Sic Transit Gloria Hamsters

Sunday

Not a day for normally venturing out into the world of rock and roll but it’s Ian Keith Moss’s 60th birthday party and he has put a musical spectacular on in Ashton under Lyne  by way of celebration so we can’t really miss this one can we?

I meet SD in the Eccles Cross for a “loosener” and then we hop on the tram. Fortunately the Metrolink system takes us more or less door to door. It’s a 55 minute journey so it gives me and Mr Doyle time to catch up on things and do some forward planning for future gigs.  There’s also a chance to look out at the surrounding areas. I recommend people take the Ashton line as it’s a good psycho- political-geographical journey which emphasises the embourgeiosement of  Manchester city centre and juxtaposes it with the clear lack of investment in the doughnut around the heart of the metropolis. Once you have sailed past the chrome and glass of the core and the  glittering spires of the “emptyhad” complex you begin to see the stark reality of life in the suburban towns. It’s like stepping back 40 years to boarded up shops, tired streets and grim vistas. The only glimpse that we are in 2017 is the shiny metrolink stops/transport interchanges and the occasional Aldi (substitute cheap supermarket chain of your choice).

The tram stop is about 10 minutes away from the venue and we scout out potential eating areas on the way. The venue is The Witchwood, a concert room next to a pub, that has seen many a band over the years but at the moment, looking at the posters inside, seems to cater for any number of tribute bands, a microcosm for the state of the music scene perhaps?

There is an air of mild panic in the air when we arrive. Bands have not turned up for soundchecks and it eventually turns out that tAngerine cAt have broken down in Wales so will not be able to make the gig. I settle on small bottles of Budweiser for the afternoon as it’s going to be a long gig with many bands.

Matters commence with a rare appearance of 50% of the Prick Jaggers with Patriq accompanied on this occasion by the birthday boy in an exemplary performance of the legendary “Lou Reeds Supper Club”.

PJs
The nearly Prick Jaggers -Picture by Victoria Egan

Quick phone calls have facilitated a substitute for the absent tAngerine cAt and Dylan Cosmic Blue arrives to provide a four song set of some covers and a couple of his own tunes. He gives an assured performance and warrants further investigation at some future point.

The end of the Hamsters as a live entity is built around four songs – the band is represented by Mr Moss, Mr Williams, and Mr Rowlinson with the redoutable Mr Peak filling in on drums.  They have had one rehearsal but they still manage to perform a brand new song (well a reworking of John Joanne) and conclude with the appropriate “Stupid Songs”. I feel a slight tinge of sadness that it is all over and head to the bar for some more Dr Budweisers patent laughing medicine. And so passes the glory that was the Hamsters! We will never see their like again.

Hamsters last ever
Mr Doyle photobombs the Hamsters – Photo by Victoria Egan

The ex-Fall band members spotting game is commenced and we reach a reasonable score of three with Ms Baines, Ms Adamson and Mr Archer in the house. Perhaps more notable is that three of the four horsemen of the radio apocalypse are in the building with the fourth member due shortly.  Poppycock cannot play for reasons far to complicated to go into so their slot is taken by poetry readings from Una Baines and Louise Woodcont. Next up we have the rather marvellous Factory Acts who coincidentally played a similar gig at the Bank Top Tavern on Ian’s Birthday a few years back. They have come on in leaps and bounds since then of course. Of particular importance is Susan’s growing stage confidence with her hand gestures and delivery adding something new and exciting to the mix. The stunning “AWG” is delivered with some venom and the closing “Leave The World To Us” has chart hit written all over it, if only the music industry had any common sense. One of the best, if not the best, Salford based band at the moment.

Factory Acts
Factory Acts – Photo by Victoria Egan

Back out to the beer garden for more “Bud” and a growing sense that I need to have something to eat before the blood alcohol levels get too excessive. So it’s an executive decision to miss part of the Four Candles set while I grab a rather delicious mushroom pizza from a local takeaway. I catch the opening “Horse”, I miss “Lenny Bruce”  and more, while I’m getting the pizza, but i’m back for the exceptional “I Hate Basket Weaving”.  I’ve seen them before, and I will definitely see them again, so it’s not a great wrench having missed a portion of the show. They are Ian’s best band to date and they get better and better. One punter opines “I don’t normally like prog rock but I like this….” which makes me chuckle , they certainly transcend genres and deliver something that the scene in Greater Mancunia needs which is something new and different.

