Whether you count from their last studio album or from their initial reunion in 2014, we’ve been waiting on a new Slowdive album for a long time. But with their self-titled album, Slowdive have found the perfect balance between the dreamy guitars and their later electronic experiments. The results are delicate, heartbreaking, and absolutely worth the wait.
Exile in the Outer Ring
Erika M Anderson understands middle America better than most and tells her version without romance or sentimentality. Exile in the Outer Ring is a fried circuit, the narrative to our modern dystopia, and a fatalist slice of life. Lean into the noise and come away feeling completely wrecked — it’s extremely cathartic.
If All I Was Was Black
Mavis Staples recorded the greatest protest album of the year. With the help of songwriter/producer Jeff Tweedy, Staples taps into the rage, hope, empathy and plans of action that define America right now. No other album this year will uplift you and light a fire under you in the same way, regardless of how much attention you pay to the news.
Relatives in Descent
When the year of Trump is coming to an end the album to end I’ll be waving my middle finger to is Protomartyr’s brilliant fourth studio album Relatives in Descent. Unlike Mavis Staples’s If All I Was Was Black this album offers little hope or comfort; it’s bleak and angry post-punk when it’s best.
It’s strange to think of an album as dark and mysterious as Arca’s self-titled as the Venezuelan producer’s stepping into the limelight, but the revelation of his own gorgeous vocals accomplishes precisely that. This, together with his work on Björk’s Utopia, truly makes 2017 the Year of Arca.
Opening with a piano full of classic Sakamoto romanticism, async quickly tumbles into a contemplative world of soft noise, in which natural sounds merge into machine drones, organs flow into synthesizers. If you needed further proof of Sakamoto’s enduring influence, look to the accompanying remixes by everyone from Daniel Lopatin to Arca and Yves Tumor.
I came across Jane Weaver relatively late into her career, with the magical witch-glam of “Don’t Take My Soul”, but on Modern Kosmology Weaver has added a healthy dose of warm synths and motorik drum machines. Ground is left thoroughly unbroken, but this is the kind of low-key spaciness that I need at this time of year.’
The War On Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
When The War On Drugs in 2014 released their magnificent album Lost In A Dream it seemed they had perfected the sound and musical style developed on their second album Slave Ambient. It was interesting to see what direction frontman Adam Granduciel and his band would go next. The answer came this year with A Deeper Understanding, an album that takes the listener even further into the strangely familiar, yet unique musical universe of Granduciel which must be considered a great success.
Not Even Happiness
When Julie Byrne played Jazzhouse earlier this year we were impressed with how she brought the beauty and intimacy of her album Not Even Happiness to the stage. The album is centered around Julie Byrne’s incredible voice, her finger-picked guitar, some minimal orchestral arrangement and her brilliant songwriting. In the song ‘All the Land Glimmered’ there is a line that I think captures the feeling of the album: “Will I know a truer time / than when I stood alone in the snow”.
You might be interested in
It has been a topic of conversation for weeks, even months. LCD Soundsystem’s three night affair at Vega finally puts an end to one of the dullest summers in recent memory with an explosion of colour and disco-balls. Half an hour before the beginning of their Friday night set, those who attended the previous night’s concert are being eagerly quizzed about what songs to expect. The response is always the same: no matter what they play, expect one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year.
There’s a lot of fake outrage when a band reunites, a sense that they are desecrating their own past in order to satisfy their ego, wallet, or rapidly eroding sense of self. In the case of James Murphy and co, these concerns were laid to rest during their reunion tour last year, and the acclaim around their fourth album, American Dream, further cements the notion that they must just be physiologically incapable of producing anything bad.
You can see their painstaking attention to detail in almost any aspect of the evening. From the fact they begin at a chronometrically-precise 9pm, with drummer Pat Mahoney taking the beat from the end of Shit Robot’s DJ set, to the perfect oldies/newies balanced structure of setlist, the dedication LCD Soundsystem demonstrate in their live shows cannot fail but to engender fanatical devotion in the audience.
