Sunday, 15 April 2018

Panda Bear was loose in London

I have enjoyed the thrills of live sounds for years and years. There’s something magical about the experience of seeing something you committed to your memory through repeated revolutions on record players suddenly becoming real for your ears in a building with the minds that made it there in front of you.

I can remember most of the gigs, shows, sets, concerts – what ever you wish to call them – that I have attended - not the literal evening but sensations, snippets, sounds and smells that conjure up a moment or an emotion that was lodged way in my brain. Fleeting images of my heroes played out in mind films on the surface of my eyes.

Panda Bear at the Village Underground on Tuesday is now firmly lodged in the cerebral mass of synapses and connections. I am a fan of Panda Bear – you all should be a fan of Panda Bear – because there’s a beauty within those electronic collages that soothes the soul.

For those unaccustomed to Panda Bear – he is actually Noah Lennox – and one part Animal Collective. I came to Animal Collective after listening to Panda Bear – not the other way round.  I like Animal Collective but I like Panda Bear more. Each tune he has released has wrapped itself around my heart and made me smile that little longer – not that they are all happy tunes mind.

I arrive at the Village Underground a little early. So I head off for a drink in graffiti covered buildings and hip surroundings.  I buy a drink. It costs £5.80.  Ridiculous really.  I think The Smiths t-shirt I bought at one of my first concerts cost £5.

Some time the city is out to rip you off.

Panda Bear is playing in East London tonight – but this is no rip off – this is not a rock n roll swindle.  And this is his one date in the city as he waltzes through Europe and beyond. There is only one day to spend with this homie. Not even a day – it’s only a night.

But I’m glad I spent it with you.

Proceedings begin with Maria Reis who produces sounds that are both haunting and jaunty – there’s a popness to her MBV meets Eno tunes.  The crowd are warm in their appreciation and the cavernous building  - with it’s bar on the side making it difficult to see the stage  - feels intimate as she plays to the swelling numbers.

And then we wait for PB.  I have managed to find a spot way down the front about two bodies back and to the right of the stage. The crowd is hip and youthful – but I don’t care - I am an old man taking space from the youth. I dig this too. 

I wait for the arrival of Noah.  At 9.30 the lights dim and Panda Bear enters the room – he takes off his coat- keeps on his hoodie - picks up the microphone and begins to create sonic alchemy. Tonight’s ‘show’ and to be fair it is a ‘show’ is full of repetitive visuals and strobed lights and screens there to add and support the wonderful sounds of the Bear’s workbench.  I’m intrigued by the workbench – it looks cobbled together with MDF to hold instruments that shake the very soul.  Noah works this table of instruments(?) throughout the set – sounds blending and growing from his array of special units and keys – drones become fragments of songs and layers of sound build upon each other into this beautiful digital cacophony offset with sweet harmonies and honest feelings.

To be honest it’s hard making out what I’m listening to – I never got hold of the last vinyl only ‘A Day with the Homies’ but I guess this is what I’m listening to interspersed with songs from when he took on the Grim Reaper and won. There’s a few older ones too all presented with a backdrop of a pulsating dancing woman in garish make up and flowing dresses. It’s a trip maaaaaaan. A real mind bending trip. But the audience are here for the ride – there’s a group behind me bellowing the words and dancing with wild abandon – we are here to worship at Lennox’s sonic altar – we are his disciples – which is apt because it’s just after Easter that he walks amongst us.

The night develops through each sample and repetitive drone with the Panda adding vocals as loops become recognizable tunes  - it’s hard to know where to clap – so I just grin throughout. The new tunes are harder in terms of beats – there’s elements of hip hop, drum and bass and the inevitable dubstep – but it doesn’t feel bandwagon jumping more an evolving landscape of sound that Panda Bear inhabits. The set consisted of this according to

Dolphin (New Song)
Boys Latin
I Know I Don't (New Song)
Part of the Math
Cosplay (No Outro)
Cranked (New Song)
Shepard Tone
Home Free (New Song)
Selfish Gene
Cosplay Demo (Outro)

The end of the set before the encore slowly built into a huge pulsating bass drone with vomiting visuals and strobes. It was heavy work. But there’s absolute heavy soul in his squelching electronic psychedelia.