4cs
Four Candles – Photo by Victoria Egan

More beer – fortunately now being absorbed by the pizza, and I settle myself at the back of the room near the sound desk as my tired old legs are feeling their age. I haven’t seen Ill for some time and certainly not since they have brought Tamsin Middleton into their ranks. The perfect band to end the day, a few keyboard problems slightly disturb the flow, but a stellar performance was delivered with stunning rhythms from Whitney and Fiona being the stand out part of the Ill experience. Tamsin’s guitar adds a new edge to the sound as the power through an excellent set with singles “Space Dick” and “Kremlin” whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Another band that delivers a unique sound, Manchester should be rightly proud of what it has to offer at the moment in terms of musical diversity.

Tamsin and Whitney
Tamsin and Whitney of Ill – Photo by Matt Davies

And so it’s all over by 8pm. A wonderful days music and a more than perfect way to celebrate the milestone birthday of one of the key, but unsung, figures in the musical firmament of this metropolis.

Thanks to the fourth horseman for the lift home.

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Fascinating Things : Issue 32

Short, sharp and sweet this time around with a handful of excellent new things appearing at the end of the week. Most of these will be featured in podcasts over the next few weeks.

Next Friday sees the release of the debut album from Cambridge alternative rock band Bouquet of Dead Crows , don’t be put off by the name, they are not a doom/death etc metal outfit but instead a very melodic band, with a strong dynamic sound. Available as digital and CD, it can be pre-ordered now.

‘Chip Off The Heart’ is Rah Rah’s second single off their upcoming album ‘Vessels’. Superior pop stuff,

UK Tour dates are:

08.12. London – The Islington
09.12. Liverpool – Studio 2
10.12. Preston – The Ferret

Manchester’s finest agit-pop foursome Ill are back with wacky video and fine single. I was especially struck by the excellent “Slithering Lizards”

A staple in Los Angeles avant-garde culture for years, Anenon is the newest addition to the Friends of Friends roster.  Anenon’s ‘Camembert’ EP is out now and will be followed by a full-length in 2016. ‘Camembert’ sees a collision of free jazz, ambient, hip hop and techno, all tied together with a deft touch and an air of whimsy.

Dave Graney has a second volume of demos from the 1980s and 1990s out called “Once I Loved The Oceans Roar”.  With 17 tracks and over 70 minutes of music this is a real bargain. It’s great to hear the early version of  both solo Graney and Coral Snakes tunes. Especially good is an early version of the fascinating “Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned”. Highly recommended.

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One door closes…..another one opens

Another particularly busy week, either I am a victim of my own success, or the summer is drawing to a close and people are getting busy. This selection, described below, is a demonstration, I think, that there is still interesting and varied music out there should you be minded to track it down – if I was to believe the nonsense a national newspaper sends me each week about what is hip and happening I think I would become quickly disillusioned. The variety and continuity of change here also perhaps reflecting my own mood and the desire to move on and away from one thing and transfer my attention to another. Recent decisions in respect of responsibilities have lifted a great weight allowing more time to absorb and enjoy this excellent music. Onwards!

First up is the new one from Ides of Gemini which is called “Old World New Wave”. It is released on Neurot on 15th September.  The three band members—Sera Timms (vocals/bass), Kelly Johnston-Gibson (drums/backing vocals), and Jason Bennett (guitar/backing vocals) have managed to create something which hangs between Siouxsie Sioux inspired goth, and, metal.  The follow-up to the band’s critically-adored “Constantinople” debut, was recorded at Valley Recording in Burbank, California, engineered and mixed by Chris Rakestraw (Danzig), mastered by Grammy award winning producer Matt Hyde (Slayer) and boasts the striking hand-drawn cover art of Johnston-Gibson. Here’s a preview track called Fememorde, i’d embed it to save you clicking but in this instance that facility appears to have been denied me. It’s not grabbing me the way that “Constantinople” did but it’s still a good listen.