The enthusiasm starts on stage, in the way Murphy interacts with Mahoney during their percussion sessions, the general wine-swilling bonhomie of friends who have honed their enjoyment over two decades. With the kind of empathy for the audience that only comes from years of fandom, Murphy is almost apologetic for playing newer material, but he needn’t be, as a fair number are singing along word-for-word to new singles like Tonite and Call the Police. And realistically, any band who can dispense with their most well-known song ten minutes into their set has to be confident in the quantity and quality of their output.
Towards the end of the evening, the Friday after-work booze-up is starting to make its boisterous presence felt, with beer flying around the room during the breakdown of Dance Yrself Clean (the irony is not lost on me or my Tuborg-drenched shirt). But there is also some time for subtlety, a much appreciated addition being the presence of Gavin Russom at the centre of the stage, producing some fantastic drones from the middle of her fort of modular synths.
“We will now play three songs. Then we will go downstairs, come back, and play four more songs.” It sounds parodic but this is more or less how James Murphy speaks, with a refreshing absence of any bullshit. Sentimentality is something you’ll have to inject into the songs yourself, but as the boards creek under the weight of All My Friends, it looks like most people here don’t have much trouble with that.
You might be interested in
Haley Fohr is a solo artist with a strong sense of the mysterious. We first caught her opening for Jenny Hval playing solo as Circuit des Yeux back in 2015 and were completely taken with her eerie folk, tenor-range alto, and ambiguous stage presence.
We’ve taken every chance to see Fohr perform since, whether as Circuit des Yeux or her electronica-fused side project, Jackie Lynn. Circuit des Yeux was back in Denmark to play a Saturday set on the Gloria stage at this year’s Roskilde, this time backed by a drummer and violist. Bolstered by these added textures, Fohr stood out as a strong force building up and controlling the dark vibes around her.
Circuit des Yeux just announced a new album, Reaching for Indigo, out on October 20 on a new label, Drag City. While she couldn’t divulge too many details about the album at the time of our chat, Fohr did elaborate on her working style and where she is as a musician now ten years into her career:
Is this your first time at Roskilde?
I’ve played Denmark a couple of times, but only in Copenhagen. This was my first time outside of that city.
We’ve never seen you play as Circuit des Yeux with a backing band before.
This is quite stripped down, I’d say. Usually I play with five to six people. So it was nice to finally have that represented in some way, even if it’s only a three piece. We’ll be back next year with a new record and there will be many more people on stage and I’m really excited for that.
You introduced new songs in your set today. What are you working on now?
I guess I’m just following my muse and the songs are getting longer, pushing around eight to 20 minutes instead of the more truncated style. With this new material I really went big and it kind of sounds expensive. I recorded it all at home still, but there’s a lot of strings and a lot of trombone and synthesizer. I feel like I expanded my textures in this way. It’s much different than anything I’ve done, and that’s how each of my records are I think. Or I try anyway, you know?
Did you work with a lot of other musicians on the record?
It’s very collaborative. I’m definitely steering a tighter ship these days, but it features a lot more jazz musicians from Chicago. I feel like it was kind of post-rock before, but I’ve got a lot more people that are from the Chicago jazz scene involved.
Talking about your home studio, has having that set-up affected how you work?
I’ve never done a proper studio record. Ever. I’ve never recorded and mixed in a studio. That’s something I look forward to maybe later down the road, but right now I find that I work in a longer timeframe that’s a little more on my schedule than eight hours in the studio. It’s expensive and I feel like I can explore more and have the freedom to find what’s right for a song.
This new one was a little more laborious emotionally. I feel like it’s really cinematic. My music’s always been more album-oriented than song-oriented, which is harder to do in this day and age because of things like Spotify and streaming. But this new one’s even more like a film. Start to finish I feel like it makes more sense than if you pick a song out. Which to me is a cool development. I define it as a success.
