Saturday, 23 October 2010

Mongrel Vs Agro Part 2. Sat 23rd October @ Lakota, Bristol

We were promised a beast of a party, and tonight’s three ring circus was just that.

Room 2 is the first to come to life, and two hours of minimal techno from Pupfish & Waxmouse gets bodies moving early. Meanwhile, after a bruising set up from Svengali’s low-punching dubstep, Room 1 takes off with Point B. His woozy, sunlit UK garage is like locking on to a late 90s pirate station on a radio with dodgy batteries.

Next – and packing enough machinery for a pre-laptop Kraftwerk - Neil Landstrumm blends austere warehouse techno, starry-eyed 8-bit melody, and bumpy dancehall bass. Landstrumm has been around since the mid-nineties, but he’s making his best music right now. Despite serious competition, he proves impossible to beat.

At 2am, Boxcutter’s addictive bass medicine goes up against the attack dog breakcore of Kid 606. It’s a clash on paper, but in terms of depth there’s no contest - I’ll take Boxcutter’s heady light and shade over one-paced aggression any day of the week. Meanwhile, local legend Parasite brings ragga-jungle delirium to Room 3.

The headline slot goes to crowd-pleasing Bogdan Raczynski, whose hard-jacking 4/4s and rampaging breaks are upholstered with tonight’s plushest synths. Raczynski strikes a rare balance – his music is bloody clever, but it has a hard-headed logic that’s hard for a raver to resist.

Tokyo assassin Goth Trad does punishing and meditative in equal measures, and tonight he proves he’s among the dubstep greats, but it's Panacea that finally reduces Lakota to rubble. The gold-toothed Berliner's vengeful scum & bass may have "outsider status" written all over it, but it's the perfect rinse-out for a night like this.
Three rooms, as many continents, and 57 varieties of sickness. Bristol electronica lineup of the year?

A shorter version of this review appeared in Venue magazine.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Melt Banana / Exit International / The Big Naturals. Thursday 14th October @ Thekla, Bristol

first caught Osaka tech-punks Melt Banana back in 2001 (my uncomfortably breathless Choke review is here). Nine years later, I was forced to watch them again, this time on behalf of Venue, and was pleased to discover they're still one of the most thrilling and innovative bands in the world...

Supporting a band as inventive as Melt Banana is a mixed blessing, but Big Naturals make a good fist of it. Jesse drums like Dave Grohl after a weekend drinking Bitches Brew, while bassist Gareth's fancy fretwork is driven home by a trio of Marshall stacks. They occasionally slumber into hard-rock clich├ęs, but at their best they're pulverising and hypnotic. Note to the curious: don't even think about typing 'Big Naturals' into your browser at work - it could well result in disciplinary action.

Exit International are surprisingly upbeat for a band named after a pressure group for assisted suicide. Their industrial strength party rock is like a night out with the lads – good fun at the time, but somewhat hard to recall in the morning.

Osaka's Melt Banana have scanned the punk rulebook, warped it beyond recognition, and deleted the original from their collective hard drive. Rika [left]'s upfront basslines are informed by acid house, while the punishing double-time beats - courtesy of whoever's drumming for them this week - owe more to gabba than Black Flag. Meanwhile, Agata's Hendrix-meets-Public Enemy lead playing marks him out as the 21st Century guitar hero to beat, and the perfect foil to Yasuko's surreal, channel-hopping lyrics.

Melt Banana's debt to non-rock sounds is made explicit in tonight's opening section, as Yasuko and Agata summon a firestorm of electronic noise. After three songs, some of the audience begin to show symptoms of confusion, but the main set is just what the doctor ordered. 'Shield For Your Eyes' is Chemical Brothers re-imagined by Thor, while the fractured punk-pop of 'Call of the Vague', and shredded Pixies of 'Cracked Plaster Cast' inspire havoc in the moshpit.

The encore's “ten short songs” showcase Agata's shock and awe imitations of lasers, sirens and controlled explosions, before the blistering ‘Blank Page of The Blind’ - with its thrashing breakdowns and samples of barking dogs - propels us reluctantly back to Earth.

Melt Banana are ecstatically, brutally, impossibly entertaining. It's such a shame there's only one of them.

This review originally appeared in Venue magazine. Thanks to Tim Alban for the pic.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

New Venue website

Good news! Venue - the magazine I work and write for - has a new website.

Venue's been going since 1981, and its old website was developed some time in the pre-cambrian era. It didn’t have much useful content, and the navigation was a bit mad.

The new one's a big improvement. It will include most of the reviews and features from the weekly magazine, although you’ll still have to buy the print edition for gig and event listings (please do buy it, or I’ll have to go back to working at the mushroom farm).

In other words, it’s a proper website at last – one that will grow into a valuable archive of Bristol and Bath’s music, art, theatre etc.

In the meantime, here's what I got up to at Brisfest.