Photos by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)
Photos by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)
Goat is a pretty unusual encounter of a band. They hide their identities behind decorated masks and fluttering tribe-dresses, they’ve created a unique musical platform as colorful as their costumes, and they’re named Goat! The Swedes caught the attention of listeners and critics on a large international scale with their debut World Music in 2012. Continuing their ritual the band is now touring with the sequel Commune.
On stage the band kickstarts the evening with the funky and familiar ‘Let it bleed’ from World Music. The song is stuffed with hooks and groovy rhythms which makes it impossible not to dance. Or maybe it’s the two shaman-lead-singers who cast dance-spells on the crowd with their magic maces. Anyway, I watch the crowd moving like boiling cauldron from the back of the room. The lead singers are constantly dancing – I can’t help wondering how many litres they’re actually sweating out during a night like this.
The songs are streched into long transcending improvisations with myriads of hypnotising solos, all swept in wah and fuzz. And just like the dancing the rhythm never stops – the drummer and the percussionist bash their drums fast and untiringly throughout the concert. Some songs even merge with the next one with no pause in between. It is a trippy experience that opens the doors to what Jim Morrison named the other side – an invitation that is reverently accepted by a couple of rebellious guys who freely share a spliff.
“Run To Your Mama” is the closest thing you’ll get to a real hit from the band’s repertoire, and it is a true crowd pleaser. But Goat isn’t done yet. The live version of ‘Det som aldrig förändras/Diarabi’ is so heavy and dictating that the crowd and their crazy dance movements immediately morphs into an army of nodding silhouettes. A perfect end to the ball.
The positive things to say about this band are plentiful, in short, go buy their albums and purchase some tickets – it’s highly recommended.
After experiencing Angel Olsens last performance at Ideal Bar HT writer Amanda Farah forecasted that she wouldn’t be playing a small venue like that again. She was right. Tonight, Olsen is standing higher from the ground on the stage of Lille Vega. When looking at the solid mass of people huddling in front of the stage curtain, the stage-upgrade seems like a wise decision.
Already from the second track ‘Hi-five’ Olsen reveals her impressive voice – effortlessly sliding through her vocal register she instantly mutes every talking head in the crowd. The honesty is shattering when she sings, and though you could make a list of musical references, it’s unnecessary since she is very much her own. But not only while singing. The laughing and smiling between the songs is natural and shows a charming soul. Maybe it’s the drinks from the day before that made her so easy going, however she seems strangely unaffected by the fact that she’s actually playing a show. And the same thing goes for the drummer who sneaks up his phone from behind the drum kit to take a picture. “Josh! We’re doing a show, dude!” Olsen laughs.
Bursting into another song from the newest album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, the performance of ‘Stars’ convinces me that the band is not only a bunch of soft ballad-ambassadors. The song is crafted with a great sense of songwriting and executed with sharp accuracy. And Olsens lyrics are equally sharp and precise in their brevity. Combined with her numb facial expressions the words gain further meaning when she sings “To scream the feeling until there’s nothing left”. A feeling that a couple of younger girls at stage edge seem to relate to – with their gazes fixed on Olsen the helplessly frustrated girl mind is reflected in their faces.
But Angel Olsen’s fan base does not only consist of young girls with their hearts broken – I see plenty of older people as well as guys like myself, who have been mesmerised by the voice of the angel (or the positive critical acclaim – after all we are herd animals). With a distorted veil blurring the guitars, hit single ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ shows the band from a raspy and dirty side. It’s a short and effective two-verse rock tune that reaches into a noisy climax, before the band leaves Olsen alone on stage to sing the last song.
The lights are turned on as a signal for us to leave, and I’m already standing in the door way as the band comes back on stage. A cover version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ certainly surprises me, but if someone ever is to deal with an old classic like that, Angel Olsen is definitely worthy.
