Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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October 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Metz, Loppen, 20.10.2015

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Photo by Tom Spray

It’s Metz’s first time at Loppen, but not their first time in Copenhagen. After doggedly touring here over the years, there is a crowd of devotees that have turned out for the band, many in their Metz t-shirts, and some buying them at the merch table to put on immediately over their long sleeved shirts.

This was not an audience that would stand passively by, and less than halfway through the set there is a presumably drunk fellow dancing on stage with the trio. From opener “Headache,” there is scarcely a break in the chanting or fist-pumping, making it feel a little like a basement show in New Jersey (a positive in terms of energy, anyway).

Metz (Photo by Tom Spray)

Amidst the more obvious thrashing and clanging Metz are associated with are circular, looping motions within the songs. But you could never be swept up in these movements, because the band themselves are constantly twitching to throw off that repetition, and there are flashing lights blinding you with a redoubled violence the band don’t exhibit themselves. Though far from low energy, the boldest move of the evening comes when singer Alex Edkins climbs on the drum kit only to find out just how low the ceilings at Loppen are (earlier in the evening, the singer of opening band Crows made a similar discovery when he climbed on a speaker).

Metz just released their second album, II, earlier this year, which is why it’s unexpected when they introduce something newer still. The song, “Eraser,” released as an as-yet non-album single only a week ago, is a frayed song that feels constantly pulled back from the brink with an easy to shout along chorus. Which is convenient, because Metz’s lyrics can feel incidental to the screaming; Edkins is not one for enunciating, and the reverb on his mic doesn’t make it any easier to understand him. He is, albeit, understood clearly enough when he announces their last song, and maybe that accounts for the abrupt way the house music is brought up before he can finish saying good night.

LIVE REVIEW: Young Fathers, Loppen, 16.10.15

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Young Fathers

A wry smile crosses G Hastings’s face as he leans into the mic and observes “I’ve never been tear gassed before a gig before.” It’s probably fair to say that for most of us in the audience at Loppen this also is the first time. While a police raid on Christiania continues into Friday night, the venue begins to feel like a refuge, but Young Fathers are not a band to make us forget the burning makeshift barricades in the street outside.

The Edinburgh-based trio burst into the limelight after winning the Mercury Award for their album Dead, quickly following it up with this year’s White Men Are Black Men Too. But no matter how much praise their records receive, it is immediately obvious that Young Fathers are primarily a live band. While a drummer flails his limbs wildly along with the distorted synth lines, the trio rap, scream and croon with a rare intensity.

The first half of the set draws mainly from the band’s most energetic, uncompromising material. Songs like “Rumbling”, “Just Another Bullet” and “Old Rock n Roll” seem to justify the hip-hop tag that often gets bandied around, but their energy derives from the lo-fi simplicity, rather than samples and complex beats. The defining feature of Young Fathers is the interplay between the vocal styles: G Hastings’s howls and screams, Kayus Bankole’s violent rhymes and Alloysious Massaquoi’s more soulful side.

Young Fathers
Photo by Amanda Farah

From the far-left of the stage my main view is of Kayus Bankole, his purple shirt drenched in sweat, gazing intently into the crowd. This power of the band’s presence, their attention to what is going on around them. You can see it in Bankole’s eyes, hear it when Hastings speaks in support of migrants, or else when they gently discourage people from moshing. To many that last part sounds like the words of a kill-joy, but really this is a battle that has gone on since Ian MacKaye’s passionate disavowal of mosh pits during the hay-day of 80s DC hardcore. But whereas MacKaye could sound a little holier-than-thou, tonight Hastings manages to discourage annoyingly violence dance moves with a gentle firmness that instantly quells the crowd. Gigs are for everyone, not just jumped up meatheads.

It feels a bit perverse to claim that the highlight of the gig is the final a cappella song, given how rhythmically exhilarating the band can be, but I stand by it. Because it proves the thesis that this band is driven by three unique and urgent voices.