Lennox is not a dance musician  - but we sway in unison at times to his kinetic rhythms and futuroid B(each) Boy singing – because after all  his voice remains his secret weapon. It’s what everything hangs on –and follows this incredible set with an encore of three incredible works  - Sabbath (New Song), Crescendo (New Song) and finally Sunset with each one getting better than the last.  We are uplifted and dancing – and then he is gone.

Coat on and out the building – well probably not - but I want to afford him some rock star status – not that he is that at all but he deserves to held up a little higher than he is. It’s hard to find music that resonates and connects in this digital forever streaming age and Panda Bear is making incredible tunes that will stand up and be re -evaluated in future years.

I’m glad Panda Bear played at the Village Underground and you will be glad next time he plays – because you’ll be there too.

Here's a Part of the Math from France - I can't find any videos from London - but you get the idea. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Moogie Boogie in London - Euros is back in Town

It’s been a long time since the roogie boogie visited this part of town. I’ve been all caught up in suits and presentations and unable to get any thoughts down other than those that generate pay slips.  I haven’t been writing about music. And sometimes listening is not enough.

Where’s the fun gone in all of this?

Luckily Euros was back to revive the vibe. 

Euros Childs has been officially released from House Arrest and is now out and about to bring us light ( and some dark) in the winter evenings.  It’s been two years since he was last in this part of town. So it only seemed right that I should spend time in his company two times – and as luck will have it he decided to play two wonderfully storming utterly beautiful ‘shows’ in London.

So the roogie boogie is back. Well - a different type of roogie boogie

Double the time and double the pleasure.

And it’s always a pleasure when Euros is in town. His errant psychedelic left field skewed view of the world can’t fail to delight. And delight it does with the packed house in North and South London on a Sunday and a Monday evening this week.

Tonight Euros and Rosie are a two piece bent on giving us a rocking good time. It’s a different experience to the Roogie Boogie band but no less intense. The addition of a new Moog strengthens the bass and (rouche) rumble within the mix. 

Moogie Boogie.  

And at the Sebright it’s genuinely heart shaking –  the moog that is - although that might have been where I was sat – or where I’m at.

The stage is set up and is reminiscent of a low budget indie Rick Wakeman – lots of keyboards and wires (and a phone – for the drums  - well some of them) and a lonely two piece kit at the back. And whilst Euros isn’t playing a brand of noodling prog rock ecstasy there’s a nod to it – especially the wigged out psychedelia of Dust – heard on both nights in a mighty melee of sound and confusion  – all fingers and palms and repetitive bass. 

As ever Euros entertains – how can he not –  and there’s something magical when these songs come alive in packed houses – and both were packed houses.

The 'House Arrest' tour has only just begun – date after date in carefully considered venues across the land and Euros always seems to choose interesting venues  - both shows in London are in great places – I arrived early on Sunday to the Sebright Arms – a lovely venue – with fantastic sound- tucked away behind a main road in Cambridge Heath. 

Euros has a new long player to plug and sometimes you head into these journeys knowing what to expect – but this time I wasn’t sure – I had listened to the album once – in fits and starts – I had some idea of melody and lines but hadn’t yet immersed myself in Euros’s world. So there was that thrill of the new – the unexpected in the air.  

This was also Euros without the Roogie Boogie band  - it’s a new band I guess.

It’s the new thing. 

I also had my picture taken by a man who was convinced I was Vic Reeves. He wouldn’t let  it lie.

Rosie opened up for the main event ( at the Sebright) in the guise of 'Oh Peas' with soaringly tragic and introspective black anthems about loss and love. Not exactly cheery – but bleakly magnificent if you like to shed a tear on a Sunday. 

