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LIVE REVIEW: Metronomy, Store Vega, 29.10.2019

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metronomy live copenhagen

Metronomy’s concert at Store Vega is their first headline set in Copenhagen in five years. It seems that the city has missed them. The venue is not sold out, but it’s reasonably full for a Tuesday night and for a space far larger than they’ve played here before. The band have the following day off and have declared it a Friday night. 

The audience are willing to comply. Encouraged by the dancing on stage — best directed by bassist Olugbenga Adelekan — the crowd are moving. Half the songs for the evening come from their new album, Metronomy Forever. The band are practiced enough to pace the set, all but alternating song for song between new and old. The effect is perfect: The band are energized by the new songs and the crowd is stoked on the familiar.

While Metronomy aren’t big on pageantry, there are oddities that make there show a unique experience. The keyboardists have their rigs on wheels, and, when left alone on stage for “Boy Racers,” slowly creep them from opposite ends of the stage to meet in the middle. There’s a surreal bit where, to match atmospheric music, frontman Joseph Mount suggests that there could be animal calls to match the mood. “We’re near the sea. You might hear a whale. Or a seal,” he suggests with a keyboardist supplying the appropriate sound effects. What the audience call back is an odd cacophony of what may or may not be animal sounds. But everyone seems pleased with their contribution.

It’s interesting that Metronomy, now 20 years on from Mount’s initial concept of the band, still feel like they’re playing with new ideas as performers. Band members switch up instruments and drift on and off stage as they’re needed. Half the band are wearing white, Neu! inspired jumpsuits and the rhythm section have coordinating chambray shirts. And there’s enough dancing on stage of various levels of slickness to prevent the energy in the room from even dipping. The band have remained reliable in terms of their output, but as they’re playing bigger stages it feels like they’re still looking for ways to push themselves.

On a final note, when Adelekan was introduced by Mount, a woman in the front row ran her hands down his leg. Adelekan took it in his stride and the woman appeared to be quite inebriated. Nevertheless, and just in case it needs saying: Don’t grope performers on stage. It’s never okay.

Photo by Mai Vanilli.

LIVE REVIEW: Church of Misery, Loppen, 22.10.2019

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church of misery live at loppen christiania, copenhagen

Photos by Amanda Farah

Japan’s seminal doom band, Church of Misery, have survived a quarter of a century and countless lineup changes (their bassist Tatsu Mikami being the only stable member) with a very simple formula: denim flares, Sabbath-worshipping stoner riffs, and songs about serial killers.

The four-piece take to the stage with little fanfare other than the standard bearing their name and logo, and from the way vocalist Hiroyuki Takano languidly introduces the band, you can tell that Church of Misery’s dedicate is exclusively to the re-creation of their most beloved music.

Take “Make Them Die Slowly” from their 2016 album And Then There Were None: that slow 4/4 kick drum, couple with the detuning at the end of the guitar riff are pure “Iron Man”, although not even Sabbath could come up with lyrics quite as gleefully tasteless as this.

church of misery live at loppen christiania, copenhagen

Church of Misery seem to aim to take things to their extremity: the most rigorously orthodox sound, the most brutal subjects possible, the most 70s flares you could imagine. Mikami’s bass is slung so low that half the time it is resting on the floor. And the end result is undeniably fun.

LIVE REVIEW: Goat, Alice, 09.10.2019

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Goat live at Alice Copenhagen

Mention of the band Goat brings to mind a certain group of Swedes in elaborate costumes. The Japanese band Goat, however, are far more minimalistic. Their stuttering, rhythm-driven music is often austere, their style of playing is extremely efficient.

It’s a busy night for guitarist/drummer Koshiro Hino, who opens the evening with a set of his YPY project. Compared with the austerity of Goat, YPY is positively lush. The percussion is softer and there is a high frequency whine similar to the sounds emitted by electronic gadgets — the first sounds to go when you lose your hearing. The tables around Koshiro are scattered with dozens of cassette tapes.

Goat opens with dueling hi-hats. The gentle, synchronized clacking is shattered when the first kick drum hits like a sledgehammer, disabusing the audience of the notion that, for as repetitive and steady as the beats are, they could possibly be meditative. The bass has almost zero reverb, creating an anxious timbre that Devo could only dream of.

