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Charlie has 88 articles published.

LIVE REVIEW: Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts, Stengade, 08.09.16

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Jeffrey Lewis: the William Morris of early 21st century Manhattan. A rather bold declaration, and definitely a facetious one, but when confronted with the lo-fi multimedia roadshow that is Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts, you can’t help but react with gleeful exaggerations.

Let me follow that with another one: Jeffrey Lewis is one of the very few musicians you can enjoy without knowing a single song he plays. In my case this is almost literally true, since I had not followed Lewis’s career closely, beyond enjoying his musical histories of the Fall and punk on the Lower East Side.

The effectiveness of his lo-fi-dom, typified by the pickup sellotaped to his trusty and battered acoustic, is in the way that the music acts as context, a score for his intimate tales of existential befuddlement. Which is not to say that the music is unimportant, but rather that it is there to serve the lyrics, rather than having a bunch of words thrown on top of it.

Jeffrey Lewis live at Stengade 2016
Jeffrey Lewis live at Stengade 2016

They have the immediacy of novelty songs, but their wry observations, particularly in songs like “When You’re By Yourself”, give them the staying power of a short story that gets so close to your daily life that it is no longer a matter of fiction and more one of millennial phenomenology. The pretension is mine, not theirs.

And just when you are worried things might be getting a little to real for you, Lewis is there to help with a capella renditions of Nirvana songs accompanied by literal and hilarious depictions of the lyrics, not to mention a brand new installment of his long-running history of Communism.

The night closes with a Pixies cover, more Nirvana “music videos”, and profuse apologies from Lewis for not having time to play even more songs, giving us just enough time to buy a few (ridiculously inexpensive) copies of his comics before riding home.

LIVE REVIEW: Beach Slang, KB18, 12.08.16

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beach slang at kb18 in copenhagen

Some gigs make you feel like you’ve crashed a private party. I don’t know about you, but that’s never really worked out for me. It’s less like blagging your way into Andy Warhol’s factory, and more like being stuck singing happy birthday to someone whose name you don’t know. Suffice it to say that, tonight, the constant cheers of “seven more songs!” were entirely lost on me.

Beach Slang turn up at KB18 to a barrage of cheers and in-jokes. You’ve got to hand it to them, gaining this kind of fandom with only album and a couple of EPs is an achievement in itself. Then again, their particular brand of emo-inflected pop punk seems to function precisely in the way their debut album describes, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. I might not be one of the people they are looking for, but everyone else in the room is.

beach slang at kb18 in copenhagen

The atmosphere is that of a local band surrounded by friends. Beach Slang have not amassed enough material to span an entire set, but they have the venue on their side, and sleeves–in frontman James Alex’s case, tuxedo sleeves–full of covers: the Cure, Jawbreaker, and of course, the Replacements. The tux, the so-predictable-they’re-unpredictable covers, and the high-fives that erupt at the end of every song, reveal the light-heartedness beneath the sometimes tortured lyrics. Which is a real relief, seeing as a room of people close to their 30s reveling in teenagerdom might otherwise be a terrifying prospect.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Jurassic 5, Vega, 12.07.16

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Jurassic Five live vega copenhagen

Photos by Amanda Farah

One thing that immediately springs to mind on a night like this: 99% of the indie acts we see don’t hold a candle to a good hip hop act when it comes to a live performance. Yes, the sound is drowning in so much bass that you end up concentrating more on massaging your stomach than listening to the subtleties of the beats. And yes, your changes of distinguishing the words amid this mixing nightmare are minimal. But then again, you are supposed to know the words already.

At least that’s the impression this audience gives. I’ve never seen such a large percentage of the crowd shout back the words at the opening act. But Dilated Peoples, a two-decade spanning West-coast outfit, are not just any opening act. They might be self-confessedly “underground”, but their following here in Copenhagen is rabid to say the least. One particularly devoted fan at the front gets singled out by the crew, having told them backstage about his intention of getting a tattoo of their lyrics the next day. The floor is already groaning under the stress of a venue packed with people trying to out-jump each other.