Then Euros arrived to the theme from Ski Sunday  (which is actually called “Pop Looks Bach’ pop pickers)  As you know by now a Euros concert is one underpinned by incredible songs and heartfelt laughs – he never misses a beat – the audience murmur to each other beforehand that seeing him always leaves you happy – that he makes you laugh ( in a good way) 

And that’s the Euros experience in a nutshell – I’ve been watching him in various venues for years now and always leave feeling some how happier. The set tonight is a mixture of the new and some old – but it wasn’t what I expected.  Songs are pulled from House Arrest, Refresh, Cousins, Bora da and Son of Euros – I think. I never got hold of the set list so I’ve been trying to piece it together in my head.

I wasn’t sure about 'Refresh' on first hearing – it was difficult and seemed to be facing inwards – explosive in the layers of samples and resamples. But if you keep on in there it is refreshing (see what I did there?) And 'Pick it Up' is exceptional in its airing on both nights – basically a rallying call to pick up the shit on the street, in the park, on the beach. It takes a mundane thing and transcends to the magically. It’s about shit – shit on your shoe, in your hair – it’s thoroughly far out.

On stage Rosie and Euros flit between synths ,drums, guitar ( well not so much the guitar)  and phone (for the drums  - there’s an App for that) to summon up melody fuelled monsters of delight. There’s that open honesty in the songs that is somehow infectious to the watching audience – creating connections from the darker end of the street. Songs about eating disorders – Euros needs a list tonight – hastily pushed to the side of the keyboard to name all the foods that 'Christy and Misty' get through  – not to mention the waiter who ends up on a spit  and with its tempo changes and refrain you get a sense of Sgt Pepper – especially Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite, or the obsessive 'Shower' taker – safe within the waters of his own home, the yearning ambition to pursue a 'Stuntman' career, the trials of being a bag – a 'yellow bag', an incredible version of 'Peanut Dispenser' - which surely must be it's first airing in years and years - and I haven't been able to shake it from my head for days - or just the bliss that it is to exist in a 'Happy Coma'. Which gets us all singing the chorus and empathising that not all things are bad. Well not until your life support is switched off.  

And of course colanders. Mine is rocking back and forth. How about yours?

The set tonight is wonderful – the sound is sharp, taut and visceral. And we get 'Look at My Boots '– at first a stuttering attempt at the end of the set that eventually becomes 'Jane (Not her real Name)' from Cousins – which is a bonus.

But then correctly in the encore.  A song of studied coolness about boots and fridges. 

Waiting for Euros to comeback on after lights down at the end of the set you can feel that energy he creates – the crowd are chanting – I’m clapping – they are clapping – we are all clapping and there really was a roar when Euros returned to the stage – he’s a well liked man – they are a well liked band in these parts.

But I’m out the door on Sunday - no time to wait in queues for CDs and signatures – but it doesn’t matter as I’m seeing Euros in Nunhead the next night – closer to home.  

Nunhead is a different affair – all knitting clubs and real ale. The venue is a community run public house and venue – it's a nice place – with gold lame curtains on a foot and half high stage – sort of ballroom blitzed.  Tonight there are two other turns before the main event – Garden Centre a fella and basically a neurosis belting out childlike squalls and screams about things I have little time to care about.  And then The Gentle Good who's worked with another Mynci  - all intricate picking and lilting songs of moths, birds, love and open water, the rightside of folk for me – not overly jumpers and roll ups.

Tonight the entrance is to the Monty Python Theme (actually called Liberty Bell – pop pickers). Now just so you know two nights of Euros really isn’t that excessive in my book – but I had been asked why I was going again considering I’d seen the band last night. I don’t think I need to explain it really – I’ve said it here before – being in a room with Euros makes you feel good. And I could see some familiar faces in the crowd – we’ve been standing in rooms with Euros for sometime.

We will continue to stand in rooms with Euros.

