Monday, October 20, 2003

Worlds of Possibility
Four Tet, Mouse on Mars, Max Tundra
The End, London
Oct 17

Glorified indie club The End may repel, with its typical Central London pack-em-to-the-rafters and charge-em-£3.50-a-bottle policy, but surely a line-up including obscurantist Fritz-hop textural beatists Mouse on Mars and spacious electromeister (yes there’s just one of him) Four Tet would be worth the effort? Well, kinda.

Due to bad planning on the part of your reviewer, he arrived without the kind of illicit accoutrements he tends to associate with such a night, and was forced to resort to the aforementioned bottles (scrabbling back every last penny of his change off the little plates the bar staff optimistically placed it on) and the under-used DIY technique known as the “pauper’s poppers” (crouching down for a few minutes then standing up very quickly). Despite these efforts, the upshot was an uncharacteristically clear head from which to view the evening’s proceedings. ‘Pah, who needs all that sweaty, uncritical palaver anyway?’ he huffed, fooling no one.

An encouraging set from the main room warm-up DJ which ranging from mid-70s art rock Eno to Dizzee Rascal mitigated the already apparent and disappointing fact that the majority of people seemed to be there to pose about rather than get all sweaty and euphoric. Eventually, despite it being visible from around only 8% of the bipartite faux-railway-arches main room, especially once litre after litre of dry ice had been dumped on our heads, when something appeared on the tiny stage at the back, the well-trained crowd surged forward to adopt “crane and gawp at the performers” stances. The something in question was the affable Max Tundra, who variously delighted, infuriated and appalled with his squeaky-clean mixture of wacky breaks, arpeggiator effects, pop tunes (with impressive vocals by his sister), vampy keyboard soloing and other colourful and unapologetically clever nonsense. Imagine a Squarepusher remix of Sparks versus Bis, without the edge.

Swiftly followed (after Max’s unlovable cover of that “Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu” song) by Mouse on Mars, it seemed at least hopeful that the packed dancefloor would finally start jumping (much as even the difficult ICA crowd had done last year, to MoM’s insistent microrhythms). The decent lighting, tolerable big-screen psychedelic animations, bowel-worryingly loud but limpid sound system all in place, surely things would finally kick off? Refraining for the main from the tonal aspect of their albums, arguably the aspect that carries the emotional punch of their music, they concentrated on loping mid-tempo beats that never quite got the crowd going. The result was alienating rather than engaging; merely ill-judged rather than uncompromising. Only towards the very end of their set did they forgo the metronome and bring in some chromatics, in a deliriously glitchy sonic meltdown. If it was impossible to dance to, at least it was almost worth shaving a few mHz off the sensitivity of your chochlea for.

Several of our companions having already fled, our remaining number adjourned at this point to the “lounge”. At last, we thought, a bit of space (that wasn’t confined to the immediate proximity of a speaker wall), and people actually dancing in an enthusiastic manner. To what you may ask? Joy Division and The Smiths. Yes, it really is an indie club. There was nothing for it but to brave the main room once again and see what this Four Tet character had to offer. Finally finding a location in the crush where you could hear what was coming out of both the left and right channels, and see the artiste at work, and the (now rather wearing) animations on the screen, at long last the evening began to make some kind of bastard sense. Bored by Boards of Canada but nonplussed by the tedious avant-gardism of the likes of Venetian Snares or Squarepusher, I found Kieran Hebden’s expansive but measured laptop trickery to find an affecting and danceable middle ground. It was unmistakeably live and rough round the edges, the music remaining affecting even as Hebden manoeuvred each track towards an exhilarating haemorrhage of glitches. It also helped that I’d finally found the spot in the main room where it seemed like people were actually enjoying themselves (and not, thank Christ, in beered-up School Disco nostalgia). And on that relative high note, we forewent the potential pleasures of Manitoba DJs and fucked off for a nightbus (on which, incidentally, a homeless South London troubadour serenaded the top deck with Doors and Floyd covers, to hearty whoops and applause).

the bear
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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Moco live @ Death Disco
Notting Hill Arts Club
15 October

Poptones was the first incarnation of Alan McGee and co’s Death Disco djs-and-bands midweeker, and although both are Public Image Limited songs the night sadly does not incorporate any of Lydon and Wobble’s bitter late-70s alienation. The records we heard were all firmly established classics from the usual suspects (Pixies, Clash, BRMC, Strokes – standard indie-disco fodder) but the chief culprit was the Camden-on-tour crowd. The hair suitably fringed, beards grown long, correct labels worn, they have yet to work out the distinction between having an image and just being plain trendy (with all the desperation of having a subscription to The Farce that entails). All of which is expected at any beat happening, but when it’s the dominant faction it grates.