By the time Jurassic 5 arrive, it feels more like an unexpected second party, rather than the culmination of a few hours of waiting. But when your second party includes the trade-mark gigantic turntable, and, well, Jurassic 5, you know that you’re in a particularly good spot in the universe this evening. It’s their fourth time at Vega, and clearly the preceding three gigs must have gone pretty well too. Chali towers over everyone, peering into the balconies to question whether certain members of the audience were even alive the first time they played Copenhagen. In the meantime Akil keeps grinning and pointing to random audience members in the wings, keen to involve absolutely everyone.

Then comes the time for DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark to enact once more their notorious hiphop circus sideshow, involving the aforementioned giant turntable and several home-made instruments and samplers. Glee, hilarity, and respect for their skill, all mix together. And that’s Jurassic 5 in a nutshell.

LIVE REVIEW: John Carpenter, DR Koncerthus, 30.05.16

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John Carpenter performing live at DR Koncerthuset

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

People really love John Carpenter. From those of us huddled high up in the gods (or as Americans call them, the nosebleed seats) to the chosen few with a front-row view, there is a buzz of real anticipation. The lights go down, a band walks on, and the applause begins. Not for the band, though. The applause is for Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Escape from New York, Halloween, They Live. I bet a few nostalgics were even applauding The Fog (sorry, not I: even 12 year old me thought that enchanted mist appearing on radar was dumb, no matter how many zombie pirates lurked within it).

And at the center of it, the man himself: the trademark mustache, long white hair, black clothes and playful grin. Not many directors get to bask in such direct, wordless admiration as they revisit what amounts to almost their entire working life. Nor does he shy away it. You get the sense that John Carpenter is sharing his films and music with the enthusiasm of a fan rather than a creator. There is much impish fun to be had in horror, as he demonstrates when the entire band dons matching black sunglasses during their rendition of the theme to They Live.

There is a fundamental question lurking around the concert hall this evening: does the music stand up on its own? The large screen that acts as a backdrop for Carpenter and the band gives you something of a hint: the music is accompanied by clips from his films, but rather than functioning simply as support for the music, the visuals end up dominating attention. During songs from his Lost Themes albums, the screen remains blank, reinforcing the feeling that something is missing.

John Carpenter

Is that such a scathing criticism of Carpenter’s musical output? Or is it instead a testament to how well his music combined with his movies? My own problem with the Lost Themes is that they fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of his soundtracks. Yes, the trademark synth sounds are there, but at least in the live setting, the guitars and drums detract from the alien, inhuman quality that we admire in his earlier work. And when you do add guitar and drums to John Carpenter, you can either sound like Mogwai (great) or like, well, a John Carpenter cover band.

Perhaps the problem is exactly that his music has been so influential. We have seen it transmuted over the years in a variety of interesting ways, to the point that there isn’t much that he himself can add. But at the end of the night, despite some irritation with the guitar playing and the drum levels, the main thought in my head was that I need to watch a lot more of JC’s films.

LIVE REVIEW: Fat White Family, Loppen, 24.05.16

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Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

My ears are still ringing. I am, like most people who go to gigs regularly, terrified by the possibility of chronic tinnitus, but I will say this: if anyone is going to force me to perpetually hear an irritating, high-pitched whine, it might as well be the Fat White Family.

The Family’s fortunes have risen considerably over the past couple of years, with two albums, several collaborations, endless tour dates and a substantial body count of managers and musicians in their wake. It is no secret that they have had more than their fair share of turmoil, but what the music press relishes in depicting as their excess and scandalous behaviour, can be more accurately described as sheer dedication. In spite of injury, anger, arguments and exhaustion, the Family plows mercilessly on.

