Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Charlie

Charlie has 83 articles published.

LIVE REVIEW: Mitski, Ideal Bar, 15.06.17

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Mitski live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

It’s a little surprising that, after the breakaway success of her fourth album last year, Mistki should still be confined to Vega’s Ideal Bar. But as we discovered when we caught up with her at Loppen last September, Mitski thrives in an intimate environment. It might be a little facile recycle that phrase to refer to her music as well, but it’s true, Mitski Miyawaki’s work is based on being close-up and unadorned.

Fragility is sacrificed for the same of directness in this live setting. Every hit of the drum is an unashamed whack that jolts the audience, every new guitar riff piles more effects into the mix, and the bass amp is rattling madly. Mitski herself looks impassively into the audience throughout this, which for the most part adds to the emotional weight of her lyrics by refraining from really piling it on.

Besides, there are enough people in the front row, hands on hearts, singing along to songs “Francis Forever” and “Your Best American Girl”. There is an undeniable emo element to all this but it has none of the whininess or self-loathing, and there is an undercurrent of humour everywhere in her work. Album-opener “Happy” is a particularly good example of this, a very plain but vivid story that wickedly winks to the audience with it’s punning “I felt Happy / come inside of me.”

Towards the end of a set that seems to speed up to breakneck speed towards the end, the songs compressing more and more, there is a definite tension in the room. Your bog-standard shouty twat manages to tick off the entire audience with his inanities, and although Mitski manages to deflect this, there is a tinge of revenge in the level of distortion she piles on for her final trio of solo songs.

LIVE REVIEW: Gnod, Loppen, 01.06.17

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Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

The evening begins with three of us buying t-shirts. Normally you’d wait till the end of the night to buy one, maybe as a sign of appreciation in the afterglow of a gig. But expectations are high and Gnod’s t-shirts just happen to be particularly good. Mine features a morose black and white portrait and urges “Trepanation for the National Health”, whereas my companions opt for the more timely “JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE”. Perfect for their visit to Scotland in an election week.

It might not be the most pithy album title, but JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE (I’m just copy-pasting it now to piss you off) truly delivers the brutality and urgency it promises. With this release Gnod have downplayed their more psychedelic and meandering side in favour of bloody-minded noise.

Things start noisily enough with opener Mai Mai Mai, whose violent take on ambient electronics recalls a Dario Argento-influenced Vatican Shadow. Gnod on the other hand have no time for atmospherics. With two bassists and a particularly heroic drummer providing the real power behind the punch, the Mancunian collective tear through their new material with no pause and no respite. Album opener “Bodies for Money” has even the most subdued in the audience on the edge of mutiny, with its jurassic riff of descending chords.

Even in their new bare-boned incarnation, Gnod still manage to evoke their more psychedelic and cosmic influences, arriving there through sheer repetition. In the final minutes of closer “Stick in the Wheel”, one guitarist becomes so involved in the beat that he abandons his instrument and just starts jumping up and down on stage. You could probably find something symbolic in that, but the only take you really need to leave with is that Gnod are so good live that they end up mesmerising themselves.

LIVE REVIEW: Jesca Hoop, Vega, 17.05.17

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Jesca Hoop live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

There is a sense of guilt in going to see an artist you’ve never heard before, a sense of not having done your homework. This is amplified all the more in Jesca Hoop’s case, partly because her latest record, Memories Are Now, is in fact her fifth in a decade. And also, of course, because she turns out to be a wonderful stage presence. The new album may be regarded as her most accomplished yet, but the true character of her skeletal folk songs only really comes through in a live setting.

Her music taps into the same playful, absurdist take on folk typified by artists like Joanna Newsom and Coco Rosie, including typewriter-based rhythms on “Animal Kingdom Chaotic”, as well as buzzing synths and field recordings of birdsong. As an American transplant in Manchester, Hoop is at her most interesting when the various filters of her experience and music are at their most obvious. More earnest and traditionalist folk performers are unlikely to want to mention computers or astronomy, and they are all the poorer for it.