Nevertheless a good set from Poolside’s Moco, and in particular lead singer Steve Jones, seductively clothed in an extra layer of projected logos and images. The Wigan band's playful but charged approach to punk-pop completely failed to incite the crowd, who seemed to view it as an unnecessary break from The Playing of the Indie Pantheon. Previous singles like Miss Mantaray came and went to blasé indifference. Jones' occasional forays into the crowd and other means of attempted whipping up were met with a wall of Camden blank faces. Yes I was probably exercising too much paranoia on continued encroachment of our space (fuck-all room to dance), but these kind of stand-around/look-at-me-type events is one reason why dance clubs still appeal and indie ones don't. In London at least.

Constantly saying “hello Notting Hill!” was too ironic for the stuttering cool of the assembled industry tripes, fashion laxatives and hype tourists, while his miming fellatio with the mic merely served to get their cool-insulated, reactive backs up (“huh, as if I’m ‘gonna’ find that at all engaging/inspiring. I'm not ‘gonna’ give away any indication as to my sexuality/outlook/musical view in response to that”). It’s quite hilarious witnessing 22-year-olds trying to give it the 'seen-it-all-before-mate' insouciance and then melting into effete approachability at the sound of The Smiths.
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Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Boggs
ICA, London
8 October

In rock’s repetitive marketplace if difference has value then Brooklyn’s Boggs are worth a lot. It’s not garage rock, not nu wave, not punk-funk. The New York three-piece (no bassist) knock out dead-fast tunes led by amplified acoustic and spindly slide guitars underwritten by stomping rhythms. Then the two-minute cacophonies (not too many words could be heard from Jason Friedman’s croak) end dead on time. It’s frenetic, visceral, hillbilly, ethnic Americana as played by cool New Yorkers. Someone said it was a delta blues-thrash hybrid. He also mentioned Tenpole Tudor, but this is no mindless dirge-stomp.

In the context of the opening band Arthur Bronson Outfit’s tired blues-rock ramblings (so average we decided to sack the second band), it was even more welcome. There was an assured vitality in among the spectacular chaos, derived from a genuine love for the dirty soul of American music. All that sprawling culture's musical achievements distilled into staccato bursts of vital energy.

Only two songs in Boggs’ headlining set dropped the tempo. They even have a neat line in 70s-style scarves, like we’re following Raith Rovers or the Bay City rollers or something. You never know, they could end up being Pogues-esque drunken stomp music for idiots but I doubt this distorted speed roots music will take that direction.

The second Boggs album, which is due out in the UK in a few weeks, is called Stitches. All in all tonight’s set does something else but doesn't really do justice do the subtly variagated brilliance of the albums, which feature horns and strings and much more of the slow haunting folk dirges. Apparently they just can't afford to perform it live for the time being (ie, pay extra instrumentalists).
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

E-Sop’s Fables
Our 21st-century dancer, last seen on this site extolling the virtues of Berlin, finds on the White Island a world of his own narcotic creation, a world apart from the Euro trance monkey haven of the island’s reputation

Spud’s Rave Diary: The following stories/tales below are slightly true and describe a week in end-of-season Ibiza discovering there is more to life than just going out raving. That said, the spirit of rave was never to diminish.

The journey was a taster of things to come during the course of the week, firstly there were renditions of Billy Joel classics from Ewok and Neon. Later this proved a dilemma for both of them, as despite discovering the misogynistic overtones in Bill’s lyrics they both still held high a disposable lighter for the man. Smoggie brought an element of fun to the proceedings with her falling down shorts and slurred words. The Laz and Neon serenaded us all across the skies before singing themselves to sleep.

On arrival, I had made a docs. error in hiring a car, this was coupled with Earth Mother missing her flight and subsequently arriving three hours later, which was to result in myself and Rave Bunny phoning the UK and getting a fax sent to the hire car desk. After half a dozen phone calls, faxes finally arrived and cars were hired – we were on our way to the villa.

