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LIVE REVIEW: Eartheater, Loppen, 21.09.2016

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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.

Eartheater 3

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.

LIVE REVIEW: Deerhoof, Jazzhouse, 13.09.16

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Deerhoof live Jazzhouse Copenhagen

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.

Deerhoof live Jazzhouse Copenhagen

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.

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: L7, Amager Bio, 31.08.2016

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L7 live at Amager Bio Copenhagen

We aren’t quite in the throes of a full-on 90s revival, but surely the return of fanny packs (as they are known in American parlance) means we’re too close for comfort. It’s been amping up for a while — it’s not like kids have stopped being influenced by grunge in the last 20 years — but now it’s also getting more and more toothless. The biggest problem with the nostalgia-inspired younger bands is that they not only lack the energy of bands they’re emulating, but many of those bands are still around and still doing that same schtick better.

L7 is now two years into a reunion that has, as yet, yielded no new songs. If their show at Amager Bio is anything to go on, they’re enjoying every minute of it, happy to bask in the enthusiasm of a crowd of diverse make-up, and happy to whip them into a frenzy before launching into “Fuel My Fire.”

Three decades on from when they formed, their energy is intense, with none of the women standing still for a minute. Once in a while there’s a cheeky comment leading up to a song, like describing “One More Thing” as, “the scrape heard ‘round the world,” but otherwise they barely pause between songs, preferring to jump and shimmy and stagger around. It’s not terribly surprising that the set clocks in just past the hour mark.

L7 live at Amager Bio Copenhagen
Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

But there is an effortlessness to it all: They sound loud, forceful, strong in how they sing and how they play. More than once bassist Jennifer Finch falls to the floor, her legs going up over her head before she swings herself back onto her feet, and it’s amusing instead of contrived. There are more fans on stage than one normally sees, blowing the women’s hair around and preventing them from breaking a sweat (which in the case of drummer Demetra Plakas, with her serene facial expressions, makes her look particularly like she’s in an old rock music video; in the case of Donita Sparks, it’s probably keeping the impressive metallic body art painted up and down her arms from smudging).

It’s tempting to frame this evening as a gathering of awesome women to see awesome women play, but raucousness prevails. There’s plenty of shoving and spilled beer and dodging of flailing arms to preserve the feelings of punk and grunge, for better or worse. But the irony of the bassist shouting, “this one’s for the ladies” being punctuated by dudes lobbing their empty plastic cups at the people behind them is a little too much. There are some behaviors that would be wonderful to see left in the past — sadly, they are still very present.

Trailerpark Festival

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By  Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com) and Charlie Cassarino

The tenth Trailerpark Festival was also announced to be the last; not because of lack of interest or finances, but because the team behind Trailerpark Festival wished to move on. A new festival is on they way, they say, and perhaps Trailerpark I/O, the new branch on this years Trailerpark Festival, is a hint of what to expect.

Trailerpark I/O preceded the music on Friday, centering around a variety of themes, including surveillance societies, virtual worlds, conversational interfaces, computational creativity and responsive materials. These themes where explored through talks, exhibitions, talent showcases, films and labs. Here are some of the highlights from the exhibitions:

An EEG sensor detects certain brain waves which are then displayed as gif's. Just meditate, the man was told.
Wear What You Think – An EEG sensor detects certain brain waves which are then displayed as gif’s. Just meditate, the man was told.

WEAR WHAT YOU THINK was one of the first installations you encountered in the exhibition area. Here you where outfitted with a consumer grade EEG-device programmed to detect brainwave patterns; these where then translated into .gifs pulled from giphy.com and projected back onto the subject wearing a white, reflective poncho.

I SEE YOU, the neighbouring installation , used similar technology. Developed by Great Works CPH, the project reflected on data collection, surveillance, privacy and transparency by displaying gifs relating to the conversations going on inside the installation. As with Wear What You Think the gifs where pulled from giphy. A handheld version using a Rasperry pie was also available.