A Sunday night in Huset, remarkably sold-out, is a slightly surreal affair. The weight of the upcoming week, added to severe lack of sleep and some very cheap ear plugs, give the effect of viewing a gig through a fishbowl. This might not be the best set of circumstances, but they find their match in the acoustic psychedelia of Amen Dunes. Damon McMahon’s “anti-love songs” work well as anti-lullabies from the Land of Reverb, aided by a drummer and ambient guitarist/keyboard player.
Love, Amen Dune’s latest release, is a little sweeter and more lush than the noisy negativity of Through Donkey Jaw, but Damon’s onstage presence shows that dark irony lingering just behind the surface of his otherwise laid-back attitude. He does the very singer-songwriter-y thing of introducing several songs, but these are welcome forays into his approach to his music, rather than indulgent ramblings. This evening he reveals the origin of “Ethio Song”, claiming it to be a cover of a piece of unknown Ethiopian music coming through the walls from his neighbour’s apartment. Tonight’s version of the song sounds very un-Ethiopian, with none of the trebly guitar lines from the record, but this is but one instance of a general impression: Love, more than previous efforts, is the closest thing to what Amen Dunes sound like in the flesh.
Standing right in front of Damon allows the audience to the clean acoustic sound of the guitar behind all the effects, adding some meat to the live sound. The vocals are incredibly high in the mix, cutting through everything else with ease, as if to confirm that Damon’s freak-folk tinged vibrato is the sine qua non around which everything else revolves. There are, of course, exceptions: “Rocket Flair”‘s picking style and low-key, driving drums, is the closest Amen Dunes get to 60s psychedelia as most would recognize it.
Throughout the evening, it is revealing to observe Damon McMahon offstage. Is commitment to music, not just his own, is clear in the intent look on his face as he quibbles with the sound engineer during the opening act, Xander Duell (ah yes, nepotism’s black tentacles reach far into the music industry). He nods along to the second act, Hand of Dust, and leaps to the merch booth the second the Amen Dunes set ends. It’s been a long evening, but a musician’s job never stops. Fortunately, that is not the case for a music reviewer.
Blonde Redhead have spent almost two decades doing their very best to attract opposite descriptors: stripped-back and baroque, chaotic and elegant. As John Peel said of the Fall, they are always different, and always the same. Always eager to follow an album with its diametrical opposite, the band exhibit a fearlessness which is matched by the dedication of its fans. Their latest effort, Barragán, was released less than two weeks ago, yet songs like “Dripping” and “No More Honey” are greeted with enthusiasm from the outset.
The venue is sold out, and spirits are high, egged on by local boys Cancer. Fronted by the respective singers of When Saints Go Machine (only 7th in the top 10 worst band names in Denmark) and Chorus Grant, Cancer is all Antony Hegarty-mimicking vocals and elaborate guitar lines, a combination that clearly resonates with this lot.
The stage curtains part as Amedeo Pace (born in Milan like yours truly, and therefore automatically better than most people before he even picks up a guitar) finger-picks the instrumental “Barragán”. But the introspection of this and “Lady M”, and of the new album in general, is here transformed. Simone Pace’s drums sound positively gigantic, emphasising the rhythmic bones of even the quietest Blonde Redhead songs. The surprising beefiness of their live sound is emphasised in “Falling Man”, which cranks up the melodrama and distortion, as if to remind the audience that the noise band of La Mia Vita Violenta and Fake Can Be Just as Good still lurks among us.
Most of the set, naturally enough, is concentrated around material from Barragán, the rest of the songs coming mainly from 23 and Misery is a Butterfly. Nothing at all from their penultimate release, Penny Sparkle, perhaps because the low key electronica of that album is a little at odds with the rest of the band’s back catalogue. The trio have to rely quite heavily on pre-recorded and programmed tracks for their more maximalist songs, but this does nothing to water down the likes of “Spring and By Summer Fall”. Amedeo’s guitars and Simone’s drums occupy so much space that Kazu Makino easily fills in the gaps with bass, keyboards or extra guitars.
A technical failure during “Melody”—Kazu’s keyboards sounding like a 16-bit videogame soundtrack—is an opportunity to witness the degree to which fans hold the band in affection, cheering them on and asking them to start again. But the real crowd-pleaser is left for last, with a thunderous rendition of “23”, causing the crowd to completely obscure the stage with waving arms and air punches.