Has working on Jackie Lynn as a stand-alone project influenced your new work as Circuit des Yeux?
Totally. Jackie Lynn was a truncated idea that came more from my brain and it was very narrative. With Circuit des Yeux, I feel like I’m almost a slave to a feeling. It’s kind of chaotic. I write songs but then they always turn themselves into something else at the whim of chaos. Jackie Lynn was definitely a one-off, but it was a nice exercise just to really define — “It’s going to be like this.” — and it was. It was like, “I can do that. I can make a two-and-a-half minute song and make it how I want it to be and embody a world in a different way.” Which was really freeing to make me feel like I was in control again. I’d like to do more of that, too. It works a different part of my creativity.
Do you feel like your performance is evolving with the songs?
I think my stage presence has changed. Circuit des Yeux doesn’t ever really feel like a performance, it feels like me. And my comfort level is growing. To be on stage is a thing in itself. To make that commitment uncomfortable — it always has been, but now I just talk a lot more to the people involved in the production. Today I was like, “No front lights, no white lights.” I’m really communicative about the things that make me uncomfortable, and that’s made it easier for me.
But also, standing up straight — I don’t know, I’m always slouching, I have my hair in my face — that’s just how I am. That’s just who I am on earth. I feel like that’s definitely evolved, just like owning my space. I feel like that’s also just part of growing up as woman. Anyone that does anything creative or maybe off the beaten path, your 20s are pretty awkward. Now I’m 28, when I started I was 18. You’re gonna grow into yourself and love yourself more the older you get.
Being comfortable with yourself would be necessary if you’re bringing in more collaborators as well. You would need to take on more of a directorial role to coordinate and get what you want across.
Certainly. And for me I really like to straddle this line of — I work with primarily experimental musicians that all have their own outlet and it’s pretty free. I don’t really like to work with session musicians, and my direction is pretty abstract. I talk a lot and explain what I want, but I will never say, like, “I want a G on the third beat of this measure.” I’ll say, like, “You sound like leaves wrestling and I want butterflies in the sky.” But it works. To me it’s always a balance of chaos and direction.
When can we expect the new album?
You can expect the details of that album on the first of August, but I can’t tell you when it’s going to be out. But I’m really excited. I feel like things have coalesced in a way where I’m steering the ship and it feels good. Everything feels right and I’ve got a beautiful team and people that will work within my means, which are not exactly the norm. I’m not down to play a bar. I’m really specific these days. So I feel lucky to work with people who also have a specific idea and are willing to honor that artistic expression.
You might be interested in
“It has been an experience in insanity to organize this festival,” said Jcak, one of the organizers of the International Supernoise Festival. The second annual festival took place from February 1-7 in the Latin Quarter of Aarhus. One hundred different acts from 20 countries performed. An independent label of sorts known as Den Jyske Harsh Noise Mafia (DJHNM) has been putting on noise events since 2012, but this year’s Supernoise Festival is the biggest event they ever organized.
Luna is one of the arrangers and artists who helped the organizing team put on the festival. According to Luna, the festival had a lot more attendees this time along with more performers.
“It was taking place more than just the weekend so there was room for a lot more artists, especially international artists” she said. “This one was a lot more organized, due to it being a week long so we had to have it more organized.”
For Luna, festivals like Supernoise play a significant role as they provide a different perspective of the music scene in Aarhus, where there aren’t a lot of noise shows taking place.
“It’s nice to give this variation to the music scene and culture because it’s not always seen as music or an art form, but it is, and I hope that people took their time to go watch this event, even for just a couple of hours,” said Luna. She hopes that the festival helped open eyes and show how inspirational and artistic other forms of music culture can be that you don’t see every day.
Sometimes, getting a platform to express your art is difficult, but it is a great source of expression when you do, and Supernoise has been that platform.
“When you understand it, noise becomes a language, and I don’t want to define it as a musical genre as such,” said Jcak. “I think noise is more about expanding the understanding of what music and sound can be. I consider it being much more chaotic, where the performative, the visual elements and the situation plays a huge part and where nothing is oppressed.”