This sci-fi setup is actually an exploration of haptics and music
Resonate by De Nakke Ontwerpers is an exploaration of haptics and music. The suits each contain 10 vibrating that adds another element to the music played in the headphones.

SHE & HE: A LOVE STORY BETWEEN TWO COMPUTERS by Mer/Sea & Iregular was a charming little installation staging a conversation between two computes by pulling randomly selected phrases from social media. The project was very reminiscent of Jonathan Harris’s 2008 installation at MOMA entitled I Want You To Want Me

In the Talents, Talks and Labs section you could employ Doliio’s Autonomous Self-Agent  to take care of your social media presence, meet a 3D printer-turned-tattoo-artist, a concept for decentralized furniture production and various virtual reality projects. Being able to try out new technologies, chat with the makers, listen to talks in an informal setting was a good, engaging experience and nice warm up for the music scheduled later on the day.

3D printer converted to a tatoo machine
A geek tatoo on an artificial hand made by 3D printer converted into a tattoo machine by Appropriate Audiences

 

Lynda Joy's virtual reality project lets people experience being a painter from a painters point of view.
Lynda Joy’s virtual reality project lets people experience being a painter from the artist’s point of view.
Section Boys puffing it
Section Boys puffing it

After an afternoon of encounters on the frontiers of technology, it’s back to business as usual at Trailer Park, which means four stages with music from the cutting edge of the Danish and internation pop, electornic and hiphop scenes. South London crew Section Boyz made up for their late appearance with as intense as they were visibly stoned. But the home-grown acts are the ones on everyone’s lips, particularly the r’n’b stylings of Phlake, the blissed out pop of Slowes and the baritone-voiced electronica of Wangel. And just in case the latter three were too laid back for you, Icelanders Sykur were ready to kick the crowd back into life with their aggressively catchy electronica.

So, Trailer Park, goodbye to a decade at Enghave skatepark. What’s in store for the next 10 years?

 

The decorated trailers are still a part of trailerpark festival
The decorated trailers are still a part of trailerpark festival
Phlake
Phlake
Dagny
Dagny
Slowes
Slowes
Wangel
Wangel
Crowd (Section Boyz)
Crowd (Section Boyz)
Sykur
Sykur.
M.I.L.K.
M.I.L.K.

LIVE REVIEW: Julia Holter, DR Koncerthuset, 18.08.2016

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Julia Holter live at DR Koncerthuset

Photo by Morten Krogh

Julia Holter is trying hard not to lose her cool. She tries to sing her first song only to find that her mic isn’t plugged in. She keeps asking for more vocals and keys in her monitor, only to learn that none of her band have any monitors at all. It’s not the most auspicious start to an evening in a smaller room in Koncerthuset, but Julia Holter is a professional.

There are little hints at this professionalism, her classical training, such as when she provides the exact measure to pick up after the mic snafu or when she conducts — whether consciously or unconsciously — for herself, waiting for her backing band to rejoin her on a song.

Maybe it’s the initial tension of the evening that skews this perspective, but the energy of the band as a whole seems stronger than when we first saw this incarnation at Vega last year. Perhaps there is a battle-worn solidarity that helps them rally their energy, but everyone recovers from the early inconvenience and compensates for a lack of joviality with energy. It’s not surprising that Holter surrounds herself with people as seasoned as herself.

While waiting for the monitor situation to get sorted, Julia jokes that now would be the time to sing a cappella, except she never does that. But later, when she sings the hushed line, “all the people run from the horizon” from “How Long?” or when the opening vocals of “So Lilies” ricochet off of those of her backing vocalist, you wonder why she wouldn’t try it. Her voice always identified as a part of her lush arrangements, but would anyone even blink if she made them the defining characteristic of a song?