Goat live at Alice Copenhagen

This lack of transcendence is practically a theme for the set; the focus of the entire band is intense, their playing is highly coordinated. There are two drummers or a drummer and percussionist at a minimum, and the glances the band members communicate through have the hard focus of an angry glare. But for their minimal movements, they are fascinating to watch. These glances back and forth trigger astounding changes, such as when Koshiro suddenly plays harmonics on his guitar timed perfectly to rapid first hits on a hi-hat, shifting to an instantly percussive sound.

The majority of the set follows this halting pattern, which makes the final 15 minutes of noise washes hit the audience hard. After all of the energy of their playing has built up, it spills out in a final, furious cacophony. The audience are physically moved; Half are swaying, half are holding their ears because of the shock. It’s not surprising that they end with the same perfectly-time abruptness that has factored throughout their set. 

In response to the rapturous applause, Koshiro comes back to the stage alone. “Thank you,” he says, leaning into the drum mic. “No more songs.”

LIVE REVIEW: Marissa Nadler, Ideal Bar, 30.09.2019

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Marissa Nadler live at Ideal Bar in Copenhagen

Marissa Nadler is an artist whose work contains multitudes in its subtleties. Her soft, ghostly voice and finger-picked guitars transcend folk music into something more spirited, more haunting, and clearly calling from another plane.

Her performance at Ideal Bar is a solo set with a six string guitar, a 12 string guitar, and infinite multi-tracking options. Nadler drives herself to distraction in her concern about the sound, repeatedly motioning to her sound guy and halting a song literally a note in over the tuning. “You can put this in your review,” she says by way of apology. “I just want to get this right so I can feel it for you guys.”

She’s too hard on herself, but it’s easy to empathize with her fixation. A musician can’t write songs with her nuances without some degree of fanaticism. And it plays out in interesting ways for audience members willing to home in on the details.

“All Out of Catastrophes” is the first song to illustrate the complexities of her songs. Nadler builds layer upon layer of looped guitars before turning her attention to her vocals. Far from simply echoing her own voice, she harmonizes and emphasizes different aspects of the verse with each round. It’s a direct insight to how she must record her vocals in the studio, a treat for nerds and a wonder for normal people. 

Adding to the ghostly quality of her voice is its unwavering softness, no matter how high a note she hits. There are a few moments when she lilts towards a country voice — a completely convincing parallel track her to have taken in her music and her lyrics — and you wonder if she’s repressing an urge or revealing another dimension. Knowing Nadler’s work, she could hint at this new element in future albums and performances, or quietly obliterate it; whatever best suits the songs.

LIVE REVIEW: Daniel O’Sullivan, Alice, 19.09.2019

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Daniel O'Suillivan live at Alice Copenhagen

Few performers are quite as prolific as Daniel O’Sullivan. A cursory look at his career shows, quite apart from his own three solo albums, a breadth of work that spans from the left-field prog of Guapo and the psychedelia of Grumbling Fur to collaborations with avant-metal acts like Sunn O))) and Ulver. The last time we saw him on this stage he was sandwiched between the fiery personalities of This Is Not This Heat.

Tonight he is accompanied by no less than six musicians, including a bassoon and autoharp, as well as sometime Spiritualized and Coil member Thighpaulsandra on synths. Although his collaborative work is incredibly diverse, as a solo artist Daniel O’Sullivan focuses on a pastoral, quasi-psycho-geographic psychedelia. His latest album, Folly, might be his most lush to date.

I arrive just as Peter Broderick, who will rejoin the stage to play fiddle with O’Sullivan, is ending his opening set. The soft, hypnotic folk is in stark relief with Thighpaulsandra, who starts by announcing that his will be “something different.” His outfit alone, something straight out of Flash Gordon, is enoguh to signal that. Noise from a messy patchwork of modular synths saws through the air, followed by some Doctor Who inspired sound effects. The backdrop for most of the set is a video of two naked men painted in gold circling each other with wooden rakes, underscoring the ritualistic element to Thighpaulsandra that is a clear chime with O’Sullivans interests.

After a quick costume change into some cultish white garments, the band huddle themselves to the right of the upright piano. With so many people on stage, it takes a couple of minutes for the sound mix to broaden out, but when it does there is an almost baroque quality to it. As obviously energetic and prolific as O’Sullivan is, he is also soft-spoken, announcing songs with enigmatic one-liners. “Rattleman” and “Under the Knife” set the pace for the first part of the set, with frequent instrument changes. O’Sullivan’s “song about dragons,” “HC SVNT DRACONES” is a fast-paced piano-led romp that marks the band at their most energetic.