Throughout the festival, organizers Jcak and Emma had a group of volunteers like Luna helping them. The sound crew in particular were responsible for keeping order in all of the chaos and controlling the schedule for the artists, who had around 20 minutes per set. SkraldeCaféen were also a big help for the organizers during the festival, setting up a kitchen at the venue and providing food for everyone. This festival was mainly a get-together of sorts for friends and family and well-wishers of all the performers. While none of the artists were paid, the money from the festival will be spent on their travel expenses.
“Being marginalised by mainstream media, the international noise scene acts like family,” Jcak and Emma explained. “For this reason as well, most of the artists who played at Supernoise are already friends of ours or friends of friends. We don’t accept oppressive attitudes – in both festivals we have rejected only two artists for being uncool,” they say, referring to sexist attitudes as what was uncool.
According to Jcak and Emma, there is a favourable audience for noise events in Aarhus and people are open and interested in experimental art forms. Even when people aren’t aware of what to expect, they show up anyway.
“Right now we need a little break and then we will see what happens, but hopefully there will be another festival, and if not we will surely make a shitload of noise again. Noise and love for anarchy,” said Jack and Emma. “We don’t know when or if there is going to be another Supernoise Festival, but if so, it will properly be a month long with 1000 artists.”
-Zahra Salah Uddin
David Bowie died a year ago today. This was the first of several mornings in 2016 that began in complete disbelief. At the heart of each one of those shocks was the richness of detail with which one could visualise each successive failed future: defeated Brixiteers loudly priding themselves on the fact that almost half of Britain dislike the EU, clamouring for a second referendum; Trump supporters denouncing the presidency as satanic; op-eds everywhere detailing just how close we got to Armageddon.
With Blackstar, Bowie had proved the efficacy and productivity of his late self-imposed obscurity. How many more of his albums would have suddenly revealed themselves over the coming years?
He would have been 70 on Sunday, but he won’t need the conveniences of calendars to be remembered. Blackstar managed to survive a year of thinkpieces, in part because its connection to the loss that immediately followed it meant that every mention of that album is a veiled or overt act of mourning and memorialising. It was without any doubt the album that defined that year for us, and each time we hear it, it reenacts the surprise of first hearing it, and the surprise of waking up two days later.
It’s an album of great conviction, that still baffles. We will analyze and over-analyze it for a generation, and every time we think we’ll have reached a conclusion, some new Easter egg in the artwork will be discovered and we’ll begin again.
The newly-released No Plan EP is little more than a teasing of what might have been. There was obviously no time to create something as fully realized as his final complete album. Will we search these final few songs for answers the way we scraped Blackstar? No, we’ll just happily accept any scraps that try to piece together what we lost. We’ll force ourselves to be content with Blackstar as the perfect farewell it has become, whether or not it was intended to be.
You might be interested in
We’re not going to spend time talking about what a brutal year 2016 was for music lovers. Regardless of what genre you favor, 2016 was a year that took someone away from you. And while that might be the most immediately enduring sentiment about the past year, it’s necessary to take strength in the incredible music that was released this year. In the past 12 months, we’ve been blown away by newcomers and watched artists we’ve been rooting for all along come into their own. We’ve welcomed back old friends and received beautiful goodbyes from heroes. It’s because it’s been such an extraordinarily, musically rich year that we’ve made it through at all. These are our favorites:
It’s two short years ago that Angel Olsen first captured our hears, but she’s come a long way from her minimalist, finger-picked solo guitar tracks. On MY WOMAN, Angel builds out her dreamiest moments into vast washes of rumbling guitar with vague memories of folk somewhere in the distance. This hasn’t stopped her from writing snappy pop songs or experimenting with synthesizers. Her vocals are just as moving as ever, but where quiet whispers were once her stock and trade, there is real evidence that Angel could be a leading rock vocalist of her generation.