Fat White Family

From the first menacing bass riff of their latest single, Tinfoil Deathstar, the band appear at home in Loppen. The venue’s size is a great leveler, forcing any act that plays there to stand or fall on their ability to merge with the audience. Frontman Lias Saudi is always up for some sweaty merging, and it isn’t long before the whole band is topless and spitting pieces of their torn lungs into the microphones. Some have observed that their latest album, Songs for Our Mothers, is less sonically abrasive than its predecessor. You’d never have guessed it.

For a band that thrives on unhinged energy, it is the quieter moments that show Fat White Family at their most confrontational. Garden of the Numb sees Saudi and Saul Adamczewski duet a dirge-like country hate anthem. Lines like “You sycophantic weasel-minded whores / You would sell your mother’s cunt to open doors” work all the better because they are quietly growled rather than screamed. Ice-cold hatred is infinitely more terrifying than hot anger.

But the Family isn’t going to end on a downer. No, nothing ends a show like the rockabilly madness of “Bomb Disneyland”. And as Saudi incites the crowd into the sweatiest, filthiest mosh pit, you can’t help but grin at the appropriateness of being in Denmark when a band screams “dirty-bomb Legoland” at you.

LIVE REVIEW: Elder, Loppen, 25.04.2016

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Elder

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

What could be better on a cold, wet Monday evening than a bit of stoner rock at Loppen? A great deal of Copenhageners would have understandably replied “staying warm and dry at home,” but Elder, the headlining act this evening, certainly have their fair share of hardcore fans.

“Stoner rock” tends to denote a particular mentality rather than a well-defined genre. Of the three bands playing tonight, what unites them is a love for Black Sabbath, vintage equipment, and the endorsement (implied or otherwise) of the ‘erb. Openers Carousel tend towards the more traditional hard-rock end of the spectrum, but this is perhaps not the right crowd for that.

Elder

The Oakland-based, follicularly-gifted quintet Mondo Drag are another case entirely. Drawing from esoteric 70s prog, in the vein of Goblin, King Crimson and Camel, the band’s extended jams resonate much more with the audience. The Ozzy-esque vocals are there, as with basically every other band in the stoner category, but the band is at its best when they focus on keyboard-led instrumentals.

Elder

But as soon as Elder begin tearing through “Compendium”, the opening track of their 2015 LP Lore, you get an idea of how the genre can become more than an enjoyable romp through Black Sabbath’s major works. The influences are still there in the chugging bass riffs, but frontman Nick DiSalvo’s guitar can suddenly become ornate and melodic, riding the drums and bass like the foam on a rough sea.

Describing this as their billionth appearance at Loppen, the band clearly feel at home. And after two hours of waiting, the audience is fervently on their side. Beer splashes everywhere, and bassist Jack Donovan nearly beheads a few people in the front in his frenzy. A few obligatory technical glitches do little to dent the enthusiasm of either band or audience, and as the evening draws to a close, Elder proved they were definitely worth enduring the awful weather.

LIVE REVIEW: The Residents, Amager Bio, 09.02.16

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Photos by Amanda Farah

The Residents have remained a mystery for 40 years now, with a back-catalogue that makes the Fall look like lazy in comparison. Their appearance is always an event, gathering together misfits of all ages and backgrounds, and today it is preceded by an interview at the Main Library. Three masked figures, two of them looking not altogether dissimilar to the Spirit of Jazz from the Mighty Boosh, sit menacingly in the candlelight as their spokesperson answers questions with witty evasions.

The three weirdos looming over this conversation are known Randy, Chuck and Bob, and the album they are presenting, “Shadowlands”, is the last in a trilogy they have named after themselves. After the departure of “Carlos”–ostensibly to run a chicken farm in Mexico (the spokesperson assures us it is “more of a metaphorical chicken farm”–the band began to attach names to themselves, replacing the obscurity of anonymity with that of personal narratives.