The lushness of his latest material starts to give way to introspection, particularly in a sparse track composed only a couple of days before in his aunt and uncle’s apartment here in Copenhagen. And in “Apocryphonium” we hear O’Sullivan at his most mystical, as a huge, otherworldly voice recites the gnostic “Thunder Perfect Mind” prayer above the band.

The set ends with a long suite that will be coming out as an EP, dedicated, in O’Sullivan’s words, “to Amazonia.” The pastoral gives way to the apocalyptic in the image of burning trees. And so Daniel O’Sullivan is already moving forwards, and we’re more than ready to see him again at the next stage.

LIVE REVIEW: The Wedding Present, Lille Vega, 11.09.2019

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the wedding present live at lille vega copenhagen

It’s 30 years since the Wedding Present released Bizarro, and this low-key anniversary is what brings the indie rock quartet to Lille Vega. It’s not an especially reverential anniversary show. The set opens with “Rotterdam,” from the album Seamonsters, and frontman David Gedge eventually mentions in passing that the Bizarro songs are going to be scattered throughout. “See if you can spot them,” he suggests.

But there’s something energizing about arranging the set this way. It’s not only that the Bizarro songs are scattered through the set, but that new songs crop up with the same verve as the songs that are ostensibly being celebrated. It inspires cheers when a new song is announced and prompts Gedge to admit, “[that’s] not the reaction I was expecting.” The mid-set raucousness of “Kennedy” spills over when immediately followed by the incessantly catchy new tune, “Panama,” the audience readily clapping along via the band’s instructions as if this was an old tradition.

Much of the energy of the show can be attributed to how this current incarnation of the ever-changing line-up of the Wedding Present has also gelled. That the band introduce the song “Telemark,” completed only days earlier, is a testament to their own excitement. This isn’t just meant to be a nostalgia trip, but still a living, breathing project. When Gedge announces that the band don’t do encores, almost everyone in the crowd already know this because they’ve already seen them play. But the crowd don’t want the band to exist in the past and you can see in their performance that having their newer work celebrated breathes life into the songs from 30 years ago. In this respect, this is exactly what anniversary tours should be: It should be a band, and a crowd, in love with what they’ve done in the past, and still in love with what they’re doing now.

LIVE REVIEW: She Wants Revenge, Loppen, 22.08.2019

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She Wants Revenge live at Loppen, Copenhagen

She Wants Revenge have never played in Copenhagen before. The newly-ish reformed duo have managed to pull a small but dedicated crowd to Loppen, despite having only released two singles in the last seven years. But everyone dances like they’ve been dancing to these songs with abandon for the last decade plus, waiting for the moment when it was the band themselves playing the songs instead of a DJ.

For a band that established themselves as a duo with a drum machine, She Wants Revenge works very well as a fully-fleshed out rock band. Justin Warfield is a compelling frontman: He has a flare for the dramatic, a voice whose character makes up for a lack of range, and the commitment of a performer who is used to adapting to any room. 

They are also a band that, like so many other Joy Division copycats of the early ‘00s, got better as they moved away from the pastiche. Their live drummer, Jason Payne, is one of those machine-like drummers that, when given the opportunity to cut loose, is really extraordinary to watch. And after so many years of people going crazy for bassists who can play like Peter Hook, more due should be given to drummers who can play like Stephen Morris.

It’s a delight to add any band to the growing masses resisting phoney encores. Warfield makes it clear that when they walk off the stage, they’re done. Their final song, “Tear You Apart,” is another song that benefits from their live arrangement, the added textures of a second guitar and the furious live drumming make the song so much less sterile than the album version. And it’s their their biggest hit; what could they follow it with? But there was an appeal to bring them back, and that the audience bring a friend, so there may be more than those two singles somewhere on the horizon.

LIVE REVIEW: Stereolab, Vega, 07.08.2019

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Stereolab live at Store Vega, Copenhagen, Denmark

Photos by Amanda Farah

Stereolab are a band that really shouldn’t need any introduction. Their two-decade long career produced ten records that brought together an encyclopaedic knowledge of both avant-garde and pop music to create something new, mesmeric and alien. Exactly 10 years since the haitus brought on by the death of singer Mary Hansen and the breakup of the main driving force of the band, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab are back.

The evening opens with a set by local noise act Speaker Bite Me, who have recently had their own reunion after a ten year break. The howling guitar work and heavy drums and bass are elevated from their influences by the vocals of Signe Høirup Wille-Jørgenson, whose impassioned singing style is in marked contrast to the headliners.