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A new EP from Manchester band Ill is about and around called “The Housewives’ Trilogy”.  Originally a special session recorded for Jeff Grainger’s Dandelion Radio show, the release comprises three (obviously!) previously unreleased tracks and features the usual genre bending and obscene rhetoric that fans of ILL have come to expect. Hysteria, Diazepam and Secret Life noisily combat the myth of marital bliss and gender role satisfaction. Great for doing the ironing to allegedly. The groups development is palpable on this release, I am not sure about ironing more perhaps a desire to do a few groovy moves to some of this. Get it!

Old Man Gloom, the self-confessed experimental hardcore ‘supergroup who don’t suck’, are back with their sixth full-length, “The Ape of God”, due for a release on Profound Lore on November 17th. Their first record since the esteemed 2012 release, “No”, the experimental quartet have since cracked on with their quest to dismantle, disrobe and derail heavy progressive music as we know it. Apparently “The eight tracks on The Ape of God are laden thick with amorphous tone, seething noise and Mobius Strip riffs, deftly balancing colossal heaviness with ambient pedigree”. Formed in the late ‘90s in  Santa Fe, New Mexico by Aaron Turner (Isis, Mamiffer) and drummer Santos Montano, Old Man Gloom was conceived as sonic experiment of sorts. Their “Meditations In B” debut was just a glimpse into the noisier and more experimental side within Turner’s musical repertoire, enabling him to explore his musical range a bit beyond what he was doing with Isis at the time (which was a time even before Isis really took off). Shortly after Nate Newton of Converge and Caleb Scofield of Cave In would join the band (with Luke Scarola on electronics), and Kurt Ballou of Converge would end up serving as the band’s longtime spomd engineer. The results of this union culminated in the “Seminar I” and “Seminar II” releases and the 2004 follow-up album “Christmas”, which helped in defining the band as one of the most influential in the genre of post-hardcore, alongside the band members’ main musical outlets who were obviously already heavyweights in the genre respectively. An extended period of inactivity for eight or so years would then commence with the band members focusing on their main bands at the time. That is until Turner (who by now had put Isis to rest), Montano, Newton, and Scofield secretly conspired Old Man Gloom’s resurrection unbeknownst to pretty much everyone, where in 2012, almost unannounced, they released their No album to an unsuspecting audience. The band would go on to do a series of sold out live shows and then immediately began writing and creating their massive follow-up. Old Man Gloom’s “reunion” wasn’t just a one-off thing, and here’s a taster to demonstrate why!

Insanely fast and somewhat barking mad the new album from Rings of Saturn  “Lugal Ki En” is released  October 17th in Europe via Unique Leader Records. It’s a cataclysmic, relentless nearly forty-five-minute display of  text-book death metal/deathcore with some serious fast beats and guitar work. A conceptual release based on a story in which the Aliens wage war on the angels and demons of the universe after having conquered humanity, it was produced by Brette Ciamarra at Studio 344 (Kamikabe, Those Who Fear, Trophies) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The custom cover artwork was commissioned to Mark Cooper of Mind Rape Art, who also crafted the art for the band’s seminal “Dingir” album.  Comments guitarist, Lucas Mann of the album concept, “The concept of the album in a nutshell is that long after the Aliens conquer humanity, they evolve to a point where they transcend space, time and reality to take their conquest into the realm of the gods where they wage war on angels and demons. The album title Lugal Ki En translates from ancient Sumerian cuneiform to mean ‘King Of The Earthlings, Lord Of The Cosmic World.’ The Sumerian cuneiform is visible behind the English pronunciation of the album title.”  I have no doubt the unique vocal stylings and hyper-fast guitar sounds will alienate some – it’s a tad over the top in places – but well worth a listen if you are a fan of this genre.