LIVE REVIEW: HEALTH, Pumpehuset, 12.10.15

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Photos by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)

Defining HEALTH in 2015 is not as easy as it once was. On their first two records the band mixed the cold synth noise of peers like Crystal Castles with mathematically precise drumming and razor-blade guitar riffs. But chatting backstage with bassist John Famiglietti, it is evident that he is just as enthusiastic talking about Daft Punk as he is Mudhoney. And their latest album, Death Magic, released a full six years after their sophomore effort, is evidence of that bridging interest in both pop and experimental music.

Throughout Death Magic, though it veers between blasts of noise and calculatedly danceable tracks, there is a common thread, a pessimistic gaze that finds nothing to separate mainstream and alternative. And when you consider that the hits of today include the disaffected moroseness of the likes of the Weeknd, or witness Miley Cyrus’s doomed attempt at edginess, it isn’t hard to be convinced that we are living in an uncomfortable yet fascinating transition period where words like “pop” and “indie” express mere quantitative, rather than qualitative, differences.

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And yet, tonight I do hear a difference. HEALTH’s live sets are well known for their energy and abandon, the band carefully planning out the setlist to maintain peak attention. They scramble in between songs to minimize the gaps, tearing through the set at a blistering pace. Songs are cut off as soon as they risk losing steam, at times reprised later in the set. But in spite of all this amazing display of dedication towards the craft of live performance, it is very easy to pick out the old HEALTH from the new. New tracks like “MEN TODAY” and “NEW COKE” (note: HEALTH are dedicated to the art of caps-lock) still thunder with a violent obsession that borders on grind-core, but there are heartbreaking moments when drummer BJ Miller starts playing a four-to-the-floor disco beat (see “LIFE”) and it all threatens to fall apart at the seams.

What you discover listening to HEALTH today is that their most interesting associations with pop music have absolutely nothing to do with their lately-acquired Depeche Mode pretensions. It is rather in the fact that their moments of drum madness and feedback loops bring to mind Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” rather than Crystal Castles. Pop music has sporadically moved closer to the experimental, with greater results than the inverse move. It is true that the topic uncovers a cultural divide between the US and Europe, where we tend to be much more staunchly divisive. But one only has to hear the band tear through a bleeding-edge rendition of “We Are Water” to be reminded why we should still allow HEALTH the benefit of the doubt. A band that can make a track like that sound as urgent as the first time we heard it might still go on to do great things.

DSC_6388

LIVE REVIEW: Wire, Jazzhouse, 09.10.2015

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Wire at Jazzhouse

There is an energy that runs through Wire’s sold out show at Jazzhouse that creates a vibrancy you can feel as though it were tangible. It’s not just the energy of a group that have been playing together for nearly 40 years and have an intuitive dynamic, or an adrenaline shot from a decades-younger member, or the exuberance of a crowd with an equally diverse age range who stumbled in from the good cheer of Kulturnatten. It’s the emphasis on the new that makes Wire, whose original members are all past 60, feel as vital as ever.

Wire

Thought not totally immune to nostalgia, Wire have been more forward looking than many of their contemporaries. They are not the only band of the post-punk era to continue to produce work, but they have continued to create at pace beyond most of their contemporaries, and they have continued to emphasize their new work over their old. They don’t really care how many times people call for “1 2 X U,” they’re not playing it (the contribution from Pink Flag to the set is “Brazil”).

While there is an obvious common thread through their work, through the set you can see as well as hear how Wire’s songs have evolved from album to album. Watching their second guitarist Matt Simms hunch over his pedal board without his guitar, pressing buttons and turning knobs and creating multi-dimensional swells of noise behind the more utilitarian structures of the rest of the band. From a technical perspective, the sole criticism is that there were times when Colin Newman’s vocals were too low.

Wire at Jazzhouse

Rock music doesn’t make you fear death, it makes you fear aging, becoming irrelevant and simply too old to keep up with the younger generation. It can make you feel that way by the time you’re 25 if you only ever look back to what you loved as a teenager. But if the bands you loved as a teenager, and the bands you love who made great records before you were even born continue to make great music, why should any of us worry about getting old? If I must age, let me age like Wire.

INTERVIEW: Natalie Prass

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If you’ve ever thought the life of a touring musician must be glamorous, Natalie Prass will be happy to disabuse you of that notion. When we met up with her before her show at Lille Vega back in August, she sniffled through our interview thanks to allergies and a mold infestation on her tour bus.

