrange your DNA loud. For nearly twenty minutes the band stands casually chanelling pure white noise up into the domed roof of the building until I peer upwards nervously, convinced it's going to crack open like an egg. I sneak my earplugs out for a few seconds...argh! and quickly stuff them back in again. I've seen MBV doing this aggressive noise assault business on numerous occassions, but I've never experienced anything like this: shrieking, roaring, twenty jet-planes taking off in your head. I can feel the soundwaves soft and warm on my face, rattling my teeth, as a slightly uncomfortable pressure across my chest. For a while I close my eyes and sort of sunbathe in it all, strobes bright on my eyelids. After a while I look around. People are hunching over, fingers stuck in ears, creeping away from the front, looking stricken. It's uncomfortable, but it's also genius.

I glance at my watch, it's twenty-five to eleven, Oh God, what if the band are planning on playing this chord all the way up to eleven o'clock? They don't, eventually, the remainder of the song crashes back in, we snap our heads in time to the familiar beat, relieved, riding survivor's highs. And then it's the end. We came, we saw, they wiped the floor with us.

Monday 9 June 2008

Soon - Japancakes (Sonic Cathedral)

Wooziness, mmm, it's great. Floaty, drifty, spacey sounds that fill the world with downy clouds and lazily spiralling dust motes. Wooziness is Japancakes' stock-in-trade. They use that most deliciously laconic of instruments, the pedal steel guitar, to great effect, invoking a fug of dreamy well-being in their songs that makes you just want to, well, pass out. In a good way.

Last year, Japancakes 'controversially' put all their wooziness powers into creating a marshmallowy instrumental version of My Bloody Valentines 'Loveless'. Yes the whole album. With pedal steel and cello taking the place of the original's gauzey, distanced vocals. It's a great album if you fancy a spot of cross-eyed ,wibbling, other-dimensional lift-muzak. Which we all do now and then don't we? Apparently we don't as a few shoegazey blow-hards have kicked off about Japancakes' experiments with 'Loveless'. Ho hum.

Anyway, now the ever delightful Sonic Cathedral are putting out two remixes of Japancakes' versions of MBV's 'Soon' and 'Touched' on double A-sided 7" white vinyl. Nice.

'Soon' has been roughed up into a hedgehog ball of spikes by James Rutledge. Juddery, Christ-the-cd's-stuck! messed up beats. Where the original see-sawed sinuously, this fits and skitters curiously.

Ricardo Tobar takes 'Touched' and stretches it into a vast Balearic summer space-out. The original - a brief between-track soundscape shimmer - is sent reeling through hyperspace on a dubby, clubby bassbeat. Trippy whalesong echoes of Japancakes' gliding guitar noise rise and fall across fathoms of...I'm trying not to say 'blissed out' here, but, hell, that's what it is...a blissed out sonic skyscape.

Saturday 7 June 2008

Accident & Emergency

Here is the latest in pseudo-rock 'n' roll casualty 'get me to a doctor, maan'. chic: a Spiritualized hospital wrist-band! Classy and not at all tacky. No. And I didn't feel at all embarrassed when the man in Sister Ray sheepishly handed it over to me with my purchase. No.

If you are a design nerd or a Spiritualized nerd, or perhaps both (hello!), you may find this item from Creative Review interesting as it combines both subjects in one handy article.