Archive for May, 2011

The Ocean @ Stereo, Glasgow, Scotland – 19/05/2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , , on May 21, 2011 by Noise Road

The sh!ttier the venue’s interior, the better the atmosphere.

The Underworld in London is one of my favourite venues.  It has dodgy stairs down to the lop-sided floor.  On the floor, a structural pillar stands in front of centre stage.

Stereo, in Glasgow, not only has three structural pillars breaking up the crowd, but also a column on stage separating the singer from the stage-right guitar.

There must be some feng shui guff going on here.  Tomorrow, I’m installing pillars into my flat.

A job once sent me to a shipyard in Maine, on the north-east coast of America.  It rained the entire week I was there, in the middle of summer.  Somewhere near the end of the week, I stopped running between the sheds in the shipyard.  You can only get as wet as saturation point – so why run?  I walked up to one of the local engineers, my glasses fogged, my shirt stuck to my less than impressive physique.  The engineer smiled, and slowly spoke in a Boston-like accent “I hear summer’s coming.  This year we’re hoping that it falls on a weekend.”

Today is the third successive day of rain.  Welcome to summer in Glasgow.  In contrast, the basement venue at Stereo steamed like a sauna, with the thermostat spiralling out of control as the evening progressed.  A hot, crowded room and £2 beers is a dangerous combination on a school night.

I sipped my slightly-too-warm carlsberg next to three members of the Ocean.  They band members seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company – which is good to see in such a hard touring band.  They spend nearly every moment of every day together in a cramped van – but still they chose to watch another band together.

Later, the band members chilled with each other, stealing the wifi, upstairs in the restaurant/bar.  Actually the restaurant/bar seems quite cool – we should get a feed there when you come visit me in Glasgow.  When are you coming to visit me?  Summer’s here.

The Ocean stood front and centre for Maybeshewill’s set.  Maybeshewill is a terrible name.  Terrible.  On that alone, I wrote them off as emo.  However they are not emo, and they are not terrible.  Maybeshewill play instrumental post-rock, sprinkled with interesting spoken-word samples.  My favourite sample was from the movie, Network. “I’m mad as hell!”.  If you haven’t seen Network, check out the youtube link.

While the Ocean played with their laptops upstairs, I stayed in the basement for the Earthtone 9 set.  They are not quite my bag.  I don’t want to use the “n” word (nu-metal)… but quiet sections with soaring vocals were followed by crunching, heavy parts.  Still, the set was enjoyable enough.  The crowd lapped it up – including one gentlemen who’s stage diving (or stage-gently-laying-into-the-crowd-ing) was hilarious.

I wasn’t here for Earthtone 9 and I wasn’t here for Maybeshewill.  I am here for the Ocean.

The Ocean is a different experience every time.  In Berlin, Noise Road witnessed an orchestra-like performance, with a string section and piano.  (Read here).  In Leeds, a dirty rock band assaulted the crowd in the manner of their tour buddies, the Dillinger Escape Plan (Read here).

Tonight the Ocean are a polished metal band (but not a Polish metal band like Behemoth).  This is partly due to the crowd.  Whilst well attended, the crowd was not packed at the front.  The band could not safely pull off the hijinks that kept the Leeds’ crowd on alert.  Tonight vocalist, Rossetti, once leapt into the crowd and nearly landed on his head.   This dictated a more traditional metal enthusiasm on the stage, rather than a hardcore punk physical attack on the crowd.  But it also suited the song selection – a far more riff driven set.

The vocals were far too low in the mix for the first couple of tracks.  This is odd seeing how much time they spent on the mics in the sound check.  Otherwise, the sound was great for a couple of stacks of speakers on the floor of a Glaswegian basement.

The set started exclusively with rock-y material from the latest album, Anthropocentric.  As the set progressed, the older material resurfaced, and so did the heaviness.

Main man, guitarist Staps, is the only remaining member from the 2007  Precambrian album recording.  Staps’ current bandmates recorded the last two albums.  In Berlin, Leeds and now Glasgow, the band delivered this recent material with enthusiasm and conviction.  Tonight, far more than the previous shows, the band made the older material their own.

Tonight those 4 Swiss lads, alongside their German leader, breathed fresh fury into Orisorian.

For the Great!…  Blue Cold!…  Now Reigns!!!

