Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Orbital at Glastonbury via the BBC

Unlike last year, this time Cullers watched Glstnbry from the controlled setting of their lounge.

It soon became very clear why their followers wanted Orbital on last at Worthy Farm. Pomp rockers (obliged to give them that prefix these days) Muse impressed in their ‘bombastic’ way, but if you’ve just had a weekend of pharmaceutical indulgence their slabs of sound wouldn’t do you any favours (so the Hartnolls went to the Other Stage).

In our still-diversifying techno general store, they quickly became the act of choice for those that wanted a bit of the old rave spirit, a dash of cinematic futurism, but none of that fluffy house nonsense. Though proponents of the last might well tune in and come down to it after putting down their handbag. The Brown album ruled Bedroom Techno, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. Their place was sealed when, as a replacement, they thrilled Glstnbry ten years ago and more importantly given the dominance of mainstream indie rock, convinced bloated NME hacks that techno could be Live! Orbital never had Leftfield’s depth, Chemical Brothers’ gimmicky bounce, Orb’s quirky accessibility or other attributes of ‘stadium’ rave acts. They could never experiment, progress and still entice a l’Aphex Twin or Autechre. Yet they were pitched perfectly in between, devout followers of the techno (and technology) revolution but unable for whatever reason to lead the dancers into an alt-rave utopia.

Watching these recorded highlights, this dichotomy seemed to be evident in the brothers themselves: Phil, ecstatic, feeling the rush off the riffs with all its nostalgic association and present communion, leading the dance; Paul, motionless, working the banks of machines – I’m enjoying this in my own way, I am from Kent remember and my real-world concerns can never be dissolved. (I hope I’ve got this round the right way)

As the loops of Chime, Halycon, Doctor Who, A Perfect Sunrise, etc left the sequencers, we could remind ourselves that this retiring band created perfect anthems for the alternative side of House & Techno Inc. Yet they remembered the importance of a killer hook; otherwise, dance is so much bump and thud and minute variation in frequency. Orbital’s lack of out there-ness was also their strength.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The next wave of 70s-80s referencers

Bloc Party, Komakino, Black Wire
The Cockpit Leeds
9 June 2004

Local band Black Wire are three men and a drum machine who have whipped up national interest following the release of the debut 7” single Attack Attack Attack/Very Gun. The pseuds at the Guardian and the NME were interested straight away. Black Wire make a pleasingly dark funk reminiscent of early Sisters of Mercy (ie, not the later bombastic shite), local legends Gang of Four and the late lamented Big Flame. Their not-particularly-accomplished musicality is overcome by verve and enthusiasm and the audience are largely receptive to their efforts, particularly when they played both songs from the aforementioned seven.

Derby-based Komakino, whose slow-to-load website mentions without context that the Septerror 11 attacks coincided with a member’s birthday, are pretty much the sum of their parts, all pounding drums, rumbling Joy Division basslines and scything Chameleons guitar stylings. Essentially they are Interpol without the class. Having said that they are pretty entertaining live once you get past the derivative nature of their sound. The singer wants to be Ian Curtis too much, even imitating his lost control dancing.

Previously the Union, East London-based percussive rockers Bloc Party are banging all the right drums. Their website makes erudite reference to their abhorrence of racism and the impossibility of being denuded of context (ie, sounding new). By the time they hit the stage the venue was rammed and most of the crowd looked ready to melt. Your plucky reviewer was stationed at the back of the throng, with a pint of gin, in a vain attempt to avoid looking flushed in public (a serious faux pas in Yakshire). Live, Bloc Party have a fuller, funkier and at times poppier sound than on record with Matt Tong’s impressive drumming and Gordon Moake’s seismic basslines providing a solid foundation over which the twin guitars of Russel Lissack and singer Kele Okereke scratch and strum. Debut single She’s Hearing Voices was lost on the vast majority of the crowd, who have clearly picked up on the band in the wake of the recent Banquet single which brought a much more rapturous response and set the place jumping. The gig continued in this vein for an all-too-brief 35 minutes before the band left the stage to tumultuous applause and cries for more. The Blocs duly obliged and returned to the stage for a couple of songs, closing the set with forthcoming single Little Thoughts.

All these bands are making a then sound for now and one, two or all three will doubtless join the cannon of alt-cool soon. Don’t let that put you off.
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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Sheffield muck stirrers please Leeds

Pink Grease
The Session
Leeds Cockpit
21 May 2004

Pink Grease are either the future of rock'n'roll (part 66666) or a bunch of complete ****s.

Their Pink G.R.Ease is single of the week in trendy style bible The Guardian Guide (with the apparent demise of Swinstead Publishing, home to Sleaze and Jockey Slut, its irreverent mix of free information and features finds an even clearer field).
The guitarist looks like that mushroomed-headed thing in the Super Mario games.
They are from Sheffield, much like Hoggboy or Giovanni Chrome Recordings.
  • They make a pleasing noise.
  • They have very good shoes.
  • They have a keyboard that looks like a giant stylophone.
  • ‘The kids’ loved them.
At this point a heady cocktail of alcopops and sambuca kicked in and it all became hazy...

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