Her set hasn’t changed much in the last year, with Have You in My Wilderness still her most recent release, but her set did draw a new appreciation for “Vasquez.” Without the electronic elements of its recorded version, it takes on a decidedly more jazzy feel, the bass more dominant and Holter’s vocals more careless in their delivery. The breakdown in the middle, without the horns of the album, is a showcase of minimalist bass and viola work, and when the drums chime in, it is truly startling. And that’s why we’ll be out at every show she plays in Copenhagen — for all her polish, and even after seeing three shows in as many years, Julia Holter can still startle.

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: Patti Smith, DR Koncerthuset, 02.08.2016

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It’s not very far into Patti Smith’s show at Koncerthuset that a theme emerges for the night: Death. Death hangs over so many of her stories and songs. It’s implied when she opens the evening by reading from Just Kids about the optimism of ringing in the New Year, 1970, with Robert Mapplethorp, and confirmed shortly thereafter when she introduces “Paths That Cross” as a song written with her late husband for their friends suffering from AIDS (including Mapplethorp). It’s present in “This is the Girl,” Smith’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, now gone five years. It’s in the cover versions of “When Doves Cry,” “Perfect Day” and “People Get Ready,” the last of which got its worldwide debut from Patti and Co.

Or maybe this show is about life. As the years creep on and her written works begin to match those she’s recorded, Patti Smith is increasingly the one who has lived to tell the stories of those lost along the way. And Patti herself is so full of life. You feel it in the way her voice careers from folksy when she’s telling an unscripted story to frantic when she’s yowling the outro to “Land:” and flailing her arms to match. Or when she introduces “Beneath the Southern Cross” as “a song for life.” Or in the simple energy that radiates from her when she dances throughout the evening, every movement with a consistency that suggests that this is still what she loves and wants to be doing.

No, really, this evening is about survival. Because Patti Smith is not just a historian of her own stories or other people’s stories. She’s not on a legacy tour, but performing music she’s written in the last decade. She tells the audience that she’s performed the songs from Horses a million times, but it doesn’t feel like it. There’s still a force behind those songs that tells you they’re as important to her now as they were 40 years ago. Sometimes it manifests itself as fumbling intros, as with “Land:” and “Because the Night,” possibly because, after all these years, she still thinks about the songs as she sings them. She clearly isn’t on autopilot. She’s still experimenting, whether it’s new arrangements or new covers. It’s this enduring creativity that we will continue to celebrate.

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: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 4, 02.07.2016

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Guardian Alien — Pavilion

We didn’t know exactly what to expect from Guardian Alien as the band is constantly changing. Once the solo project of Greg Fox (of Friday’s Fox Millions Duo), the current incarnation has him paired with guitarist and vocalist Alexandra Drewchin with each of them queuing up tracks from laptops.

guardian alien live roskilde festival
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Though Guardian Alien is nominally thought of as Fox’s project, Drewchin steals the show. It’s not just that as the guitarist she’s more mobile than the drummer — her vocals have a wacky range between her natural soprano and an evil vocal effect, her guitar playing uses effects that make it look like an optical illusion, and she’s twisting her body in an awe-inspiring way. When she bends over backwards and sings while facing the crowd upside-down it proves to be particular popular. When faced with addressing the crowd through heavily reverbed vocals or heavily distorted vocals, she often opts for the demonically distorted vocals. She’s fucking with us, she wants us to know it, and it’s hilarious.

There’s not much more that can be said about Fox’s drumming that we haven’t already said, but this current combination for Guardian Alien belies a playfulness that contrasts nicely with the weight of the music. It’s a little bit tribal, a little bit demonic, and perhaps the most concrete project he’s working on right now. — AF

Gojira – Arena

After touring their latest album, “Magma”, apparently French metallers Gojira have been on a bit of a break. “We’re really rusty” claims frontman Joe Duplantier, whose facial hair today makes him look remarkably like Alan Rickman playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in that shit Robin Hood movie. That’s not a diss, it’s a solid look. Either way, evidently Gojira’s definition of ‘rusty’ is brutally unforgiving. The 1/32-note kick-drum tears through the audience, driving the business-suited gentleman next to me to froth at the mouth with glee. The metal audience at Roskilde will always be a minority, but they definitely get their fill. And if nothing else, they did a solid job of drowning out the sound of Dizzy Miss Lizzy from the Orange Stage. And for that I shall be eternally grateful. – CC

gojira live roskilde festival
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Cate Le Bon — Pavilion