We like it that way. And I was only coming from down the road – I spoke to a Japanese woman – Fujiko (I think that’s her name) who I have seen at many of these nights – she had come from Tokyo. So let’s get it in perspective.

I like Euros Childs. Lots of us like Euros Childs. She really likes Euros Childs.

Tonight was just as brilliant. A set peppered with the same songs from the previous evening but mixed up a little. The sound was dense – and didn’t pack the clarity of the Sebright Arms ( ‘More drums’)  – if I’m being critical -  but there was still the beauty in the room.  ‘Turning Strange’ sounds magnificent on both airings over the weekend – in theory its 80s sounding chords shouldn’t work – but Euros weaves that simplicity and feeling through it. It has a Brian Wilson nod – like it could have been co produced by Dr Eugene Landy and ended up on Wilson’s first solo album.

It’s mesmerising. Full of harmony and warmth. 

It’s on the new album – you should buy it.

You probably have.

And then with a final flourish they finish with Godmalding (pronounced – God -Mal -Ding to help with the scansion – as it didn’t know it was going to end up in a Euros song) the night was over.  

I hope that Euros is not placed under House Arrest for another two years. 

He's been missed. 

But just so you know he will always have a welcome roof in this part of town.

You can buy the album from the man himself  from here  You can also get all the other albums too - and you know they are all worth a listen.

The House Arrest continues right up till mid December - see him before he returns home and gets locked back in again. 

Here are some videos from Nunhead The Ivy House - I can't find any from the Sebright Arms ( credit to the people who filmed them  - thanks) 

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Rise and Rise of a Northern Star

I have been meaning to get this down for some time – in fact it’s nearly four weeks ago – and many things have happened in between – but so it goes. I don't write for the NME - I write for me. Anyway - sometime back I ventured to Camden Dublin Castle to see The Stella Grundy Band.  You remember Stella don’t cha?

Stella is a legend. Simple as that really.

Previously and still part of the Manchester ‘scene’  - heady on the music scene. She was part of Intastella. That sudden burst of ‘new pop and soul’ that Manchester is wont to do when it suits. You know just be that little bit ahead. There’s always something going on those cobbled streets.

Now I was a fan of Intastella and The Twist. If you ever had the inclination to read half of my writing on here – you’d know about me and Tony O. You know how that story goes. But I don’t think I’ve written about Intastella – I probably first heard them through a recommendation from my brother Paul – it normally starts there – but it could also have been through those Goldsmiths’ student union days ( daze) all mixed up mates and swapped music. I think there was a lad in the year below – he was in Ariel – they were from Manchester – some of them went off to be The Chemical Brothers – it may have been through conversations – I can’t quite recall – but what I can recall is being struck by the psychedelic shuffles and squelches and this floating honey sound – this sort of lilting voice - all soft yet  - well I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But they looked great – Stella was a force to be reckoned with – I remember listening in to a BBC Radio One live show and back then technology could or most likely would let you down – Stella was having none of it – and let the BBC sound engineers know what she thought. It was great listening for the anarchist in me – not so great for the BBC.  Stella’s still got that steel.

She’s open and honest. Yet you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. I imagine it’s fairly difficult to make it in the ‘business’ as a woman. 

As a star.

As a Northern Star.

And now here she was again. Full on and ready to take on a crowd who didn’t quite know what to expect. A mixture of beards and bomber jackets – hipsters and those who might need hips replacing in a few years. We were a good crowd. A crowd willing to be entertained.  Stella was taking the stage before the ‘headline’ act – Unknown Pleasures – a Joy Division tribute band – we are clearly living in post-modern times maaaaaan.

Saying that Stella’s already re–represented the pop star via her stage production of The Rise and Fall of a Northern Star. It’s quite difficult to disentangle Stella/ Tracy at times as the room bursts with sound collages from Tracy – snatched quotes and lines  - who’s up there on the stage?  Nonetheless what this show does – and it is a show – a show a strength – of resolution – of good times – of  groovy times – is allow Stella to play to her strengths – her skills as a performer. 

