Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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October 2018

LIVE REVIEW: Neko Case, Bremen Teatre, 30.10.2018

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Neko Case

“My hair looks like shit today,” says Neko Case as she takes the stage at Bremen Teatre, “but I’m still going to play this show anyway.” It’s the sort of blunt determination you’d expect from a person promoting an album called Hell-On. Or someone who is coming up on 25 years in the music industry. Or maybe just someone certain enough in her ability to deliver that she can make demands of the audience to forget the photos and be present for an evening.

Neko Case is a presence, and what immediately stands out about her performance is the density of the sound. Nearly every song features three or four guitars and Case with two or three backing vocalists echoing her. This goes beyond being faithful to her albums and creates a richness that fills the entirety of the theatre. It can sometimes bury how powerful Case’s voice is, but her vocals come through full force when unleashed for “Maybe Sparrow” and after a slow build on “Halls of Sarah.” It’s to greater effect that her vocals are usually measured and she chooses to unleash them at particular moments. 

This density of sound also highlights just how talented her band is. The harmonies don’t blend so much as ricochet off of each other in a hall of mirrors effect. Of the seven people on the stage, only the drummer and bassist play the same instrument throughout the set, and it’s nothing short of impressive that the band is so tight with that many moving parts (related: credit due also to Case’s very hard working guitar tech). Being so well rehearsed, it perhaps isn’t much of a surprise that there is a real sense of camaraderie among band, who trade barbs ranging from joking about who’s getting fired that night to the drummer somehow being bullied into break dancing before beginning the encore.

Case herself is warm and primarily self-deprecating when she talks to the audience. It works, though, because her jokes are just silly enough that they’re always funny instead of uncomfortable. “After that good time,” she says when it’s been revealed that her drummer is quite adept at The Worm, “we’re going to bring you down with this bummer of a song.” That bummer is the title track of the new album. No one in the audience seems like they’ve been let down.

LIVE REVIEW: Grouper + Coby Sey, Alice, 24.10.2018

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Liz Harris, known to most as Grouper, inhabits a ghostly world somewhere between ambient and 4AD-influenced dream pop. With ten albums to her name and collaborations with everyone from Xiu Xiu, Lawrence English and the Bug, it is not so surprising that, for all her music’s understatement, it is able to command enough of a crowd for two back-to-back shows at Alice.

This is also partly due to the fact that the concert is a seated one, where the audience can lean back, eyes closed, letting the reverb wash over them. The evening is opened by Londoner Coby Sey, a shadowy producer in the vein of Dean Blunt, mixing noise, ambient and hiphop. He first came to my attention thanks to his entry in the Whities series, a minimalistic set of tracks full of references to London public transport. “All Change” tonight has a more confrontational air, underlined by the noisy end to his hour long set.

With eyes closed its easy to fall into the hypnotic spell of Grouper, but it is worth from time to time to observe her setup, surrounded as she is by a myriad of effects, samplers, guitar and piano. Her signature sound tends to fade the distinctions between these instruments. What does stand out is her ability to mix together plaintive choral chants from a sampler into her live playing, producing some spine-tingling moments.

In the wash of it all it can be hard to pick out specific tracks, although “Alien Observer” must by now be counted as an incredibly dreamy banger, with an incredibly simple but unforgettable cascading piano line.

LIVE REVIEW: The Coathangers, Stengade, 25.10.2018

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The Coathangers live at Stengade, Copenhagen

A good punk show is always just a little bit shambolic, and what makes Atlanta punk trio the Coathangers great performers is how neatly they work just the right amount of chaos into their set. There’s a damaged high hat and cymbal that gets intentionally knocked over mid song and a guitar strap that just gives out while Julia Kugel sings on with determination.

But the Coathangers have more than a decade under the belts of their coordinating, customized jumpsuits, and it shows. Because even though their set is a non-stop onslaught of garagy crunch, there is a subtle pacing to it all. It’s in the balance between the songs that Kugel sings lead on and what drummer Stephanie Luke sings — that is to say, between Kugel’s pliable yops, squeaks, and whispers, and Luke’s raspy growl.

Holding everything together in her own quiet way is bassist Meredith Franco, who sticks to a quiet corner of the stage, offering occasional backing vocals to her bandmates’ wails, shrieks, and head bangs.

To underscore the pacing of the chaos, the last few songs of the set mix things up with Franco and Kugel taking turns on drums and Luke trying out guitar and just being a vocalist. Things quickly get messy, with everyone falling all over each other, grabbing each other, and Franco getting lifted off her feet and twirled around as the trio collapse to the stage in a fit of laughter.

“Rock and roll is just for fun,” says Luke. “For 45 minutes we can forget about how shitty everything is.”

And we did.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: David Eugene Edwards & Alexander Hacke, Bremen Teater, 24.10.2018

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Hacke-eugene-edwards

It is a quiet Wednesday evening in Copenhagen, but most people that has showed up for tonights venue at Bremen Teater seems to know that soon this venue will be anything but quiet. Much can be said about the difference in background and musical style of the two musical characters who are about to show, but they do have one thing in common: They play insistently, consistently and uncompromisingly loud and has done so for decades!

A bell rings, telling the audience that the show is about to begin and the audience, mainly consisting of people halfway through life, calmly get seated in the comfortable cinema chairs while a drone-like suspense music is playing. The two performers of the evening enters the stage. David Eugene Edwards dressed in his habitual western outfit while Alexander Hacke has chosen to wear a black hat, motorcycle jacket, shining red shirt and platform Doc Martens shoes. Both wearing shades of a considerable size.