With a band as long-lived as Blonde Redhead, one spends half the time making a mental list of all the songs they don’t play (the bass-tastic “Equus”, “Misery is a Butterfly”, “Melody of Certain Three”), but this is wilful masochism. Never will you hear a critical comment towards Blonde Redhead from me. I’m sure I have plenty of bile for another day, another band.
First Hate are a Copenhagen based synth-pop duo who formed in the early part of 2013. Although in previous interviews they’ve tried to deny it their sound is leaning heavily on 80’s gloom synth with hints of early 90’s electronica creeping through. Since their debut performance at Henry’s Dream in July 2013 the guys have played a handful of festivals including Distortion, Trailerpark Festival, an AUDIO:VISUAL set at CPH:DOX and have just been hand picked to support Trentemøller on his east European tour.
The band release their debut EP First Hate today (Friday 12th September) after an offer from Ben Cook (Fucked Up/Youth Club) to help distribute the EP in North America, the 10″ is in limited supply with only 250 copies pressed. Grab one while you can.
Listen to the First Hate EP below:
Watch the video for “Holy Contagion” below:
Photos by Tom Spray
Pulled Apart By Horses are the kind of band that you would think is made up of tough guys until you see them live. And there’s no disputing that they are a force to be reckoned with — but there’s also no denying that they are quick to paint themselves as non-threatening.
They have a new album out called Blood, but their guitarist is wearing a fake mustache. They explode with an energy that borders on violent while they play, but the audience and the thank yous are all quite civil (with gratuitous mention of a day off to spend in Christiania). They are surrounded by Dr. Marten’s advertising, but make no mention of it.
They have benign between song banter that is often amusing and awkward in equal turns, and takes a lot of the edge off of the screaming, flailing and head banging that is the is the heart of the show. Because what PABH promise, and deliver, is volume; borderline hardcore on the older songs and borderline rock on the new ones; shouting so raw you wonder how any of them have voices left; and yes, lots of careering around, knocking over mic stands, and generally proving themselves to a band that would be difficult to roadie for.
The interaction also carries offstage with frontman Tom Hudson staggering around the audience during “I Punch a Lion in the Throat” and later again during the cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” But still, most of the raucous behavior is confined to the stage. It takes until the final song, “High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive,” to actually get a pit going. And it’s just that level where people bounce around instead of fully ricocheting off of each other. It’s appropriate. And it’s all harmless fun.
Trading mostly in sludgy rhythms, rolling percussion, and lots of growling, Hexis have a sense of dynamics that gives their songs real dimension. Amongst the distortion and evil bellowing are countering shouts and unexpected cadences. The Copenhagen-based five-piece black metal outfit released their latest full length album, Abalam, in January. While their songs do have a thick, unsettling, buzzy quality to them, don’t expect endless, formless droning. They speed through most of their songs in quick, vicious succession, and Abalam clocks in at a succinct thirty five minutes — just enough time to rev you up or give you serious indigestion.
“This is a strange set-up for a punk concert.” So says our dear photographer Morten, and to some extent he is right. I didn’t quite expect the poetry readings and the hour-long performance piece that lead up to Lower. Half an hour into the slow-burning piece, in which some blond guy shyly and ploddingly gave out lighting instructions, the mood becomes restless. But it is really a testament to the tolerance of Copenhagen audiences that they last that long. But the second part of Morten’s statement, that this is a punk gig, is the one I have problems with.
At some point the international press has to stop talking about the Danish “punk” scene. Whatever the influences of Iceage, Lower, Communions et al. might be, the sounds that emerge from these bands have quite specific reference points: the baroque post-punk of the Chameleons and the Comsat Angels, and the twisted Americana of the Bad Seeds and the Gun Club. Even the standard uniform (baggy, buttoned-up-to-the-collar shirts and waist-high jeans) is more reminiscent of 80s goth and new wave. Black Flag this ain’t.