Once boozed up and shopped, the first evening was spent with some classic home cooking from the Ewok. After dinner Jack’s bottle of Absinth was opened; drunken carnage ensued. Monday morning, I discovered liaisons, all be it brief ones, had occurred in the night with Neon and Ewok – looking for some rave love guys, couple of kisses good night. Sometimes it seems people get their wires crossed or do they?

After meeting Sir Cliff at the airport it was a rave afternoon start, off to Club DC10 to meet up with ‘The Laz’ and ‘DC10 Ted’ crowd. A short description of DC10 would be: two rooms; the first inside and very dark; the second, an outside courtyard packed full of sweaty mulleted Italian/Spanish/German ravers dancing their thongs off. This is a club where you are not allowed to sit down, if you ain’t raving then leave. Musically things were hit and miss, highlights: Matthew Johnson – Typerope ep/Agoria – Sky Is Clear (Mayer mix)/The Ewan Pearson remix megamix/Mr C playing back2back classic classics from the canon of classics.

Within an hour, we were all wide-eyed and even Neon’s jaw was more relaxed than normal. Sir Cliff, managed to beat nearly all the courtyard at a game of scissors, paper and stone, until he came up against Spud, by this stage my reaction was none too hot and I may have cheated – soz Cliff. Sir Cliff fell over thanking Laz in the DJ booth for another combative performance, in fact so engrossed in the mix, the Laz missed the falling over part, Cliff fell over on another two occasions, wobbly rave legs to blame. Gadget Boy was offered anal sex at the bar, while I was comparing penis size with a group of Italian men. Despite the language barrier they appeared to be impressed. Once Lottie had completed her DJ set, she embarked on a more tricky challenge of make-up artist to Neon and DC10 Ted. Both of them looked fantastic sporting eye shadow.

A couple of hours to kill before seeing Ewok DJ at MANUMISSION, this was spent at The Laz Villa, but before we could get there Liz and I spent ten minutes wide-eyed in the car locating the light switch.

From Villa Laz to Manumission (held at PRIVILEGE – largest club in the world, though it doubles as a sports centre in the closed season), where things all became blurred, but what I can remember is walking into the ’Mission and witnessing some of the most depressing scenes of men and woman gawping at a crap sex show I have ever seen (they also have a yoga self-fellating guy on stage: it’s the modern-day circus, see). I ‘chose’ to imagine that everyone in the club was medusa until reaching the backroom, where Ewok was playing. Sir Cliff and I did some of the most influential raving of our dancing careers, as the Headmistress remarked that there were ravers’ admiring/copying our moves. Not sure why, as we danced like absolute wide-eyed drunken idiots. Ewok proved a hit with the lamest sexual dancer, known as Otter. She was sporting a flaming beaver whilst getting down to sexless dancing on a pillow. She wanted to give Ewok relief while Djing; wisely he replied ‘I have to concentrate’.

A few drinks later and most people’s faces were silently saying ‘Can we leave’. Ewok was playing at Space, where he and his legion of loyal fans (not including Smoggy) were witness to a DJ being booed from the decks as he was bouncing them beats off everything and causing discomfort to all people. Sir Cliff managed to fall over on arrival, upset a dwarf and fall asleep at the bar.

By this time, the Ravers were requiring a rest judging by their half-opened eyes’, however, before sleep a trip to the shops. One piece of advice: if you do go shopping after raving, avoid mirrors as these prove to be a reminder of how you look to the outside non-rave world. This can be unnerving while trying to calculate the amount of monkfish required for 12 people.

My day finished asleep on the sofa, foaming at the mouth like some kind of demented Friesian.

Wednesday provided some much-needed relaxation by the pool, soaking up some of that legendary Ibizan sun. However, this peaceful idle/idyll was not to last as an evening at Villa Laz to celebrate his coming of electro age was planned. To get there meant Spud having to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time in two years, this was to prove a stressful/funny experience, in fact it had all the highs and lows of an episode of Eastenders. This meant firstly attempting to find reverse gear, which took some time, during which shouts of ‘Fuck off’ to Sir Cliff were said. Despite contending with stalling at a roundabout – twice – and shitty directions, which involved an invisible roundabout we arrived a few hours late, but at least we were all in one piece – there were no physical injuries, though there may have been some mental scars generated from Spud’s shaky driving.