Though clearly under the weather, she was quick to stress how happy she was to be playing in Copenhagen. “The last time we were going to play here, our airline was on strike. We missed our show. We were stuck in Dublin for 10 hours at the airport when we were touring with Ryan Adams.”

Though Prass didn’t make the show, the audience still got to hear her songs. “[Ryan] dressed in drag as me and played a whole set of my music. Ryan’s drummer is from Copenhagen, so he came out and told the whole story, so people weren’t like, ‘What?’”

Only two days into her latest European jaunt, she told us about life in Nashville, her plans for her new album, and a Simon & Garfunkel cover she’s really excited about.

Where in the US are you from?

I live in Richmond, Virginia, right now, but I lived in Nashville before I moved back to Richmond for eight and a half years. I haven’t really been to Richmond since I moved there. I moved there in January, I kind of feel like I don’t live anywhere.

Your music doesn’t have a Nashville vibe.

Oh thank you! That’s a compliment! What’s so funny, when I first recorded this record, I didn’t know what to do, just graduated college, bringing my record to a bunch of publishing companies. They were all like, “What are you doing in Nashville? You belong in New York. We can’t do anything with you.” Of course, some of them were like, “Would you want to write some country music?”

I was more into the underground scene in Nashville, which is now really thriving. I’ve always been a stay-in-my-room, do-my-own-thing kind of person anyway.

What is the underground scene like in Nashville?

House shows are really big. My friend Laura had — it was called Little Hamilton — and she rented out this warehouse space in South Nashville where there’s nothing around there and her and her artist friends made rooms in the warehouse and held these big shows. That’s where Jeff the Brotherhood got their start. The houses have names and eventually that started to catch on. “I’m going to Little Danzig tonight,” and everybody knew what that was. That doesn’t really happen that much in Nashville, so that was special.

When I first moved there, I had no friends. I knew a couple people, but they were a little bit older than me. I played everywhere I could. I did a bunch of open mic nights and writers rounds. “I live in this city and I want to play music, what do I do?” I just did everything I could for a while until I got some traction. But it took a while, because I was in college, too.

Nashville’s really competitive. Lots of really bad music there.

How does Richmond compare?

There’s not really a reason to go to Richmond. You can go to the capitol. But it’s really diverse. We’ve got VCU there, so there’s a lot of artists, lot of public murals. Nashville didn’t have any of that. It’s kind of starting to happen in East Nashville, which is the cool part of Nashville, but Richmond has a great jazz music scene. It’s just really different. There’s no industry there, so if you’re a creative person you don’t have that hanging over your head.

You’ve been on tour a lot this year.

Yeah, it’s been crazy. I was in Jenny Lewis’s band right before this. She’s still touring on The Voyager record she released, but we toured before the record was released, playing all the songs, getting in the groove for that release. Then toured up until Christmas time, then the record came out late January. That Jimmy Kimmel Show, I was like, “Yeah, just book my ticket to Richmond.” So I just flew to Richmond, stayed on my friend’s couch, looked for a place to live, then went on tour. I feel like I’m getting to that point where I’m around some mold and I get sick. It’s getting to that point where we’ve been going at it so hard, and I haven’t really stopped for the last couple years.

Natalie Prass

Does it feel like a big shift since the album came out?

Yeah, I think we’ve just been playing so much since January, that I’ve just really started discovering things that I like to do on stage. Definitely more comfortable in my body and comfortable with the thoughts I have on stage. I like to have fun now. I kind of took myself a little more seriously — I mean, I still take myself seriously, but I’m more relaxed now. It’s really important to me to just have a good time on stage and not worry about little things too much. Especially stage banter; I think I’m finally comfortable with it.

But this is like a dream come true, because being in an industry town, I started to figure out what needs to happen if you want to release a record and you want people to hear it. I just never had the proper team or resources. That’s when I recorded this record with SpaceBomb, and it was on hold, I was like, “What do I do?” and I started getting super down about everything. So it’s a dream: “Oh my gosh, I have a manager and I have a publicist and I have a great a band.” I never could afford to bring a band on the road. It’s all these things that I’ve been hoping to have are now all happening and it makes things a lot easier.