There is definitely some kind of narrative at work at their concert, where old re-worked favourites like “Constantinople” and “Blue Rosebud” are intercut with video segments. This is not so much a retrospective as a re-presentation of material which has always sounded outside of its own time. The sound can sometimes veer towards the cheesy–particularly with the tinny, hyper-effected guitar solos–but if anything this heightens the weirdness, highlights just how out of place the band really is.

With a backdrop of optical illusions and a looming giant balloon that functions as projector screen, the band’s bizarre outfits pop out with such hyper-reality that you might convince yourself that they themselves are illusions. To some extent, of course, that is true. You’ll notice, for example, that the figure of ‘Randy’, half crazed scientist, half psychopathic magician, is considerably more portly on stage than he was during the pre-show interview. Many internet theorists posit that the man hollering on stage is in fact the same Homer Flynn that presented himself as “spokesperson” for the band only an hour ago.

But that is an altogether too probable explanation. If you need to speculate as to who the Residents really are, you are better off going for the wildly improbable (I have heard everyone from David Byrne and Paul McCartney). You could pin them down, categorize them, name them, but then what would remain?

LIVE REVIEW: Julia Holter, Vega, 04.11.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

It’s fair to say that Julia Holter has become something of a contemporary cult figure for the Here Today staff. In fact, checking the side bar on Spotify, I can see that at the moment of writing at least three friends are listening to her. But what is it that hooks us? From the insular minimalism of Ekstasis, via the disquieting swirls of Loud City Song, and finally to the harpsichord-dominated psych-pop of her latest album, Have You In My Wilderness, the L.A. singer-songwriter is hard to pin down to anything other than her voracious and sparkling personality.*

If you have only accessed Holter through her records, her live presence will come as a surprise. No mystery, no ominous lighting, just a cheery young woman with a mass of thick hair and a laid-back band. For this tour Holter is joined by a bassist, a violist and a wise-cracking drummer. The use of strings lends quite a different effect from last time I saw her, when she was accompanied by a small but brash brass section (making the song “Horns Surrounding Me” almost literal). Which is not to say that the set is all airy-fairy sweetness, but rather that this evening discord is sown slowly and suggestively, rather than forcefully.

Julia Holter Vega-4837

After some initial technical difficulty, the band begins with a song “about dying on an island,” as Holter herself puts it. The song in question, “Lucette Stranded on the Island”, is full of quiet, lush melancholy, showcasing the band at their sweetest. No matter how dark the subject matter might be, Have You In My Wilderness is without a doubt the brightest of Holter’s work, epitomized by the bobbing bass line and drums of “Feel You” (which, we are reminded, does not sound completely unlike the word “failure”).

There are other moments of brilliant dynamism, particularly on the song “Horns Surrounding Me”. Though the horns in question are nowhere to be found, the ominous, driving piano riff does a good enough job of evoking the paranoid desire to run away. As the drums pick up on the alternate beat to the piano, the pace seems to increase, and the viola starts to wail. But the real highlight of the evening is “Marienbad”, with its haunting opening arpeggio and medieval-sounding vocal harmonies. There is an escapist element to all Holter’s music, albeit an escape into something disquieting, but the minimalism of this song seems to highlight the space in the room. Have we escaped back into the present?

*Yes, I am aware that she has released records prior to Ekstasis

Our gig picks this week

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“Hey guys, any good concerts this week?” You bet. As the days get darker and colder the gigs keep piling up. To help you sort out your musical priorities, we’ve come up with our recommendations for the next five days.

Wednesday, November 4

Julia Holter, Vega

Always a favourite at Here Today, Julia Holter’s latest release, Have You In My Wilderness has received universal acclaim. If your dream hangout spot is the Road House from Twin Peaks, welcome to your new musical obsession.

Thursday, November 5

The Prodigy, Tap1

Do we really need to tell you why the Prodigy are worth seeing? Weren’t you around when the video for “Firestarter” was playing everywhere? Jeez, live a little.