I don’t know exactly what the above chorus means – but to me it seethes of angry depression. The b@st@rds that control your world r@pe your soul and you are powerless to change it.  What do you do?  Try bellowing this tremendously cathartic phrase, “For the Great!..  Blue Cold!..  Now Reigns!!!”  I’m looking forward to using it at my next pay review.

Rossetti shoved the mic into the crowd.  All the punters had their opportunity to vent about the blue cold that reigns their lives.

The Origin of the Species and The Origin of God closed the Ocean’s set. The two tracks use the same repeated riff, or theme.  The build of the theme, along with the anger of the chorus is anthemic.

The Ocean’s choice of subject matter, the theory of evolution, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky, is not a common choice for rock anthems.  The subject matter should be pretty dry stuff, especially for a band known for orchestration, odd time signatures and musical diversions.  However the Ocean do well to harness and constrain their musical wanderings.  The frustration at creationism works well here.  The crowd can yell along to:

“Who made your architect?!!!  Who made your architect?!!”

The polished delivery of these anthems Orisorian and the Origin closers, leaves Noise Road to wonder why the Ocean are still supporting bands around the world.  This ridiculously long apprenticeship needs to end.

I look forward to the headline tour with multiple Ocean sets.  See you there, amongst the pillars.


Roadburn 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands – Day Three: 16 April

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , on May 8, 2011 by Noise Road

This is the third part of Noise Road’s report on Roadburn 2011.  Read Part One here and Part Two here.

At the Roadburn campsite, I shuffled along the makeshift breakfast counter.  A Dutchman, circa 50 years of age, manned the pay station.  Always up for a chat, the Dutchman asked the dude in front of me where he was from.

“Essex”

The Dutchman replied that he once had a girlfriend from Essex.  “All of my friends were very jealous that I had a girl from Essex.  Do you know why?”

“No”

“Girls from Essex go every way”

Well played, Netherlands.  Well played.

Slow Southern Steel

http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi4229405977/

Day 3 began, in proper, across the road from main venue, in the basement bar.  Here, the organisers had been showing past Roadburn performances and documentaries on psychedelic and extreme music.  On Day 3, CT from stoner act, Rwake, brought a preview of his documentary, Slow Southern Steel.

Slow Southern Steel focuses on why southern underground music is different.  The investigation is told through the voices of the underground (members of Eyehategod, Down, Soilent Green, Buzzoven etc) and popular acts, such as Lamb of God.  The doco focuses on the birth of a scene in New Orleans youth halls, and a new scene in Athens, Georgia.

Down guitarist, Pepper Keenan, describes his teen years, living under the dining table of his mum’s one-bedroom apartment.  He practiced guitar by torchlight.  With no walls, he placed his guitar-hero posters on the underside of the dining table.

One of the more interesting discussions of the doco focuses on the confederate flag.  Is it pride in one’s roots, a symbol of rebellion, insensitive or just plain racist?

I kept returning to the basement bar between sets.  It is a doco to keep your eyes out for…  but for now, I can hear the long-horn call of the Master Musicians of Bukkake.

Master Musicians of Bukkake

Noise Road caught Master Musicians twice last year (read the Roadburn 2010 review here and the Friction Fest 2010 review here).  Like Circle and Sunn 0))) shows, the Master Musicians’ set is a performance.

Tonight, the theme of the performance is Japan – in both look and in sound.  Well it’s Japan via the Middle-East and California.  The noise rock and just plain noise are still in the set.  So too are the middle-eastern riffs.  However, there is the odd Japanese sound added into the mix.

Also added to the mix is the world’s longest longhorn.  It was so long that it couldn’t support it’s own weight as it entered the crowd.

The frontman, with painted face and white robes, looked like Kyoto’s least attractive geisha.  The rest of the band, in their black robes and head dress, appeared to have dressed for Japan but somehow arrived in the dunes of the Sahara.

Compared to the previous shows, the vocals seemed more cohesive.  They had more melody rather than only rasping over the sounds of the band.

In the parlance of my homeland, Mr Bungle fans “get a half mongrel” every time former Bungle members, Mike Patton and Trey Spruance, momentarily inhabit the same country.  Bungle may reform sometime this century, but why wait?  The Master Musicians of Bukkake are already here.

Rwake

Noise Road only caught half of Rwake’s set.  They definitely stood above the other stoner acts for the festival, with an interesting mix of proggy passages and duelling, hardcore vocals.  The proggy passages brought to mind Baroness or mid-era Mastodon…  but we had to leave early.