I spend much of the set wondering at her guitar-playing style, which is as assured as it is idiosyncratic. Hoop uses a rather odd finger-picking technique that involves the fingers being almost completely extended at all times, pointing towards the headstock. The strings, which are plucked by thumb and ring finger almost exclusively, are permanently muted by the palm, completely transforming the sound of the instrument.

At the end of the set, Hoop returns to the stage alone for the encore. As if to prove that I have been focusing entirely on the wrong things, she sings her last song a cappella, giving her some real Anne Briggs-style cred.

LIVE REVIEW: Wolves in the Throne Room, Loppen, 27.04.17

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Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Wolves in the Throne Room are known for their singularly long, meditative takes on the black metal genre, infused with concerns with mysticism and the moody landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. The kind of band who wouldn’t be out of place on a rainy Wednesday at Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse, or, in this case, a windy Wednesday at Loppen. Originally scheduled to play Christiania’s other larger venue, Den Grå Hal, their loss is our gain, as Loppen allows the audience to get within hair-whipping distance from the band.

We arrive just in time to catch the second opening act, Orm, whose double vocals–one a deep death metal growl, the other a higher-pitched black metal howl–would seem a little gimmicky were they not accompanied by some very tight playing. Their debut LP also has one of the gnarliest covers I’ve seen in a while, a tasteful landscape including a full moon, a stormy and kraken-infested sea, and a castle on fire. I really want that on a mug.

WITTR arrive on stage prepared to create their own atmosphere, complete with ambient soundscapes and burning incense (picture below, although that could also be the most badly-rolled blunt ever photographed). But these are just garnishes, quickly overshadowed by the intensity of the playing. As their recently re-released debut proves, what truly distinguishes the band is their ability to generate atmosphere out of distortion and obsessive double-kick drums.

Tonight, the band starts at the beginning, with “Queen of Borrowed Light”, the opening track of their debut. It’s a solid introduction to the band, and one which eschews most of the atmospherics in favour of doubled-up soaring guitar riffs. It’s odd, but the real meditative moments, that is those that focus attention, are created not by slower tempos or lower volumes, but by stretching out the most intense moments. At a certain stage the lightning-fast tremolo picking begins to sound more like a long continuous tone than many shorter ones.

As our very own Morten put it, behind all the theatrics there is an unmistakable post-rock side to WIITR, moments when they sound closer to Mogwai (but without the sarcastic song titles) than Mayhem. Which, rather than being a criticism, is actually the reason we like them in the first place.

LIVE REVIEW: Moor Mother, Jazzhouse, 06.04.17

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Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Already reportedly something of a fixture in the Philadelphia scene, Camae Ayewa’s Moor Mother project has lately brought her to wider attention with the release of her debut album, Fetish Bones. Even tonight, in a reduced-sized Jazzhouse, the audience is packed together and buzzing. The object of their enthusiasm is a confrontational mix of noise and politically-charged spoken word, dense with samples of old blues records and deafening, distorted synths. And, a little surprisingly, a theremin.

What ties this all together is what Ayewa would term “time-travelling”, a narrative of historical and contemporary black experiences in America. Like many, I’d be interested to read an exegesis of this record, and am honestly surprised I haven’t found one yet. I’m certainly not going to be the first to try: I don’t think anyone on Earth is clamouring for a middle class Italian dude’s hot takes on race.

But Moor Mother’s great strength as a project is Ayewa’s experience as a poet. The title alone of the album is a good example of her ability to bring different strands of meaning together: on the one hand we can read fetish bones as a reference to the talismans of West African Vodun traditions; but in the context of her references to police killings and systemic racism, this begins to sound more like a fetish for bones, an institutional reliance on violence.

Not that you have much time for these thoughts during Moor Mother’s set: her presence demands attention, her declamations scathing but also clearly witty (“It’s ok, the world has already ended”). Coming from a punk tradition, she throws herself at the audience, a moshpit of one, dragging and pushing people, mimicking violence but always with an astonishing degree of control. During “Deadbeat protest” she comes wheeling in to my corner of the venue, almost tripping over a stair and steadying herself by grabbing onto my jacket. Five seconds later the track ends, she rights herself, pats my back and strolls back.

