Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Noise Noise Allore!, Bilge Pump, Lords, Soeza

Hi, I'm Pete Ashton and I'll be re-posting music related stuff from my blog here. This post was originally published here.

Saturday night was at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath for my first proper gig since the GDFAF fortnight featuring a roster of bands of the Gringo Records stable from around the country plus one from Birmingham. Our genre for this evening was uncertain but veered towards the intelligent loud rock end of the spectrum. In fact I learned a new genre this evening: math-rock, being music that consists of rapidly changing time signatures and patterns yet remains heavy, the meeting point between jazz and guitar-based rawk, if you like. This wasn't an exclusively math-rock event but there were plenty of blokes in glasses in the audience, and I was one of them.

Actual music and performances aside, this gig exemplified the music scene's utter inability to deal with the concept of time. The flyer said 7.30, the poster on the door said 8.00 and the doors actually opened at 8.30 with the first band starting nearer to nine. We had four bands to get through before closing time (no late licenses here) so this was going to be tight...

SoezaFirst up were Soeza from Bristol who immediately intrigued by having two drum kits along with french horn and euphonium (yes, I had to look that up...). Their music was a smooth flowing thing with a complicated undercurrent bringing to mind Broadcast a little bit, though somewhat heavier. And with two drummers. I wasn't entirely sold on them but this was probably because they were a little ramshackle performance-wise with a couple of false starts and technical issues (due to the late running sound check perhaps?), but others in my posse were highly impressed, and I have to admit that quibbles aside they were doing interesting things. Having the brass player sing into the bell of his euphonium with a mic dangling inside was utterly inspired for example and I'd certainly see them again.

LordsNext were Lords, a three-piece from Nottingham/Leeds/Derby who impressed no end by having the drummer at the front of the stage with the singer/guitarists on either side. This turned out not to be some novelty thing but utterly essential as this guy really was the leader of the band, playing the most skillful and complicated drumming I've seen (with the possible exception of Acoustic Ladyland), managing to maintain the role of rhythm section but with the personality and uniqueness you'd normally expect of a singer or guitarist. He also had the cheekiest monkey-grin face, possibly an inconsequential feature but it added a lot to my appreciation of them. Meanwhile their music was incredibly loud. It started loud and got louder and eventually the whole room was filled with sound of such volume that it became a physical force. At one stage it seemed to overwhelm my senses and break though some kind of barrier, like the roar of a jet engine that suddenly goes quiet before it booms. But this wasn't an uncontrolled noise - there was a delicate beauty to it which exemplified what this whole math/post/intelligent/whatever-rock is all about. If "normal" rock is a scud missile and orchestral music is a majestic ocean liner, this is the space shuttle.

Bilge PumpOur third act were Bilge Pump from Leeds and with a name like that they had a lot to live up to because it is unquestionably a very nice name. And yes, they were good, but something didn't quite click for me. Unfortunately I wasn't taking notes and can't quite remember what it was, but suffice to say they didn't blow me away. Which isn't really a criticism and they did put on a good solid set. On the superficial side the bass player had a very nice red shirt and the drummer a most impressive Ramones-style haircut - these things matter to me in the world of gig going for some reason. Overall I'd see them again I reckon and I wonder, if they'd had a less interesting name, would I have been so hard on them?

Noise Noise Allore!And then to our Birmingham based headliners, Noise Noise Allore!, previously seen at the Melt Banana gig a month ago. This was the band I'd really come to see and at twenty to eleven it was touch and go as to how much we were going to experience. But to be honest, while more would have been great, less was more than sufficient. This is the sort of band that so easily could be terrible, but thanks to a combination of musicianship and audacity they pull it off with aplomb. Lead singer Biff set up his little Moog and promptly vanished as the rest of the band got ready, returning at the start of the set dressed in pale-blue tight shorts and a figure hugging white cotton shirt with tie. Combined with the pencil mustache he looked like a seedy games teacher or parody of a 1940s army fitness instructor. In the context of a generally blokey rock environment seeing this character on stage is very odd indeed. It fits, but it's coming at such a strange angle that you can quite place why it fits.

Noise Noise Allore!And then they start playing, and it's all quite wonderful. Mainly this is due to the other three members of the band being very accomplished musicians who appear to be using the oddness of Biff to really push the boundaries of their skills, bouncing around a staccato rock that threatens to fall into freeform jazz but never does. Meanwhile, at the front, Biff is stealing the show so all credit to the others for letting him do this. His vocal style is high-pitched yelping like a demented castrato (though thanks to the shorts we knew this wasn't the cause) or a speed-fueled tellytubby punctuated by what can only be described as spastic dancing as he throws his body around the stage and moments of jogging on the spot. Contrasted with his normal banter between songs this is all quite shocking stuff, and when you think about it, quite close to the bone. We knew it was all an act but parallels to the mentally handicapped were certainly there. I don't think this is a problem but it illustrates the power of making your audience feel ever so slightly uncomfortable about enjoying themselves so much.

Noise Noise Allore!And enjoy it I did. I found myself at the side of the stage torn between needing to take as many photos of this spectacle as possible (196 as it happens - the pick of them are here) and to just stare, mouth agape, at the glory of it all. At the Melt Banana gig I'd been at the back of the room, here I was a few feet away. It was astonishing. What's odd is that, despite being in existence for about a year, they don't have anything recorded and no internet presence. Apparently (and this is just word of mouth) they all have commitments to other bands and this is just an experimental side project that isn't really supposed to go anywhere, but I think it could go far. Musically and theatrically the whole package is there and it'll be something of a crying shame if more people don't get to experience it.

And then, the final song having been played with the house lights up, we dashed off with our ears ringing to catch the last bus home. Sure, I was tired after a day at the car park with three hours sleep the night before, but I was having trouble processing exactly what I'd seen. As my flatmates enthusiastically discussed the evening, bringing in references and pinpointing key moments, I realised I was a mere dilettante in this world. I can enjoy it and appreciate the glorious complication of the musicianship but I can't open the case and understand the inner workings. All I know is that it is excellent stuff, and at £4.00 in, incredibly good value.

The next gig along these lines is also at the Hare and Hounds. Moff Fest, on Saturday December 17th, allegedly starts at 7.00pm which it better do as there are five bands on the line-up - Una Corda, Burnst, Mothertrucker, The Hubble Constant and Cornish Tin Miners. Four of them are local and the second and fifth are described on the flyer as "math-rock", more info is here and the whole thing costs £3.00, which is slightly absurd really.


Blogger Ben said...

Welcome Pete! If I'd have been around in Brum on Saturday, I would have definitely liked to have seen this. Lords in particular sound great.

1:35 pm  

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