And that’s what is so exciting about both Angel and this record: On MY WOMAN, she shows not only that an understanding of what she does so well, but that her own potential is limitless. More to the point, we can see now that she’s ambitious enough to follow that potential it wherever it takes her. — AF
When Puce Mary released The Spiral, her third LP, she played a release concert at Mayhem, and the performance she gave is a serious contender to being the most intense of 2016. Stripped of the insane decibels, Puce Mary’s confrontational yet trance-like stage appearance, the lights and the smoke, The Spiral is still a captivating experience. The eight tracks on the album are very distinct, yet they blend together forming a whole that sucks you in as it progresses. Puce Mary is a master of contrasts, her music is brutal yet subtle, even fragile, and even though compositions are industrial, her music feels alive like an organism.
Last but not least: It sounds amazing. The noise, the textures, the strange field recordings, the distorted vocals. The Spiral is an intense and demanding record, but also truly inspiring and in it’s own, complex way beautiful. — MAK
While it seemed as though she appeared from nowhere to make us get in touch with our feelings, Mitski has been toiling away for years now. Her fourth album, Puberty 2, perfectly combines her prolific efforts with a youthful perspective and energy and just enough life experience to make you believe her. The album is full of subtle bleeps and horn flourishes, but watching her play stripped back versions of the album was a highlight of the year.
It takes a good amount of self-awareness to call your album Puberty 2, and so much of its charm is her unabashed willingness to be awkward — which somehow also makes her the coolest girl in the room. You will feel like Mitski just gets you, and you’re probably giving yourself too much credit. We definitely understand the impulse, though. — AF
The Life of Pablo
The Life of Pablo is a tricky, slippery thing of an album. Less of an album, really, than a saga, an half year long event tracking the evolution of an album. But really, it’s just a collection of some very good tracks by a producer who, whatever else he might be, is also touched by genius. From Nina Simone and Arthur Russel, via Chicago house, to Frank Ocean and Desiigner, Kanye’s sample palette is as diverse, crazy and unique as ever.
In 2013 Kanye West marked the death of physical media with the cover of Yeesus, an “open casket to CDs”. That was an album full of energy joyous destruction. It seems fitting that with The Life of Pablo, Ye confronts us with the direct evidence of the technical and emotional demands of the new dominant technology. Keep it loopy. — CC
Cate Le Bon
There is a feeling of kinship that runs through Cate Le Bon’s music, that if you yourself have ever toed the line between interesting and just strange leads her to sound identifiable even in her most abstract images. Le Bon is a master of oddball pop songs, with her ramshackle style of guitar playing and many unique turns of phrase.
Crab Day demonstrates the same dry vocal delivery that has always set her apart and given her music so much personality, but this time she’s pushed herself and her sound to new depths. She’s stretch her vocal range and brought a new emotional connection to her songs, which is emphasized in her commitment to her visual lyrics. She’s also introduced some legitimate guitar solos to her work. Album closer “What’s Not Mine” stretches to seven minutes of everything we find charmingly off kilter about Cate Le Bon’s music, which is to say, it’s perfect. — AF
Fat White Family
Songs for Our Mothers
Few bands are able to channel hatred with the pure intensity and conviction of the Fat White Family. If this is their “difficult second album”, the difficulty lies more in their own physiological limitations, rather than in a lack of ideas or direction. Songs for Our Mothers promised to “dance to the beat of human hatred”, but little did we know back in January the degree to which that emotion would imprint itself in 2016.
Harold Shipman, Ike Turner, Goebbels: the gleeful offensiveness of the cast goes hand in hand with a deeper moral outrage, as the Family wrap themselves further and further in darkness, with only their humour and some wicked riffs for support. There’s no knowing what the next year will bring, but we can only hope the Fat White Family will be around, in some form, to rage against it. — CC
On the face of it, this is a synthpop album about female vampires. But anyone approaching Jenny Hval’s latest album with the expectation of a thematically-coherent concept album clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Jenny’s dark and aloof sense of humour are present in all her work, and particularly on stage, and this year’s effort manages to be a lot stranger than it promised to be.