It makes a big difference. I just didn’t know what to do, me, myself. And if you are trying to play the manager role for yourself, it’s not going to do anything. My life is totally different than it was before. Even when I was in Jenny’s band, it’s totally different. I get it. I was like, “Man, I wish Jenny would hang out with us more,” but now it’s like, “No, she’s so busy.” I get it now. She has a lot to do. She has to rest. I learned a lot from that tour.

When did you actually record the album?

We started in December 2011. It’s just so funny, because I feel like this kind of music — acoustic arrangements and stuff like that —  there’s a lot of it coming out now. When we were doing this record, it felt like electronic stuff was really getting cool. Maybe it’s all meant to be. Maybe my record wasn’t supposed to come out until now. Maybe people wouldn’t have been this open to it.

Has anything changed from initial recordings?

We revisited “Christie.” We wanted to do live vocals with the live string quartet, just to make it more open sounding, more natural. But I didn’t really rewrite anything. It would be more of an ordeal to do that, because we did everything to tape, and there’s just so many tracks in each song. You can always go back, but there’s just a point where you have to be like, “It’s done.”

Natalie Prass

The string quartet is what gives it such a distinct feeling, especially “It is You.”

Tray, who’s playing guitar with me now, was the string arranger. He did all of “It is You,” that was his thing. It was so much fun, me and Tray at the piano at the studio at the Attic in Richmond, when we were doing all the pre-production; he and I just playing through it and working out the key change at the end — there’s a very subtle key change at the end — just talking through it, and how he’s a huge Frank Sinatra fan. I was just so excited, because when I wrote that song I was like, “I wish, one day, it could be like that.” Then when he sent over the Sibelius midi string arrangements, as horrible as midi strings are, it was still brilliant. That’s still one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.

Are you working on anything new?

I am, slowly, piece by piece. Things will come to me all the time, and I’ll just record it real quickly. Then I’ll go back and work on it. Usually, how I work is I get into a cycle and I can’t stop. It’s like my writing part of my brain is turned on and I can’t stop. But it’s really hard to get into that cycle when you’re traveling. We’re going to have off in December and January, so I’m going to just write, and I can’t wait! I’m counting off the days. That’s my favorite. I like touring and playing and singing — there’s nothing like singing and playing with my band, they’re amazing — but I love writing, creating. That’s where my heart is for sure.

Have you played any of your new stuff live yet?

Just a few songs here and there, I don’t want to bore people to tears. And we don’t really have time to rehearse. Because I’m writing the song, and I’ll send it to them by email, but we won’t have time to rehearse it. But we worked out a pretty sweet cover of “The Sound of Silence” that I’m really excited about. We all kind of like that funky, 60s, swingy stuff, so it’s fun to have everybody put there taste on the songs. They’re a really good band. I only have a nine song record that’s out that people know. I have a lot of freedom right now. We mix it up, throw in random covers and new songs, I’m really taking advantage of how loose we can be right now.

So far this tour has been awesome. Besides the mold thing, but we’re figuring it out. It’s just so funny at this point. I’m like, “Oh great, things are getting better!” You’re in a van, and van touring is great, but, it’s also really hard when you have interviews or early load-ins. A lot of festivals we’re doing, we’re playing earlier in the day, the main stage but earlier, so we have to be there crazy early, so you have a shitty night, then you get up really early, and drive for hours, it just gets really tiring. So I was really excited about having a bus this time around so we can sleep while we drive. And it’s super musty and moldy, and it’s like, “Aaaaah! Almost! Almost!”

Grimes comes to Copenhagen

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Grimes

Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, will finally perform her first show in Copenhagen on the 26th of February. Since her 2012 debut, Visions, Grimes has proved to be an exciting character on the indie music scene, with Dazed and confused calling her “a pop idol from another dimension.”

Grimes is also releasing her first album since Visions later this fall. Listen to her latest track ‘REALITi’ below.

Grimes (CAN) + Hana (US)
Store VEGA, Copenhagen V
Friday 26. February 2016 at 20.00
Tickets: 260 kr. + gebyr. Link: http://bit.ly/grimeskbh
Ticket sales begin Friday 9. October at 10.00

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