Shilpa Ray, Loppen

If you haven’t already shaved the top of your head and colored the remaining hair green in tribute to the Prodigy, you can opt for a more quiet evening with Shilpa Ray, who did this wonderful duet with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Friday, November 6

Chelsea Wolfe, Loppen

The dark queen of doom folk is back again with Abyss. Halloween really isn’t over till Chelsea’s passed through town.

Mercury Rev, Koncerthuset

These indie heroes of the 80s and 90s are still going strong with their newly release The Light in You.

James Chance and the Contortions, Jazzhouse

NY NO WAVE! KILL YR IDOLS! God knows how or why they are still playing, but how can you not be into a little contortion?

Saturday, November 7

Put on your best canadian tuxedo and point your Mustang south towards Amager Bio for longhaired-wonder Kurt Vile.

(If you are in Århus you will have the chance to experience Kurt Vile at Voxhall on the 4. of November.)

Kuku and Blixa Bargeld, Jazzhouse

Honestly I can’t think of many reasons why you wouldn’t want to see Blixa Bargeld doing anything, anywhere. Just the other day I watched a video of him making risotto on German tv. Worth it.

Sunday, November 8

Son Lux, Lille Vega

No one goes wild on a Sunday, so why not chill with Son Lux instead? Also, is this what people mean by chamber pop?

Thurston Moore, Store Vega

Or else head round the corner to Vega’s larger venue and check out Sonic Youth-founder Thurston Moore. Then again I haven’t read Kim Gordon’s autobiography yet so I dunno whether I’m supposed to be ok with him or not.

Patty Waters, Jazzhouse

Believe it or not, Jazzhouse does actually host jazz gigs every now and then. “Priestess of the avant-garde” should be all the endorsement this jazz innovator needs. Jazz (and did I mention jazz?)

 

LIVE REVIEW: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Den Grå Hal, 02.11.15

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The last time Godspeed You! Black Emperor played in Copenhagen we were seated in plush velvet theatre seats, trying to reconcile their apocalyptic symphonies with the bright lights and cheer of Tivoli outside. But tonight the venue is much more appropriate. The wooden roof of Christiania’s Den Grå Hal towers above us, the air is chilly, and the nauseating smell of burnt sugar is thankfully absent.

The evening starts with the looping guitar drones of Bhutanese musician Tashi Dorji. Hunched over his instrument, face obscured by a black hoodie, Dorji abuses the strings into producing a wall of sound that grows to painful levels. Several audience members retreat outside to smoke and save their eardrums for the main event.

Tashi Dorji

After the slow initial buildup of “Hope Drone”, GY!BE immediately settle nerves by launching into the first two movements of “Storm”: never fear, ladies and gentlemen, we will not be denied the classics. You can tell by the nods people give each other at the beginning of each song that albums like Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! and F#a#infinity are deeply ingrained since adolescence, but when GY!BE play one doesn’t have so much the sense of reliving younger days, but of tapping back into something that always felt timeless.

The middle section of the performance is taken up by the full playthrough of the band’s latest album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, which features some surprisingly upbeat sections. The first, “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!'”, for all its initial stoner-rock plodding, eventually starts to sound not entirely unlike a weird, drone-y performance of “Norwegian Wood”. Try listening to them back to back, you’ll see. In quieter moments, such as “Lambs’ Breath”, your eyes are drawn up to the projections behind the band. Possibly the only band in the world to have their own dedicated projectionist, GY!BE are illuminated by loops of grainy 16mm footage. A lonely stag on a dark road, fields of corn, Revivalist churches, cop cars, factories on fire.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

People my age have grown up in an era obsessed with post-apocalypical stories, but when someone uses that word, I never think of Mad Max, or The Road, or zombie movies, but rather the cover of F#a#infinity. And as the band  concludes its two-hour set with “The Sad Mafioso” section of “East Hastings”, it seems obvious that for many of us these aren’t allegorical warnings, but perversely exciting possibilities.

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