Though there are undeniably some very lush synth pieces on this record, particularly in its two singles, “Female Vampire” and “Conceptual Romance”, we don’t necessarily rush to Jenny for her tunes, but rather for the oddities that surround them. A moment of creepy melancholy in “Untamed Region” (I told you she was funny) is punctuated by a clip of documentarian Adam Curtis talking about the helpless confusion that seems to characterise our era. Jenny Hval isn’t pretending to guide us out of that confusion, but what she builds upon it well worth the listen.
The Hope Six Demolition Project
The Hope Six Demolition Project is the follow up to the Mercury Prize winning album Let England Shake, and PJ Harvey continues along the same lines collaborating with Mick Harvey, John Parish, Flood and documentary photographer/filmaker Seamus Murphy. But this time she has taken a more conceptual approach and adopted a role as a sort of singer/songwriter journalist reporting from her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. This also applies to the recording process, that was framed as a performance open to the public. While some critics have expressed skepticism about the mix of music and reporting, we applaud her exploration of music as vehicle for change, and together with the albums distinct sound, musical quality and her impressive live performance this earns her a place on our list.
Marissa Nadler – Strangers
Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
Tindersticks – The Waiting Room
Danny Brown – Antrocity Exhibition
Lambchop – Fotus
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Factory Floor – 2525
Holy Fuck – Congrats
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
You might be interested in
Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)
Behind iridescent projections of cityscapes stands a still figure with a guitar and cowboy hat. Dressed in gear that could have been purloined from Gram Parsons’ wardrobe, Jackie Lynn might be looking out into the candle-lit tables of Jazzhouse with a slight nod of approval. Hers is very intentionally loner, dive-bar music, a hybrid of lumpen proletariat country and Suicide-esque electronic minimalism.
We should be more precise: Jackie Lynn is in fact the avatar of singer-songwriter Haley Fohr, until recently best known for her doom-laden folk act, Circuits des Yeux. There is still plenty of darkness to Jackie Lynn, and Fohr’s distinctive low vibrato cannot be masked, but there is also an unmistakable playfulness to the very concept of this project. Accompanied by a carpet of lofi drum machines and bleepy synths, provided by members of the gloriously-named Bitchin Bajas, Jackie Lynn strums her guitar and tells her tale of love, coke dealing, and “jocks and their tiny cocks.”
For what sounds like a conceptually overwrought mix of country and electronics, the Jackie Lynn project manages to sound perfectly natural, a glimpse of an alternate world, a micro-culture just barely out of reach of the internet. The briefness of the album, under half an hour, adds to the mystery, but the real power of Fohr’s persona is felt when she is there before you, almost, but not quite, accessible.
You might be interested in
Not too long ago, ‘being a fan of ambient music’ would be classified at around 7.8 on the Social Dysfunction scale, just below ‘owning seven cats and two human skulls’, or ‘commenting on news websites’. But these days ambient is rougher, darker, and louder than its predecessors. If it looks to Brian Eno at all, it is the twisted Eno that makes up much of Adam Curtis’s soundtracks, rather than the one who composes lullabies for air passengers. Ambient is also, it would appear, much more popular now. At least enough that one of its main ambassadors, Tim Hecker, can quickly sell out a medium-sized venue like Jazzhouse.
Not that this is all Hecker’s doing. The evening is a double bill with an altogether more eclectic character, Tyondai Braxton. Formerly of Battles, Braxton is the cerebral experimenter to Hecker’s romanticism. The difference is as much visual as it is audible: the projections behind Braxton glitch and fragment, the everyday nightmare visions of garbled technologies; Tim Hecker is instead surrounded by rather ecclesiastical rows of pastel-coloured LEDs.