Behind the often bleak soundscapes of Moor Mother, Camae Ayewa emanates positivity and an eagerness to engaging with people, which explains the initial enthusiasm from those in the audience who had clearly already encountered her. The good news for the rest of you is the promise that she will be back in July, expect updates from us when we get more information on that.

LIVE REVIEW: Moon Duo, Pumpehuset, 29.03.17

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Moon Duo live at Pumpehuset

Photos by Johannes Leszinski

 The key to Moon Duo is their simplicity: three instruments, three chords, one drum beat and 5 to 10 minutes to explore their every nuance. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. Moon Duo have two modes, on and off. Fans of crescendos and dynamic juxtapositions had better look elsewhere.

It’s two years since the last time I saw the Duo, and the roominess of Pumpehuset is a marked difference from the sweaty shoebox that they played previously. The reason for a larger venue, quite apart from having perhaps gained greater notoriety in recent years, is made apparent as soon as the band take to the stage. A large white semicircle at the back acts as a screen for some major psychedelic eyewash, as a thick weave of multicoloured beams reaches out into the audience.

Moon Duo live at Pumpehuset

It’s one of the best combinations of light and sound I’ve caught in a while, to the extent that for long periods of the set I have absolutely no clue what song they are playing. Nodding my head, banging a long-empty bottle of water on my leg. This isn’t exactly a new experience for me, but perhaps unusual for a sober Wednesday night.

The distinctive and ridiculously massive headstock of Ripley Johnson’s signature ’59 Airline waves in time with a solo barely hovering above Sanae Yamada’s keyboards. The real unsung hero, though, has to be John Jeffries and his unerring metronomic beat. No frills, no fills. After a very tight 60 minute set, the band’s encore is an appropriately thumping version of the Stooges “No Fun”. A banger, but very far from the truth.

Moon Duo live at Pumpehuset

 

LIVE REVIEW: Hamilton Leithauser, VEGA, 01.03.2017

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Hamilton Leithauser of the Walkmen live solo Vega Copenhagen

It is a confessedly jet-lagged Hamilton Leithauser and band that take the stage at Lille Vega, but as a performer who seems to revel in a certain rootsy journeyman-musician persona, this could turn out to be an asset for him. His latest album, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, a collaborative effort with ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij (present tonight in spirit only), reached a fair few ‘Best of’ lists last year, confirming Leithauser as more than simply the frontman of The Walkmen.

Judging by the impassioned singalongs in the front rows this evening, a good portion of the audience is here on the strengths of the solo work alone, and might not even be familiar with the band that gave us the perennial indie club night banger “The Rat”. The wiry texture of those Walkmen records is softened in Leithauser’s later work, which replaces their ironised distancing with more direct romanticism.

The energy this evening comes mostly from that voice, the pained howl that somehow manages to modulate into a croon or a Dylanesque sneer. The tension generated by that upwards strain can be thrilling, although perhaps an hour is just about the limit at which it can sustained. In fact my earlier characterisation is incorrect: you don’t, in fact can’t, really sing along with Hamilton Leithauser, even if you know all the words, at most you sing beneath him.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Lambchop, Lille Vega, 27.02.17

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lambchop live copenhagen lille vega

Lambchop’s FLOTUS has been acclaimed as a daring reinvention, and indeed few of us would have expected Kurt Wagner’s outfit to stray from their left-field brand of Americana into a world of autotuned vocals and, yes, even the odd trap beat. But this narrative of a reinvented band misses the fact that the band have always traced a unique and at times bizarre path. Find me another alt-country band that would, say, choose to release a concept album centred around the Nixon presidency.

The iciness of these new electronic elements lend an air of fragility, a tension that is very evident in the room as the band remain remote and quiet at the back of the stage. The vocal effects act as a mask that might allow Wagner to both indulge and play with a set of lyrics more private than usual. Slowly the thaw sets in, and soon enough the piano player is cracking ever more weird and confusing jokes. It occurs to me that Kurt Wagner may have just decided to stay silent in order to coax out of him ever more awkward sex stories.