I’ve never seen Ludicra.  Their latest album, the Tenant, was a favourite of last year.  I’m not risking getting squeezed out of their set in the tiny Bat Cave venue.

Ludicra

Ludicra’s 2010 album, the Tenant, is awesome.  Go buy it.

Ludicra have carved their own sound out of thrash, with black metal feel and proggy passages.  But none of that matters.  It is a cohesive sound of their own.  That sound is used to fully exude a feeling of isolation on the Tenant.

The Roadburn performance didn’t focus solely on the Tenant.  As part of their first tour to Europe, they also showcased the back catalogue.

The contrast of their set to, say Master Musicians, is black and white.  There was no nonsense to Ludicra’s approach.  Moments before the set, the chief vocalist warmed her voice with the same anguished face that she sang with during the set.  The bass player hopped off the stage, and walked through the crowd to buy a beer.

The cohesiveness of their sound was the real feature.  Harsh and melodic vocals, and thrash and prog dynamics never jarred.  Every part is to serve the song.  Also, the use of two female vocalist in such an extreme band brings a unique sound.

Now, go buy the Tenant!

If you visited, the merch room after Ludicra’s set, you would have found the very softly spoken frontwoman.  Half an hour ago, she was shrieking at you and now she gently presents your t-shirt options.  Ludicra’s drummer, Aesop Dekker, also lurked in the area.  I wanted to chat with him about his excellent blog (http://cosmichearse.blogspot.com/).  That dude has a better record collection than you ever will.

Aesop’s time was monopolised by a dude and their discussion on whether Austin was or was not the liberal beacon in Texas.  So Dekker was spared my standard opener of “Hey, I’m from Australia…”.  Last December, Scott Kelly fell for that seemingly innocuous opener, and soon found himself escorted to the local Southampton pizza shop.

Speaking of Scott Kelly, his band Shrinebuilder is due to hit the stage.

Shrinebuilder

Noise Road caught Shrinebuilder in London in December (read review here).  On touring their EP, Shrinebuilder had honed their combined powers into a band, rather than a series of parts.  Shrinebuilder are even more seamless now.  Each member’s main band is their identity – but it’s almost a shame that Shrinebuilder will never be more than a side project.  Tonight’s performance showed so much potential.  Hopefully they’ll be a long lasting side project.

Dale continues to hit his lopsided, cymbal-heavy kit harder than anyone. Scott Kelly launches at the mic, and lava leads flow from Wino’s fingers.  The noticeable change was Al’s lower profile.  His bass was definitely lower in the mix.  Does the lower bass help the gelling of the band?  I don’t know, man.  I love Al’s bass sound.  I hope it’s not a permanent sacrifice.

Swans

By the time Swans hit the stage, 3 days had taken its toll.  I can’t say that I was able to give the lads the energy I would have wished.

The energy from their end was surprisingly high though.  I was expecting a more sombre and sparse affair.

Swans crammed more instruments onstage than any other band for the festival.  The amount of auxiliary percussion impressed.  They worked on build and repetition.  The crescendos were huge.

Energy failing, we need to kebab and sleep.

The following day, at a few minutes before midnight, I arrived back to my Glasgow flat.  Work will be brutal tomorrow.

Roadburn 2012

I’ve had the good fortune to catch the last two Roadburn festivals (read 2010 review here).  If you are into this kind of music (doom/pyschedellic/avant-garde – whatever you want to call it), it is genuinely worth your time and travel money.

I don’t know about where you grew up, but my home town has seen none of the bands that I wrote about in this 3-part review.  None.

My home country has seen (maybe) one or two of the older acts (Did Godflesh make it to Oz back in the day?).  For legal reasons, Earth aren’t even allowed to enter the country.

In Australia, there is no opportunity to stumble across foreign bands of this calibre in the live setting.  By the time these underground bands can afford to get to Adelaide, they are a decade into their career.

The joy of a live discovery sh!ts all over finding a band on a linked Facebook page.  And Roadburn is discovery after discovery.

At the other end of the experience curve, there is event performances by the established or reformed bands.  These sets at Roadburn feature guest musicians and whole band collaborations, or seminal albums in their entirety, and even live soundtracks.

Add to this Roadburn’s communal vibe and excellent organisation.  Now, ask yourself, what are you doing in April 2012?  What else are you saving money for?  Where else are you going to see Wino in the main shopping mall?

Save up your pennies for Roadburn 2012!