But for all their care in creating compelling visuals to reflect their music, both acts appear to inherently question the need for us as an audience to be standing like this, all facing the stage as if expecting interaction or entertainment. The intermingling tracks from Hecker’s latest LP, Love Streams, positively pour from the speakers, reverberating through bodies and rattling the fillings of teeth. You’d do as well to swim through this than absorb it standing. It is the much-discussed vocal elements of Hecker’s recent work that add a little light to what would otherwise be an unremitting textural piece, and perhaps he is aware enough of the side effects to cut things short: after a pedantically-precise 60 minutes, the lights go up, and those of us who forgot our earplugs began to regret our life choices.
You might be interested in
Photos by Victor Yakimov
On record, Eartheater is an eclectic mix of everything from spacey electronica to lo-fi freak folk. But live, Alexandra Drewchin’s solo persona is that of an uncompromising, confrontational noise artist. It starts with her reaching the stage by wading through the audience, towering above us in her 8″ Converse platforms. Some swift tapping on her laptop triggers an insistent low-frequency rumble, over which Drewchin performs a spoken-word piece, her voice drastically lowered by her trademark vocal effects.
Loppen is by no means packed out tonight, but if anything, this seems to work to Drewchin’s advantage. A significant proportion of her set is instrumental, aided by guitar retrofitted with a midi controller that triggers everything from pure white noise to the sounds of thunder, barking dogs and rainfall. Throughout this Drewchin wanders among the audience, staring them down one at a time, before drifting towards the bar, draping herself over it as if her spine were elastic. You sometimes hear of music being characterized as exploratory (typically standing for pot-induced jam sessions), but in this case the whole point of Eartheater is to test the space on a tactile level.
This sounds a little too facetious, the fault is mine. Drewchin is more than happy to cut the intensity of her set with moments of levity and self-effacement, and her physical contortions are as much joyful as they are pained. And as the set draws to a close, even the most bemused members of the audience look buoyed by the experience, or at the very least inspired to take up yoga.
You might be interested in
Photos by Amanda Farah
It’s hard to think of a band as fun, weird and childlike as Deerhoof as, well, old, but 20 years in the business is a pretty significant amount of time. With around sixteen albums crowding their discography, the San Franciscan quartet’s unique brand of ultra-hyphenated, off-kilter art-rock has undergone endless refinements. If any band deserves to share that famous trope of the Fall, “always different, always the same”, it’s Deerhoof, a band that could record an album using nothing more than kazoos and still be immediately recognizable.
Case in point: towards the end of their set, I am puzzled by an familiar, but unusually riff-heavy song. After a couple of choruses, straining my ears, I eventually untangle the words: “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I defy you to go out tonight and find me another band worth their salt playing Def Leppard covers, but more importantly, to incorporate them into a set without it sounding completely bonkers.
It helps of course that Deerhoof’s latest album, The Magic, comes closer to standard rock tropes than most of their recent records. But for every Ramones-channeling “That Ain’t No Life For Me”, there is still a piece of their patented balance of unhinged and deadly precise, a la “Kafe Mania!”. Unhinged is a fairly apposite descriptor of the set as a whole, with John Dietrich’s guitar losing strings every other song.
In these technical pauses, drummer Greg Saunier comes to the rescue. Channeling Crispin Glover and Steven Wright simultaneously, Saunier embarks on tortuous meditations on the heat in Denmark and how it might be affecting both the tuning and the life-span of guitar strings. A good portion of the audience is baffled, but I would be the first to buy Saunier’s HBO special should he decide to ditch the drums for a stand-up career.
For all their fun, there is a challenging element to Deerhoof, a wry art to their playfulness that can sometimes be at the casual listener’s expense. Returning to stage for an encore, flushed by a blistering set, singer Satomi Matsuzaki spends a good ten minutes teaching the audience a rhythmically-challenging call-and-response. Satisfied that we’ve got the gist, the band get going. The song lasts a minute. The band leave. Best ending to a set I’ve witnessed in a while.