Drummer Andy Stack, of Wye Oak, looks on in amused confusion, and though his contributions are limited, they are the most notable instance of Lambchop’s “new sound” beyond Wagner’s vocals. “Directions to the Can” in particular stands out as one of the grooviest tracks Lambchop have produced in a while, aided by a subtly filthy hip-hop-inspired bass line.

By the end of the night if Wagner is getting close to talkative, and his use of the vocal effects switches from understated to enthusiastically experimental. They announce their last song as a cover, and as people whoop at the first couple of chords Wagner laughs out loud and calls them out: “this could be any song.” In fact it is a very Lambchop-ified cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine”.

LIVE REVIEW: Future Islands, Jazzhouse, 26.02.17

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Future Islands

Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

It has been over a year since Future Islands last played a gig in Europe, which, together with a shortly to be released album and the last-minute announcement of this show, adds a heightened layer of excitement to the four-piece’s re-emergence in Copenhagen. This gap makes itself felt in the initial hiccups with the keyboards, but this ends up providing frontman Sam Herring the opportunity to begin his intense love-in with the audience.

There are few performers who are quite as obviously thrilled to be onstage as Herring. Arguably it was his idiosyncratic dance moves during their Letterman performance that attracted enough consistent attention onto the band to propel them into wide recognition, but there is more to it than an amusing dad dance. Seemingly every moment on stage is an opportunity for him to stare intensely into the eyes of every single audience member in the first three rows, point and grab for emphasis, usher them in.

Future Islands

Last time I saw them, Future Islands were vague specks on a stage a football field away from me. With that level of distance it’s easy to be dismissive of their more mawkish lyrical tendencies, but when the man is sweating, crying and singing a foot away from your face, it’s hard not to get swept up in the drama.

The new material shows that, even when inevitably many of Future Islands’ songs end up being about “the road”, they haven’t lost any of their intense, campy, melodramatic joyfulness. Until the album comes out in a few weeks’ time I won’t be able to say exactly which song made me laugh out loud, but be prepared for an instance of rather wonderful pseudo-reggae synth hilarity.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Genesis P-Orridge & Aaron Dilloway, Jazzhouse, 09.02.17

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genesis p-orridge live jazzhouse copenhagen

If there is one predictable thing about Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, it is the crowd s/he attracts: the goths, punks, noise connoisseurs, art musos, drag queens, crusties and techno-obsessives. Each one these stands for a moment in the career that transmuted little Neil Megson into the Pandrogyne h/erself. And although some of the elements of tonight borrow from the past, most notably Psychic TV’s “This is the Final War”, it is not to the industrial of Throbbing Gristle that we look to, nor Psychic TV’s mix of psychedelia and acid house, but to capital-N Noise.

With one of the genre’s masters, Aaron Dilloway, on stage with Genesis, and local Puce Mary giving providing the initial pummelling, this is not a night for just smugly basking among a hip underground. In the first minutes of the opening act, no sooner have I perfected my “arms folded, head tilted, thoughtfully appreciating abstract music” pose that the monitor begins to emit a frequency that makes the lighting rig tremble and my stomach tie itself into a Windsor knot.

puce mary live jazzhouse copenhagen

Genesis and Aaron Dilloway switch the direct savagery of Puce Mary for a more diversified approach: Genesis providing the spoken–or, more precisely, incantatory–word, Dilloway the uncanny sonic abstractions, and a screen doings its best to out-freak the other two.

Two people sat down at tables with some equipment doesn’t sound very visually exciting, but between Genesis’s wizard staff and golden trainers, a screen full of dayglo skulls melting into Psychick crosses, and, all the way to the right, Aaron Dilloway convulsion at his desk with what appear to be contact mics shoved into his mouth, there is arguably too much to look at.

Although Genesis P-Orridge’s sometimes lilting, sometimes declamatory voice is the anchor that propels the evening forward, it is Dilloway that really steals the show. Compared to some, his setup is minimal, little more than a few tape loops, a drum and some microphones, but out of these he is able to conjure what sound like rough field recordings in Soviet-occupied Dantean hell. Or something like that.

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