Stereolab have a reputation for being more of an intellectual than an emotive band, whose lyrics are more likely to be about boom-and-bust economic cycles rather than love and breakups. But this side of them is balanced by their honed ears for 60s lounge-style melodies and driving motorik rhythms. By the end of the night my jaw is hurting by grinning all the way through the set as the band tear through crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser.

Between Sadier on vocals and Gane on guitar, at the centre of the stage keyboardist Joe Watson brings to life the heart of the Stereolab sound, a mix of dreamy Moog synths, 60s organ and semi-modular bleeps on top of which everything else is built. In a live setting the intricate looping bass lines of Xavier Muñoz Guimera are more pronounced, building the momentum alongside Andy Ramsay’s drums.

Stereolab live at Store Vega, Copenhagen, Denmark

Since the death of singer Hansen in 2002 the classic Stereolab overlapping vocals are supplied by Watson and Guimera, who do an admirable job in providing the babbling falsetto underlining Sadier’s cool delivery.

The set is carefully balanced to cover almost all of their records, with slightly more emphasis on their later , more laid-back work, although there are plenty of opportunities for some very vigorous nodding along to “French Disko” and “Ping Pong”. Tonight “Baby Lulu”, from the personally-overlooked Sound-Dust, stands out in its baroqueness, sounding like the next-door neighbour to fellow hauntologists Broadcast, and an incitement to delve ever deeper into the wonders of their catalogue.

LIVE REVIEW: Sudan Archives, Loppen, 10.07.2019

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Sudan Archives live at Loppen for Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Sudan Archives has sold out Loppen. This is impressive on its own terms, and even more so for an artist from outside of Denmark with only two EPs to her name. But there isn’t a second of her set that makes you doubt how she got to this point. Brittney Denise Parks is a performer

The set is, rather confusingly, part of Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Though Parks has cited a range of influences for Sudan Archives — hip-hop, West African rhythms, R&B — jazz isn’t an immediately obvious one. The violin isn’t generally associated with jazz, but it is central to Sudan Archives. And what she does with the instrument challenges the ideas of what it is meant to do. Aided by pre-programmed beats, Parks loops her instrument in an endless fashion, sometimes bowing it, sometime giving a solid thump, and sometimes strumming it in a way more akin to finger-picking a guitar than the traditional pizzicato. 

Parks works every angle of the stage, whether singing or playing violin, strutting in dangerously high flatform boots and getting the crowd moving in a hot, sweaty mass. Her vocals blur in such a way that it’s hard to tell what’s a backing track (like the beats) and what’s been looped, but her delivery is dynamic. She can be half-spoken and direct as on “Nont for Sale,” but she can also flatten everyone in her path by belting out a note. 

As we’ve all seen many phoney encores, a genuine one can take everyone by surprise, including the artist. Parks has left the stage following her planned (and, admittedly, appropriate) encore, but the audience is still cheering, then stomping, then chanting for her. It takes her a moment to return; again, she only has two EPs, what is there left to play? But she does treat us to a new, beat-driven song. While it doesn’t have the impact of her planned final song, “Come Meh Way,” the thrill of the collective excitement is enough to carry us all home.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 4, 06.07.2019

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Lizzo live at Roskilde Festival 2019

The fourth and final day of Roskilde 2019 greeted us with a one-two punch of positivity and acceptance. There’s a lot to unpack from Janelle Monáe’s set on the Orange Stage. Do you start with the visuals? The radical politics? The messages of love?

Janelle’s visual references, like her musical references, are broad. There are nods to Rhythm Nation in both costume and dance, Wakanda, plus the vagina pants from the “Pynk” video. Her walk on music is the theme from Space Odyssey and her guitarist shreds a Prince riff. She delivers heartfelt messages about want to make memories and the need to protect one another (but we have to take her claim that it’s her favorite festival with a grain of salt when she shouts “Copenhagen!” at the crowd more than once). And while so much of her message is rooted in being American — whether or not she’s calling for the impeachment of her president — the sexual and geo politics of songs like “Screwed” extend beyond any one country.

Late in the set, Janelle pulls three audience members up on stage to dance during “I Got the Juice.” One girl is so overwhelmed that she just throws her arms around the singer and cries. Janelle hugs her and gets her to dance (and the girl does dance). All three dancers from the audience are warmly cheered by the rest of the crowd and that, more than singling people out, is what makes this segment endearing. That maybe you really can encourage people to love each other, that you can make a memory, that you can fight the power while making the people dance. 