Cate Le Bon plays whimsical pop songs that she delivers with a dry voice (think of “dry” in the same positive light as when it’s used to describe wines). Her vocals live are note-perfect to their recordings, which is precisely what we were hoping for. The only disappointment is that she doesn’t have more small talk between songs, because she speaks with the same delightful lilt as she sings.

cate le bon live roskilde festival
Photo by Tom Spray

Le Bon’s set is mostly comprised of songs from her latest album, Crab Day, which in addition to allowing her to hit the high notes also have her backing band shuffling around instruments. There are times when the bass is too high in the mix, and this drowns out the keyboard in particular, but there is plenty of ramshackle guitar to propel things forward.

And though the aforementioned dryness of Le Bon’s voice is a huge selling point, it is not without emotion. Highlights from the set included “What’s Not Mine” and “Are You With Me Now,” which, for all their forthrightness, leave us wandering back out into the cloudy Saturday in a slightly ruminative state. — AF

New Order — Arena

New Order were always going to be a bit of a wild card, the legacy band that doesn’t want to be a legacy band and doesn’t want to play by the rules. The obvious choice would be for them open their set with a hit, and instead they choose “Singularity” from last year’s album, Music Complete.

new order live roskilde festival
Photo by Tom Spray

While there were some reminders that the band do in fact have a new album, they were forthcoming with singles from throughout their back catalogue, with tracks new and old complemented by stunning short films. The vocals could have been louder, and it was a little difficult to understand Bernard Sumner’s lyrics and his between-song quips. Still, it’s hard to describe the collective euphoria of a packed tent of people singing and dancing along to “Blue Monday” — except for the band themselves, who played to the new wave parody of standing stock still despite the energy of the people in front of them.

After we walked away from the crowd, having been told that “Temptation” was all they had to offer and jabbering about how bands don’t play encores at festivals and anyway New Order had a reputation for not playing encores at all, we heard the cheers erupting from the tent and the opening bass line of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Needless to say, we made our way back to Arena very quickly. Several people told us afterward that they were moved to tears, and at least one of us feels no shame to count herself amongst them. — AF

LCD Soundsystem – Orange

It has been a day of highs and lows. Guardian Alien’s thrilling set in the early afternoon, friends in tears over New Order’s encore, and crucially, having to witness Italy lose to penalties against Germany. But all is not over: I am in the pit at Orange Stage, about to see LCD Soundsystem.

Five years ago the band had bid the world farewell with an already legendary three-hour show in Madison Square Garden. Their return this year was greeted both with enthusiasm and a fair bit of scepticism. After all, why invalidate such a brilliant swansong? But as soon as the band begin to trickle onto the stage to the beat of “Us V Them”, the answer seems self-evident: because it’s simply too fun to stop.

LCD Soundsystem - Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

The set itself flawlessly balances material from all periods of the band’s existence, including a personal favourite, the caustic and hilarious “Losing My Edge”. There is a triumphal, assured quality to everything James Murphy and his merry companions do on stage. From this vantage point you can see his expression as he grins and gurns at the band with his back to the audience. They’re all drinking champagne, playing some of the best dance music made in the last twenty years. For the first few songs it looks like they are playing more for each other than anyone out in the fields of Roskilde. But eventually Murphy looks to the audience and professes his surprise and gratitude that so many people have stayed on in spite of the cold and the mud. Suddenly what looked like arrogance begins to resemble more a genuine joy for the music.

Perhaps LCD Soundsystem’s greatest legacy will be their ability to both narrate and enact the pleasure of music as a shared experience. The ability to be both incisive and fun. But to me, they shall forever more be remembered as the band that gave birth to the first ever Here Today editorial dance party. – CC

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