Saturday, April 30, 2016


It will forever remain the biggest regret of my gig-going career that I never saw David Bowie live, but it was pretty cool to see the entire of "Station To Station" performed by the original guitarist from that album. Bernard Fowler was an excellent choice of frontman - charismatic, talented but not too ostentatious - and the closing rendition of "Heroes" really did hit me in the feels.
MUTUAL BENEFIT (London Bush Hall, 28/04/16) 

Delicate, beguiling indie-folk courtesy of Texan Jason Lee. More stripped-down than their last UK tour, but still decidedly luscious.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY (London Rough Trade East, 26/04/16)

Explosions In The Sky. Playing a 150-capacity record shop. To be honest, I'm half-surprised Brick Lane is still standing.
CALEXICO (London Barbican, 25/04/16)

Review: HERE

Sunday, April 24, 2016

BOREDOMS (London Scala, 18/04/16)

It appears austerity has even avant-garde Japanese noise bands feeling the pinch, for Boredoms seem to have lost 84 members since I saw their cymbal-centric spectacular at the Barbican. But overall this was a better performance, despite an interminably slow intro involving metal poles being scrapped ad infinitum - once the drumming kicked in and Yamantaka Eye started wailing like a prophet of doom over various electronic blasts, it became as transcendentally hypnotic as their peerless Boredrums shows a few years back. Plus, there was a bit where they poured kitchenware into a speaker cone for percussive reasons, and that was kinda cool.
SHONEN KNIFE (London Dingwalls, 17/04/16)

For thirty-five years, Naoko Yamano and co. have peddled effervescent pop-punk ditties about food and animals without feeling too much need to mix up the formula, and on the evidence of tonight, they don't really need to. Their new songs are catchy as hell, their new drummer Risa is literally the most kawaii being in existence and although the sheer, unrelenting upbeatness of it all can get a bit wearing over a full hour, anyone who doesn't leave from a Shonen Knife gig with a wide grin on their face is probably Ted Cruz.
THE SUN RA ARKESTRA (London Union Chapel, 14/04/16) 

It's the third time I've seen the interplanetary jazz wizards in the space of eight months, but I just couldn't bring myself to see miss the Arkestra play in a venue as beautiful as Union Chapel. In truth, the acoustics there are better suited for solo performers than brass avant-garde jazz collectives, but as a performance it's just about the best I've seen them do with Marshall Allen as sprightly as ever at the age of ninety-two(!)
GET WELL SOON (London Lexington, 13/04/16)

The German answer to the Divine Comedy have always been inexplicably overlooked by the British music press, but more fool them, for Get Well Soon's lushly orchestrated indie-pop remains an utterly underrated delight- even if they basically ignore the first album these days.
BLACK MOUNTAIN (London Electric Ballroom, 12/04/16)

One of the occupational hazards of going to psych-rock shows is that there's always going to be a point where you think, "well this is a bit self-indulgent". To Black Mountain's credit, this point didn't arrive until a good two-thirds through their set, but nonetheless, it was a bit disappointing to see the mighty "Don't Run Our Hearts Around" culled in favour of an aimless jam that didn't even bother to sustain the monolithic riffage that had preceded it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

LEON BRIDGES (London Brixton Academy, 08/04/16)

Unfortunately, due to illness I spent most of this one standing in the back cradling a glass of water, but there's no denying the boy's got soul (even if it's perhaps slightly too smooth for my tastes.)
THE BESNARD LAKES (London Islington Assembly Halls, 05/04/16) 

The Besnard Lakes are one of the most underrated bands of our generation, and the fact Islington Assembly Hall was only two-thirds full is a damning indictment on everyone who wasn't there. That said, although the 13-piece setup was sublime at times (especially during the intro to "Chicago Train"), the mix was off throughout, meaning their trademark wall-of-sound shoegaziness was far less potent than it deserved to be.
LIIMA (Helsinki Kuudes Linja, 31/03/16)

I'm very happy to report the Efterklang side-project ("Electroklang"?) have evolved leaps and bounds since I saw them in London last year. Back then, they were very much a band experimenting and trying to work out what exactly they wanted to achieve; now they're tighter, more focussed and more enjoyable. It's also refreshing to see a band that employ gimmickry constructively for once- a lot of their sounds come from improvised instruments, yet none of them seem indulgent or pointless. I don't think I'll ever love them as much as the 'Klang, but as successor bands go, they're not bad at all.
HARTYGA (Tallinn Vira Keskus, 30/03/16)

Of all the odd musical experiences of my life, watching a Siberian jazz/heavy rock/Tuvan throat-singing fusion band in an Estonia shopping mall has to rank pretty highly. Very enjoyable though.
CHARLES BRADLEY (London Rough Trade East, 29/03/16) 

It's not often that I'm compelled to review an in-store show, but when it's involves Charles Bradley it becomes almost a legal obligation. I've only previously seen the Screaming Eagle of Soul on festival stages or in far larger spaces like the Shepherd's Bush Empire - and even in those circumstances it's been a searingly emotional experience. So to witness him in a 150-capacity venue was I can only imagine it'd be like Arethra Franklin in her heyday, roaring songs out with such excoriating passion that it leaves everyone present slack-jawed and immobile. Plus I got a hug from the great man himself, which was pretty nifty. Definitely a night to remember.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FIRE! (London Cafe Oto, 26/03/16)