Before Janelle can finish her set, Lizzo is on stage at Apollo echoing many of the same sentiments. The hip-hop-pop artist has built an identity around body positivity and loving yourself. She’s having an easy time of things; the masses assembled for her have already been converted to the church she wants to take them to. Chants of “Lizzo!” interrupt her between songs and lead to an impromptu singalong of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” 

Though the enthusiasm of the crowd probably helps, Lizzo herself seems like she has energy to spare. She comes out ready to toss her hair and check her nails, shimmying with her back-up dancers, getting the crowd to sing lines back to her. She knows which songs the audience has seen on YouTube, she knows what catch phrases they’re expecting of her, and just how much she can tease while espousing her mantra.

In some ways, it’s easy to see Lizzo as a next generation Janelle, that in a few years the production budgets will catch up and she’ll be on a bigger stage with more dancers and more costume changes, still owning her own juice, still telling audiences that she loves them and they should love themselves.

Converge live at Roskilde Festival 2019

A run across the main festival area gets us to an altogether different atmosphere with Massachusetts hardcore royalty Converge. It’s getting close to twenty years since their breakthrough album, Jane Doe, but if the band is looking a little long in the tooth they are showing no signs of tiring during this set. Frontman Jacob Bannon channels that manic straight-edge energy by practically flying around the stage, occasionally tripping himself with his own mic cable only to continue hollering from the floor. Bassist Nate Newton contributes his fair share to the chaos, at one point improvising an emergency backwards roll that sees him punch the air in mock celebration before getting stuck in again. Clearly drummer Ben Koller and guitarist Kurt Ballou are playing the sensible half of the outfit, balancing the anarchic energy of their bandmates with their signature math-rock and metal inflected virtuosity.

The Comet is Coming live at Roskilde Festival 2019

Contrarians that we are, we studiously avoid the Cure at Orange Stage, preferring to conclude our Roskilde experience with a set of psychedelic acts on the literal fringes of the festival. Some might be surprised to see London-based trio The Comet is Coming playing at Apollo, a stage normally devoted to dance music. After all, isn’t saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings being called “the reigning king of British jazz”? But just as the Pharoah Sanders-esque cosmic introduction to the set concludes, the stage feels more than appropriate. Drummer Betamax moves effortlessly from wild jazz intricacy to floor-stompers, aided by the synth wizardry of Danalogue, who veers between Tangerine Dream, er, dreamscapes, and absolutely filthy basslines.

There is always abandoned vibe to the last day of Roskilde, and the Comet is Coming have perfectly tapped into it, drawing a crowd to themselves, stealing ears from the Cure with this high-energy distillation of cosmic jazz and club music.

Kikagaku Moyo continue the late night spaced out theme. The Japanese band’s 60s psychedelia is cut through with some serious noise and the occasional noise-maker to add to the percussion. Ryu Kurosawa’s sitar is interesting on a conceptual level as a nod to the band’s 60s influences, but also because it is used in such a way as to not resemble a sitar at all. In Kurosawa’s hands it more closely resembles a third electric guitar in the line-up, one that allows its player to go off on different warbling tangents.

The five members of Kikagaku Moyo have clustered together in a tight circle make the stage seem big, but it adds to a sense of unity and spontaneity, as if this all just came together rather than being carefully orchestrated. The bass sits very heavily in the mix — making the drums seem light by comparison — providing a very clear anchor for each song. The shifts from chilled out jam to hard rock feel organic and keep the mood around the band relaxed, even as the energy in the crowd picks up. The band end on a high note, walking away from a cheering audience that has been vibrating along to one of their sharper songs. They then come back on a few minutes later, sheepishly announcing that they thought their set was only 45 minutes. They are orchestrated enough to pick up immediately and play for another 20. We can forgive an accidental encore.

And so, for us at least, Roskilde ends at Avalon tent again with Gaye Su Akyol and her “peace, love and rock and roll from Istanbul”. The Turkish singer is no stranger to Denmark or Roskilde, having played at the festival for the first time in 2016, and then again at Alice last November. Each time her performance becomes a little more colourful, this time with the addition of a golden cape with which to lead her band of masked players. The rest is a blur of surf-rock, 70s Anatolian psych and garage, the backing band packing serious punch when it comes to the funked up rhythm section and squealing synths. Which is far from a bad way to end a festival.

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