 

Rings of Saturn - photo by Alex Reinhard
Rings of Saturn – photo by Alex Reinhard

Nazoranai comprises three gentleman, three friends and three fans of each others creative output. ‘the most painful time happens only once has it arrived already..?’ is their second release , the band members are  Haino Keiji, Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O’Malley. Recorded by Chris Fullard at CCSO, Birmingham 9th July 2013 ‘the most painful time…’ expands the trio’s devastating explorations of improvised rock based shapes.  Keiji Haino (of Fushitsusha) is a big part of the history of the experimental music of Japan with work spanning free improvisation, rock, noise, singer-songwriter, psychedelia, minimalism and drone. Working mostly with guitar and vocals his performances are intensely cathartic sonic events. Stephen O’Malley is the guitarist and founder of numerous seminal groups including Sunn O))), Khanate and Burning Witch. Oren Ambarchi is a multi-instrumentalist performer working outside conventional approaches to instruments and structure. He has collaborated with the likes of Jim O’Rourke, Sunn O))), Charlemagne Palestine, John Tilbury. Here’s a preview:

Grouper‘s new album “Ruins” is set to be released on October 31st via Kranky, and in anticipation of its release a new track entited “Call Across Rooms” has surfaced. In a brief interview with Vogue magazine Liz Harris explains the meaning behind this heady, gentle and beautifully subtle song…”Call Across Rooms was being about equal parts love and loss. The song is on one level very plain and literal, about a letter I wrote for someone I loved and could not get along with…One a more subconscious, poetic level, it is a letter to myself, as aspiration to love better.”  About the album, Harris says…”Ruins was made in Aljezur, Portugal in 2011 on a residency set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois. I recorded everything there except the last song, which I did at mother’s house in 2004. Iʼm still surprised by what I wound up with. It was the first time Iʼd sat still for a few years; processed a lot of political anger and emotional garbage. Recorded pretty simply, with a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano. When I wasnʼt recording songs I was hiking several miles to the beach. The path wound through the ruins of several old estates and a small village. The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.”  

The culmination of four years writing and editing, Anjou marks the first collaboration between Labradford’s Robert Donne and Mark Nelson since the release of that group’s “fixed:context” LP. Combining modular synthesis, Max/MSP programming and live instrumentation, Anjou deftly weaves noise with gentle ambience and melody with texture. Guitar, bass and Steven Hess’ (Locrian, Fennesz, Pan American) live percussion give the eight pieces an immediacy and create a framework for the more abstract sounds of digital and analog synth programming. The product of twenty plus years of friendship, Anjou is refined and challenging. An extension of the Labradford sound-world but no mere victory lap, Anjou represents Donne and Nelson stepping out and forward, their eyes firmly focusing on the future. A delightful set of ambient/mood pieces which mixes textures, tones and glitches and which is both impressive and emotionally fulfilling. Highly recommended.

Anjou artwork 300dpi

 

On September 15th Southern Lord will release all the recorded  material from late 1980s Seattle hardcore band, Brotherhood, collecting the influential act’s demos and 7″ releases in one remastered, cohesive anthology entitled “Till Death”.

Brotherhood was formed during the West Coast Hardcore surge in the same days of Insted, Bl’ast, Chain Of Strength and Uniform Choice, the members all bred in the Northwest on The Accused, Poison Idea, The Melvins, and with East Coast threads born of SSD, DYS, Corrosion Of Conformity and Straight Ahead all  woven into their sound. A straightedge hardcore band that confronted racism, sexism and intolerance, both in their lyrical delivery and on stage , Brotherhood was a rare band of that scene as they were accepted in all of the subgenres of punk rock and hardcore. The band was founded in Seattle by Greg Anderson in 1987, who recruited former False Liberty drummer Victor Hart, friend Ken Hagel on bass and East Coast transplant and Open Your Eyes fanzine editor, John White on vocals. After years as a singer in False Liberty and Inner Strength, Greg picked up the guitar and started writing songs built upon the aforementioned influences. Following local shows and the opportunity to open for such legends as Youth Of Today, Angry Samoans and Fugazi, Brotherhood began to gain recognition on a much wider scale in the hardcore community. This initial lineup was not to last, as in 1988, Ron Guardipee Of Hateful Youth took over on vocals and Nate Mendel of Diddly Squat joined on bass. Having played many times together in their previous bands things quickly came together for this new and much more solid Brotherhood lineup and in November of that year the Music Bank recording session was conducted. Debuting this new lineup on the Pushead curated Thrasher Magazine’s Skate Rock Vol. 7 compilation Brotherhood soon also released their Of Friends demo, their No Tolerance For Ignorance 7″ on Skate Edge Records and Words Run… As Thick As Blood! 7″ on CR Records, all released in 1988 and 89. Playing throughout the Northwest as well as a North American tour with (quite possibly the bands biggest influence) Seattle’s The Accused, by the end of 1989 Brotherhood came to an end. Their relatively short-lived run went on to inspire many of the seminal bands that have followed in Hardcore and Straight Edge such as Undertow, Unbroken, Champion, No Tolerance and many more. Members of Brotherhood have since forged numerous other musical endeavours including, but by no means limited to, Christ On A Crutch, Sunny Day Real Estate, Foo Fighters, Resolution, Digh Down, Burning Witch, Engine Kid, Sunn O)) and Goatsnake. Southern Lord will release Till Death in deluxe LP and digital download packages.