It's been a while since the Swedish improv trio have been to these here parts (at least without their 25-piece accompanying orchestra) so it's great to have the opportunity to witness their motorik grooves and saxophone squalls in such an intimate setting. Quite impressed too by the guy who tried to start a one-man moshpit during a particularly avant-garde interlude. Truly the epitome of #yolo.
WET (London Scala, 23/03/16) 
A damp squib.
ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF (London St John's at Bethnal Green, 18/03/16)

Anna Von Hausswolff might well be the literal harbinger of the Apocalypse. Indeed, this show was so loud, the vibrations knocked my phone off the pew in front of me and (allegedly) caused small chunks of masonry to fall from the church roof - which is something even My Bloody Valentine can't boast. From gothic organ drones to heavy-metal freakouts (and an excellently-judged cover of Bowie's "Warszawa"), this was the most intense performance I've seen since Pharmakon- and one as beautiful as it was visceral.
DAN DEACON (London Village Underground, 17/03/16)

Not the best audience I've ever experienced at a DD show (too many media types checking their smartphones throughout), but for the most part, my assertions from last time still hold. Euphoric.
OMAR SOULEYMAN (London Koko, 16/03/16)

This generation- "Generation Y", "Millenials" or whatever- gets a lot of flack, much of which is entirely deserved. But it is to their credit that this gig, wherein a middle-aged Syrian man in a didashah played Dabke-inspired techno, is primarily populated by those younger than myself. (Back in my day, they'd almost doubtlessly all be watching landfill indie, and that's just unforgivable.) An infectiously groovy performance.
DEAFHEAVEN (London Heaven, 14/03/16)

I went to Heaven and now I am deaf. Turns out these black-metal-meets-shoegaze racketeers are aptly named.
DREAM WIFE & REYKJAVIKURDAETUR (London Birthdays, 11/03/16)

Review: HERE

Sunday, March 06, 2016

TRICOT (London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, 04/03/16)

Tricot are a math-rock band from Kyoto, Japan and they do math-rock better than anyone else. Things may start off a little reserved, but by the final ten minutes, guitars are being whirled, the bassist is inexplicably river-dancing, the singing is draped over the sounddesk and the room is filled with sweat, flailing arms and an exceptional amount of joy.
EMILIE AND OGDEN (London Waiting Room, 03/03/16)

Some New Joanna? Well, there's no denying there's some crossover between Emilie Kahn and a certain other quirky harpist with a distinctive voice, but her work ultimately bears more resemblance to the likes of Daughter than the obtuse, sprawling epics of "Ys". And that's not a criticism- she may not have not crafted anything as elegant as "Emily" so far, but it's also easier to distinguish her voice from nails down a blackboard. (*safety wink*)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

MOTHERS (London Lexington, 26/02/16)

There's a glut of new, exciting female-fronted acts hitting the scene at the moment, and one of the most promising has to be Mothers, hailing from Athens, Georgia. Initially the solo project of Kristine Leschper, they sound a little bit like Deerhunter fronted by Angel Olsen, but mostly like themselves. They're not yet as tight as they've got the potential to be, but when everything clicks into place they win over even the jaded London journos in attendance. One to keep an eye on.
THE JOY FORMIDABLE (London Oslo, 23/02/16)

Still formidably joyful, a full eight years after they first piqued my interest at Latitude. Their newer slowies might not pack the same punch as the big anthems of yore, but Ritzy, Rhydian and Matthew remain one of the few truly worthwhile British alt-rock bands of the last ten years.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

LNZNDRF (London Oslo, 19/02/16)

LNZNDRF: the difficult-to-pronounce pairing of Beirut's Ben Lanz and the brothers Devendorf. As National side-projects go, it's a more ostentatious departure from their sound than EL VY or (to a lesser extent) Bryce Dessner's myriad collaborations, being more about the krautrock jams than arena-filling indie rock hits, and though it's a bit aimless at times, when it hits the mark it's not too far removed from the likes of Neu! An interesting diversion at the very least.
WHITE DENIM (London Islington Academy 16/02/16)

The danger with going to a gig on the basis of one great song is that the riot of psychedelic-tinged indie rock one might be expecting could turn out to be, say, a bunch of B-rate Black Keys offcuts. Eh, you win some, you lose some.
THE WHO (London Wembley Arena, 15/02/16)

An very unexpected trip to Wembley to see them guys who, for the most part, didn't die before they got old. Obviously Roger and Pete aren't as wild as their 70's heyday, and some of the set is pedestrian heritage rock, but you really can't knock that closing double whammy of "Teenage Wasteland" and "Won't Get Fooled Again".
ZA! (Lewisham DIY Space For London, 12/02/16)

So, their Arcade Fire-topping set at Primavera 2014 wasn't a fluke: Za! really are one of the best live bands in the world right now. A relentlessly exuberant performance that channeled Calexico, Deerhoof, Captain Beefheart, the Buena Vista Social Club and Acid Mothers Temple all in the space of 50 minutes, it's by some distance the best show I've seen this year.
FLOATING POINTS (London Electric Brixton, 09/02/16)

Although this would have been better suited to a concert hall than a dank Brixton nightclub full of braying accountants, Floating Points' beguiling. ambitious fusion of electronica, prog and jazz was a far more noteworthy experience than expected, utilising a 11-piece ensemble with piano, brass and strings to quite magnificent effect. If only all electronic gigs were this good...
HIGHASAKITE (London Hoxton Hall, 08/02/16)

Review: HERE