Though their music has as much dramatic flair as any of those previously mentioned bands, something in the demeanor of Lower indicates that, however emotional or personal their music might be, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Halfway through the set guitarist Simon Formann serves the whole band, including an extra percussionist and a pianist/cellist, cocktails. The sight of frontman Adrian Toubro singing while holding a pink concoction in a lowball glass harks back to the decadent crooners of the 60s and 70s (also referenced by Iceage in their Mina-inspired “Morals” and in the video for “The Lord’s Favourite”).
Lower’s debut album, Seek Warmer Climes, is full of chiming and wiry guitars, the mid-range vocal crooning favoured by 80s darkwave bands, and drums that sound like they are falling down several flights of stairs. The rhythmic chaos of songs like “Lost Weight, Perfect Skin” are enhanced in the live setting by the extra percussionist, whose tom and snare work almost takes the band into Adam Ant territory. The added cello and piano are a clear attempt to push Lower into different territory, though by now it has almost become standard in Copenhagen, with Shiny Darkly and Iceage using classical instruments to greater or lesser degrees.
Among all ruckus of drums and guitar, Lower have a melodic heart in Tourbro’s vocal delivery, particularly evident in the glorious chorus of “Soft Option”, the standout track from their debut. It is almost impossible for me to write about Copenhagen bands without making a very long list of references (often very obvious ones), but that is not to dismiss these acts as carbon-copies of their heroes. Perhaps none of them would fit well in a chronological chart of the “progress” of pop music, but they are a reminder that the important thing is not to create a sound that has never been heard before, but to make the music sound new.
Normally when visiting Lille Vega you’d think of it as a decent venue, not particularly small despite the name. But this day as Jonathan Wilson and his band stand on stage it seems strangely small, I’m not sure if they’re unusually tall any of them, or if it’s just their musical greatness that generates this contraction of the surroundings.
One thing is for sure, they are great musicians (tall or not) and it feels almost unnecessary to notice because they know it! Starting off with the opening track from Wilson’s second album ‘Fanfare’, including a long dramatic intro, everyone is faced against the stage. The spartanic lights allow Wilson to remain strange and incognito in the shade of his Stetson, but when the first lines gently slip off his tongue he is naked as ever: “Uh let me love you, it’s all that I can do, I’d like to touch you, Uh I’m in love with you”. Somehow this lyrical pathos makes the audience stop breathing for a while though it’s just on the tip of being too banal.
Like his lyrics Wilson’s music is just really classic. And American. He has not been afraid to step into a musical folk-country-blues- rock tradition alongside immortalised fellas like Dylan and Young whom to many are the only true rulers of the sacred American rock lands. But the gentle spirit (!) of Wilson adds new blood to these old fields and a sold out show in Copenhagen is a proof that spiritual and classic rock songs still have cultural relevance. For sure the bass player has not given up on the old days looking as if he just wandered out of Woodstock ’69 – the long hair on top of a tie dye t-shirt together with an electric bass really completed the look.
There’s not done a lot of talking between the songs, mostly guitar changing and tuning to get the sound right, which for the band has great importance – you can see they are perfectionists. The bringing of an monstrous lesley for the Hammond B3 tells the same story. And the sound is impeccable, every detail reaches the eardrums from the stroked cymbals to the twelve stringed guitar. However, the sound has to be perfect for a guitar virtuous like Jonathan Wilson who during every song reveals his magnificent guitar playing in long solos. The organ player shows off some pretty remarkable skills on the brown B3, and it’s not only a language for connoisseurs that’s spoken from the old wooden box, you can tell by the overwhelming applauses at the end of each solo. Especially ‘Angel’ comes off beautiful in an extended version spiced up with various crescendo solos.
Time flies by when you’re entertained and the set’s two hours duration doesn’t strike me as a long time at any point. The slow and riff based ‘Valley of the silver moon’ closes the evening as a manifestation of Jonathan Wilson and his band’s superiority. I am standing close to the stage, yes, but the final applause is the loudest I’ve heard at Lille Vega so far.