Although Alexander Hacke, bass player, composer and leading member of legendary Einstürzende Neubauten is long established as one of the grand old men of loud intellectual noise, it is David Eugene Edwards, the preaching frontman of Sixteen Horsepower, who is given the primary focus this evening. Chanting, singing, shouting and gesturing through his mythical and shamanistic verses and rituals while leaving Hacke hoveringer over his chaos pad and midi controlled noise.

The collaboration with Hacke is a refreshing new approach to the intense world of pain, religion, faith and salvation that David Eugene Edwards is known to present on his vintage instruments without the slightest touch of irony.

At this night it almost seemed as if the duo introduced a bit of humor. Hacke’s outfit and operation of his electronic devices made him look like a strange mix of a German techno DJ and an old grumpy guy from The Muppet Show. David Eugene Edwards was clogging while playing and for a few seconds almost moon walking sideways towards Hacke, while also Hacke at the very end of the show was lifting his face towards the audience, presenting a few physical moves that resembled a sort of dance.

Edwards has used plenty of effects and samples in both Sixteen Horsepower and in Wovenhand, but the addition of Hacke’s analogue harsh synth sounds and techno beats was somewhat unexpected. Many before has combined spiritual and native music with modern electronic beats and sounds, Eno and Byrne’s ’My Life In The Bush of Ghosts’ from the same year as Hacke’s very first appearance with Einstürzende Neubauten comes to mind. But it is rare to experience this done with an intensity and feeling of authenticity such as in the hands of Edwards and Hacke.

Text: Ronald Laurits Jensen. Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: The Necks, Christians Kirke (Alice), 19.10.18

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Photos by Victor Yakimov

Thirty years of playing together and 16 albums to their name, there are a few things you can comfortably expect from the Necks: each of their records will drastically differ from the previous one, they will elicit both fanatical devotion and uncomprehending boredom, and their live sets will always be magical. The Australian three-piece–consisting of Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (double bass) and Tony Buck (drums)–on paper sounds like fairly traditional jazz trio, but they are further from this than any newcomer could imagine. Instead of solos, complicated time signatures or key changes, we have slowly developing repetitions that build on each other, closer to ambient or contemporary classical than to Coltrane.

After seeing the Necks play in the intimate Brorsons Kirke last year, Christians Kirke offers a markedly more theatrical setting, with its marble altarpiece, glass chandeliers and wooden galleries trimmed in gold.  The large bass amp sits immediately in front of the altar, but the spectacular quality of the setting belies the slow revelatory patience of the band. As Swanton tunes his bass the other two sit calmly in front of their instruments, eyes closed, waiting to find out who will make the first move tonight.

Once you know to expect it, the beginning and end of the Necks’ sets (they usually do two of around 45 minutes each, with an interval) become incredibly charged moments, and tonight it is Abrahams who stirs first, with some simple, searching piano chords. Swanton picks it up and distills this into a simple two chord repetition, a quiet but insistent hi hat dropping in from Buck.

The hypnotism that emerges from this makes the Necks a hard band to write about, the feeling lingers but the details are hard to pick out. This in fact is a quality that can emerge in the very moment of listening to them, and can in fact produce the opposite, sonic mirages. There are many times when, in the speed and intricacy of the piano arpeggios, I start to hear a single repeated note that sounds at first like the bass, only to see that Swanton is playing something completely different, or find myself hearing completely different instruments, saxophones or violins.

On this night the biggest surprise of that nature is produced by Buck, at the end of their second set. Just as the piano and bass begin to simmer down to a single repeated note, an astounding, monstrous chords emerges out of nothing: a small cymbal being dragged against the skin of the floor tom.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Spain, Loppen, 07.10.2018

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Josh Haden and Petra Handen playing live with Spain at Loppen, Copenhagen

It doesn’t seem to be the usual crowd at Loppen this Sunday night. It’s true that LA band Spain, led by Josh Haden, are hardly a raucous act, and it’s clear that the audience know exactly what they’ve come for; people have dragged chairs into neat rows in the middle of the floor and are comfortably settled in by the time the opening act has ended.

From the first notes of opener “Ten Nights” — well almost; some feedback disrupts Haden mid verse and causes him to chuckle — it’s obvious that getting comfortable is a good idea. With as many downtempo, gentle songs as Spain have, a very calm, relaxed atmosphere descends on the room.

There is also a strong element of the audience wanting to live out a jazz club fantasy. Local jazz musicians have joined in, enriching the songs with brass instruments. And while a song like “Tangerine” teeters on the verge of becoming a jam session (with the audience readily applauding after every solo, no matter how understated), things stay organized and civilized.

Civilized does go out the window when the little conversation Haden has for the audience is about the US Supreme Court pick: “That Kavanaugh sure is an asshole,” he stated. This led to him working through his feelings about not feeling American given current events — which might have only been relatable to the two American at a table near the coat check but was appreciated all the same — and introducing “I’m Still Free,” a song he wrote nine years ago with the same sentiment.

Its impassioned delivery makes it a highlight of the evening, matched only for the encore “Spiritual.” And though repeatedly singing “Jesus, I don’t want to die alone” might be considered a bit of a downer, the brass players have returned to add more weight to the closing songs and Petra  Haden’s wordless vocals bring the actual spiritual heft. Grim lyrics or no, the arrangements have made this evening an especially soothing end to the weekend, regardless of any personal turmoil Haden himself might be feeling.

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