Arriving at Villa Laz we were all given Hawaiian-type garlands to wear with Laz sporting a grass skirt and crown that would have made any South Pacific King proud. After a BBQ, big man-sized portions of fun and games ensued. Highlights involved a game of musical-rave chairs, which with Ewok in charge of the music and a somewhat confused Sir Cliff as to which direction he should rave round the chairs (chemicals were catching up on the guy by this time), provided much amusement. Sir Cliff came a valiant second, though in my book he was robbed guv.

After these fun and games the Puritanical drug grip that the Ewok had imposed on himself was finally broken. Though, he was to blame Smoggie for his temptation – no excuse. Conversation flowed on the lines of how good/bad Djs/records were, plus the creation of Mustard Jazz – altogether a different kind of jazz – you really had to be there to fully appreciate it. As I stayed reasonably within the confounds of my brain and body I witnessed chat and behaviour that could be best described as sketchy, ill-thought out and incoherent, but at the same time incredibly funny. DC10 Ted and Neon presented the Laz with his Electro gift, which was to be a wrestlers’ mask. Somewhere between Spiderman and S&M and funny and disturbing.

As the evening/morning drew on my haze only got worst and fatigue kicked in. Despite protestations from all, Neon and I were going to make a break for it. With concrete assurances from Neon (when am I ever going to learn) that he wouldn’t fall asleep in the car and knew the way back to the villa we set off, after negotiating my way out on to the main road (this took 10 minutes). Hazy Spud, we immediately took a wrong turn to end up in what was probably a beautiful seaside village, however its charm was lost on me as I was shouting at Neon to wake up – this went on for the remainder of the journey as the erratic/slow-paced/gear-crunching driving continued. Once we had got back on to the main road and in what we believed to be right direction, the journey became almost bearable. Eventually we found our way back to the villa and remarkably in one piece, despite sketchy/hazy driving and sleepy directionless Neon, a well-earned spliff and vodka our reward.

Unfortunately my nerves had been so frayed that my vow never to drive a car again meant Ewok, Sir Cliff and Smoggie were stranded at Villa Laz. Their safe return did not happen until Thursday afternoon courtesy of Headmistress.

Thursday and a new houseguest in the form of Sporty Tom, plus visitors Bloo and Mr Rock. As we all settled down to booze, spliff and tanning action by the pool, a new sport was invented in the shape of pool-surfing. Both Sir Jack and Bloo proved that they had done this kind of thing on the oceans and they weren’t going to let the confines of a pool get the better of them. For a time all went well, then it ended in minor damage with Jack putting his foot through his board, which in this case was a lounger. Of the trio to return from Villa Laz only one was to venture forth to Pacha that evening and there were no guesses as to who that would be, based on current rave form: yes Sir Cliff.

Before describing the events of a night out at PACHA, a few words about the place/brand itself. For me Pacha could be best described as a club more interested in taking your money than showing you a good time. The sound system at times felt flatter than Holland. Despite these drawbacks we met back up with Bloo and Rock.

The club itself did not get busy until around two o’clock, at which point I noticed a rather gurning Dark Lord, this was to prove a revelation as for all those times I had seen the Dark Lord have fun and games with gurners, he was now one himself. Sir Cliff spent the night in the company of a lady he had met the previous evening at Villa Laz, that guy just does the opposite to his namesake. Rock and I attempted to get drunk at the bar, without spending any money (thanks for those drinks vouchers Sir Cliff). Neon, Herman and Bloo did much the same. Bloo’s intoxication rendered him unable to find the correct room to sleep in, as the manager and maid were telling him. Despite his protestations he was finally convinced that somehow a couple vacating had let him in said room as Rock was uncontactable due to booze-induced psychosis.

Back from Pacha still all full of beans, as Smoggie and Ewok were to discover. Bloo and Rock arrived on a moped – nice helmets guys – which Bloo sported for his impersonation of one half of a top German house duo. As morning drifted into afternoon tiredness took its toll and a quick disco kip while sporting a Robert de Niro face was necessary.

Waking up from my slumber, I was ready for yet another one of Ewok’s culinary masterpieces. After dinner it was time to drop Sir Cliff off for a brief encounter with his lady friend before going to the airport. On return to the villa Sporty Tom was providing musical accompaniment to a breakdancing Bloo and Jack, and judging by the looks of things these guys had been in one of the top West Country crews. My raving in Ibiza was drawing to a close.

Thanks to Neon for help with the names and a big thanks to everyone I went out with, stayed with, slept with, took drugs with, laughed with, cried with, etc etc. See you all next year.

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