She’s has this magnetism  - she begins to command the room – to make them pay attention.

We are treated to selections from Stella’s wonderful album ‘The Rise ad Fall of a Northern Star’, tales of excess and longing – of being in a band – existing. They are delivered with fury and humour – Stella’s vocals mixing wonderfully with electronic grooves and bubbles and bass. Absolutely solid gone. There’s a direct dub lineage in all of this performance – the sound is wonderful – aggressive and loose. Throbbing and delightful.  Guitars screech and delay whilst electronics boil then simmer in this (insta)stella mix – and everything is held down by expert drumming – blending triggered samples and machine beats to the real – this band are incredibly tight – uptight – out of sight.  I hadn’t quite expected it to be this way – there’s pop floating through it all – but you can see the dark side – the excess within – taking the whole thing up a notch.  This is not nostalgia but it looks back at the  ride Stella’s been on. It’s not always been an easy one – sometimes she’s had to carry a heavy heavy weight.  They don’t play Heavyweight tonight – Stella said that it’s because they are working on a new version – I hope it harks back to the early incarnations of the tune – it’s a belter – and I’m definitely coming back to see it played live when Stella and her clan return. Finally we have an old Intastella tune in the mix ( for their No.1 fan) – Skyscraper – a towering dnb floor shaking fest as Stella and the band bring the crowd ever higher – write to the top of the tower block.

They only play for 30 minutes

Stella and her mighty,mighty,mighty band could have played for longer.  The crowd were in the palm of her hand and there for the taking. But you know the adage – keep them wanting more. They do want more. And I am certain Stella will continue to deliver.  

In some ways the whole night was an odd one – here we had new exciting sounds taking hold – a new Manchester excursion – demonstrating its roots –and growing new branches – whilst the final ‘turn’ of the night was a Joy Division covers band – they could probably get a slot on the ferries – it was old Manchester – well at least a vision of it – and don’t get me wrong they were alright – and I’m sure there’s a fan base – but it’s not Ian. It isn’t any of them. That happened in 1979. And then it came to an end. I listened to Joy Division in my bedroom – I was 11. It paved the way for this. For connecting with new sounds. 

Stella is making new sounds not treading old ground. 

She’s not just a Northern Star you know.

She’s simply a star.  

You can buy her album here

And you can listen to this right now. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

How to destroy rock n roll - an evening with The Telescopes

They make fucking noise.

The Telescopes make beautiful fucking noise.

It's been a while since I was actually in New Cross. I pass through it - but don't stop there so much (can't stop, won't stop) - not since those heady university Goldsmiths' daze. Which is pretty much where The Telescopes came in. Okay - I first found my love for their sonic shakes whilst living out life with a bowlhead and bag on the mean streets of Scunthorpe - a northern town to bring you right down.  The Cheree realeased Kick The Wall - summing up all that teenage frustration in guitars and screams.  On hearing Stephen and Co's cacophony I decided that I liked it and wanted to taste a little more - and I pursued it with abandon in my early university time.

So I set about going to a number of gigs of theirs - early days for them and late nights for me. It was clear then - as it was with tonight's concert - that The Telescopes take no prisoners. They just play hard motherfucking rock n squall - and that my friends is exactly as it should be. Early Telescopes had that Iggy/ Stooges/ Spaceman thing going - no down tempo numbers full on sonics and screams.

I sent letters - mainly to Jo - and Stephen as well - interviewed them for a fanzine - jumped myself silly at gigs - supported them in Hull - watched them play with The Mary Chain and then slowly I stopped listening for a while. It was those repetitive beats - pulling me somewhere else.

But now here I was again waiting for a set of something - and to be honest I wasn't expecting it to be that hard - that brutal - but I felt challenged and that's good - it makes you think - it makes you question music. And as that's my bag - tonight's Telescopes - so different to years gone past - but so bloody-minded and similar in repose and attitude - did just that. They destroyed rock n roll for all around and simply put it back together in layers of reverb and hate.