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Quick Penelope, into the dimorphic inhibitor……

Saturday March 23rd 2013, and as second ice age creeps inexorably upon us, the faded decadence of Oldham Street in Manchester Town feels a little more faded and decadent than it usually does. We all need cheering up think I….texts are swapped with J Coupe and arrangements are made to meet SD for evening of  fun.

And so he we are again at Gullivers with a tasty selection of music to listen to – all put together by Aiden Cross of The Bacillus in order to raise money for Christies and in tribute to his late mother.

And for those of you who into spotting these sorts of things there were four ex-Fall members, two Rapid Pigs, two Factory Stars/Blue Orchids, two Monkeys in Love, a James, a Gnod, an AAAK and various other luminaries from the rock and roll scene around these parts, in the audience or on the stage.

First up is Stephen Sarsen who is described as “a prolific singer-songwriter, frontman with Frank Is Dead, and ex-bassist with The Bacillus”, who performed a solo acoustic set to begin the evening. Stephen writes very good songs and his performance is effortless and very endearing. Note made to self to check out his work further.

Next the Black Light Mutants in complete contrast – which sets the tone for the evening of variety – in between Mr Coupe and myself wander over to the Castle for a pint of Robinson’s but the place is a tad full so back over to Gullivers again where there is at least a little oxygen to spare. A chat with the sound man reveals he has no CD player so the planned entrance music for Kill Pretty is sadly abandoned. Anyway Black Light Mutants are impressive and deliver their brand of anarcho punk with some vigour and venom. The use of synthesis in this context is impressive and the slower numbers are full of great imagery – both aural and visual.

Then we have Ill – and a bit of a revelation for me – based on their material I had heard to date I was expecting something a little different. What we did get was a mesmerising and hypnotic 40 minutes of music floating somewhere between Can, Faust and the New York down town scene of the early 80s. Building around the impressive rhythm section of Fiona Ledgard and Whitney Bluzma the band create a marvellous, almost shamanic, sound which draws the audience in and batters them into submission. Problems with the keyboard sound, and lack of definition on the vocals does create a degree of disappointment but you would be advised to catch them live at some point as I think they are something special.

And then the return, after a three month break, of Kill Pretty. And it is as if they had not been away. For a man who had major heart surgery a few weeks ago Ian Moss is looking pretty damn good and the Duttons and MJ Leigh are in astounding form playing 13 moons, Rob A Bank, Stress, Kill Pretty (the song), Breakdown Man, Emperors New Clothes, Love Twists and a mammoth reading of Dark Heart. Audience participation is inevitable and expected and the band build to an exceptional climax. The only down side is that Moet’s vocals are mostly inaudible for about half of the set but the band battle on regardless. Ian looks energised and pleased delivering an outstanding performance given his recent health issues. For a band that has not had chance to rehearse I have to say this was one of their better performances.

And to conclude the new three piece The Bacillus  who perform a sterling set with a handful of new material and some of the excellent songs from the first album. For some reason the sound of the band is fuller than when it had more members – Aiden should be rightly pleased with this new line up as they delivered an excellent set.

All in all a very good evening , slightly affected by a lack of oomph in the PA which lead to dominance in the bass and drum area and a general muddiness.

Congratulations to Aiden for pulling it all together.

Bacillus Gig