The day was billed as a Psych All Dayer  - but I was making an evening of it. I tend to end up at these things on my own - my 45 year old set don't go in for this type of abuse - so I arrived for a set from Black Seas - a five piece Jaguar guitars and tweed sort of thing - they had noise and jangle - a touch of early valentines and a singer prowling and sending deep reverberations around - I guess it was a Nick Cave type thing - but with none of the presence and he was wearing a Nike t-shirt - so I'm not having that. You've got to put some effort in.

This was followed by a transcendental trumpet and electronica pyschedelic workout by two blokes under the name Hirvikolari - they started with dub echoes and bleeps and pretty much kept it that way as a colossal twenty minute beast was unleashed with modular pulses and repetition. I liked it - I liked their style.

Next - Melt Dunes - young psych upstarts - with loud guitars and hair - I quite like d them to be honest - a bit Sabbath - a bit of this and that - but their was conviction and a sense of  show - some youth down the front showing that he dug it - I liked that - this band will have fans - they will show their appreciation. They finished with a cover -  and I can't remember it's name - but it was fantastic - all
repetitive and shouting - they will certainly make some memorable records.

And then to The Telescopes - this brooding thing - slowly lumbering to the stage from the caves - finally alive and hungry. Stephen has been ploughing this field for some time now - incarnations of The Telescopes - forever looking further and beyond the now - exploring new space with a set of like minded 'cavemen'.  This current line up found Dave Gryphon on three stringed bass - 'Why would I need a G?', Stuart Gardham ( I think - but I might be wrong) stretching the sonics through six strings and John or Jon hitting the skins - warrior like - in control and controlling. Stephen spends most of the night crouched down - kneeling on the stage - listening and adding - sending his vocals spinning out and out into space ringing around and around - merging and melding into one noise - one beautiful noise.

If truth be told - I didn't recognise a song - there was a fella and his wife  - had waited all day for this - he was wearing a Chapterhouse t-shirt - he didn't stick around - they weren't playing the hits. Not that that would be a bad thing - The Telescopes have an army of tunes - they just decided that this wasn't the place to play them - or if it was - present them in such a manner that meant they became something else. Feedback jazz - was my bag that night.

It's hard to describe the sheer force of this group - it is not noodling or sonic fuckery for the fun of it - it seems to me that they actually want to push the limits of sound. I was on such a buzz on it finishing - it felt like I'd been fought with - punched and dazed - half the crowd had made it through the door - pushed themselves away. It was confrontational pop music. I can only imagine it must have been like witnessing Suicide or Throbbing Gristle for the first time.  It was not for the faint hearted. It wanted to fucking eat us all up - but there was subtlety and simmering within - at one point with all members fallen to the floor pushing their instruments against speakers and stage - vibrating - shaking - as Stephen howled down the microphone there came about a point of sudden bliss coupled with an expectation that we had hit new heights - that rock n roll was dead and somehow it needed to be saved - it needed raizing from the dead. And all that we had learned came crashing down in that sound - it was offerring a new perspective on these South London streets.

The Telescopes were asking us to think - in this nostalgia fuelled era (of which I'm completely guilty - but I mean it maaaaaan - I truly do ) they didn't represent the past - and sell t shirts and CDs of glory days - they simply put that aside - they continued to breathe new breaths - new life and grew into this. I turned 45 this year - why should Stephen be stuck being 19 - we've all moved on. I'm glad I took th etrip back to past memories. I left New Cross just as the Venue crowd were lining up to get in. Times have changed - I first met Duglas from BMX bandits there - I got the feeling that the BMX Bandits would not be on the Venue's playlist tonight.

So why stick with the past?

I feel Stephen an Co are still trying to explore what can be done - they are still kicking against the wall. Even if it means that they don't necessarily play 'Kick the Wall'. Do you get me?

You should try it though actually having a night with The Telescopes. It's modern. It's vital. It's music pushed to its limits.

It's a fun night out.

One from the new long player