Friday, March 12, 2010

SWSL Top 20 30 Live Performances Of 2009

News just in: list-making is both an art and a sign of an obsessive and controlling personality.

So, anyway, where was I? Oh yeah - kicking off the SWSL end-of-year lists for 2009, a mere two-and-a-bit months into 2010...

I speculated at the beginning of last year's list that the move back to Abingdon from Oxford would curtail gig-going exploits, but the reality was that I actually saw more live music in 2009 than ever before. Perhaps not quite so surprising when you take into account my presence at Glastonbury, Southsea Fest and no fewer than three ATP festivals...

So, without further ado, here's the shakedown, extended by another 10 to 30 this time around (look, I make the rules, OK?). Click on the links if you want to read the reviews.

30. THE SPECIALS, Glastonbury Festival, 26th June

29. ZU, Oxford Wheatsheaf, 4th October

28. LOS CAMPESINOS!, Oxford Zodiac, 29th October

27. MELVINS, 10 Years Of ATP, 12th December

26. NEIL YOUNG, Glastonbury Festival, 26th June

25. BON IVER, ATP curated by The Breeders, 15th May

24. STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS, 10 Years Of ATP, 11th December

23. DIRTY THREE, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, 6th December
(Also seen at 10 Years Of ATP)

22. IT HUGS BACK, Southsea Festival, 19th September
(Also seen at the Oxford Zodiac)

21. ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK, Oxford Zodiac, 20th October

20. RINGO DEATHSTARR, Oxford Jericho Tavern, 30th November

19. YO LA TENGO, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, 4th December

18. SPINAL TAP, Glastonbury Festival, 27th June

17. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, 10 Years Of ATP, 13th December

16. J MASCIS & THE FOG, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, 5th December
(Also seen at 10 Years Of ATP)

15. SHELLAC, 10 Years Of ATP, 13th December
(Also seen twice at ATP curated by The Breeders)

14. THE DRONES, 10 Years Of ATP, 12th December

13. SLEEPY SUN, 10 Years Of ATP, 13th December

12. FOALS, ATP curated by The Breeders, 17th May

11. FUCKED UP, Glastonbury Festival, 26th June
(Also seen at ATP Nightmare Before Christmas)

10. FUCK BUTTONS, 10 Years Of ATP, 11th December

9. NO AGE, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, 5th December

8. BAT FOR LASHES, Oxford Zodiac, 8th October
(Also seen at Glastonbury Festival)

7. DINOSAUR JR, Oxford Academy, 19th August

6. JAPANDROIDS, London Madame Jojos, 27th October

5. YEAH YEAH YEAHS, Glastonbury Festival, 28th June
(Also seen at 10 Years Of ATP)

4. DEERHUNTER, ATP curated by The Breeders, 17th May

3. HOLY FUCK, ATP curated by The Breeders, 16th May
(Also seen at the Oxford Zodiac)

2. SONIC YOUTH, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, 5th December

1. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS, Glastonbury Festival, 28th June

An A-Z of every other band / artist I enjoyed (or, in some cases, endured) in 2009 - every single one reviewed somewhere in the sidebar:

4 Or 5 Magicians
Aeroplane Attack
Lily Allen
And So I Watch You From Afar
Animal Collective
A Place To Bury Strangers
The B Of The Bang
Balls Deep
Bear Hands
Bjorn Again
Brand New
The Breeders
Broken Records
The Bronx
The Buzzcocks
Cat Matador
Tony Christie
Gabriella Cilmi
Jarvis Cocker
Copy Haho
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Dead Confederate
Distortion Felix
Dizzee Rascal
Dr Slaggleberry
Eagles Of Death Metal
Enter Shikari
The Fiery Furnaces
Final Round ... Fight!
Fleet Foxes
From Here We Run
From Light To Sound
Gang Of Four
Giant Sand
The Gullivers
The Halcyons
Harmony Rockets
Hold Fast
The Horrors
Howling Bells
Sam Isaac
Ivy's Itch
Japanese Voyeurs
Johnny Foreigner
The Joy Formidable x2
J Rocc & Madlib
Jumping Ships
George King
The Levels
Lightning Bolt x2
The Magic Band
Mariachi El Bronx
The Mars Volta
Maximo Park
The Membranes
Micachu & The Shapes
Bob Mould
My Bloody Valentine
One Unique Signal
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Passion Pit
The Pastels
Josh T Pearson
Peggy Sue
Peter Bjorn And John
The Prodigy
Pulled Apart By Horses
The Ramblings
The Roundheels
The Rumble Strips
School Of Seven Bells
Six Organs Of Admittance
Sky Larkin
Dan Smith
The Soft Pack
Sparky Deathcap
Bruce Springsteen
Status Quo
The Strange Death Of Liberal England
Sunn O))) x2
Sun Ra Arkestra
Talk In Code
This Town Needs Guns
Throwing Muses
Yann Tiersen
Times New Viking
Trembling Bells
The Tupolev Ghost
Villiers Terrace
The Virgins
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Matt Winkworth
Wolves Of Virginia

Of all those, the worst would probably be Enter Shikari - but the most disappointing (where the gap between expectation and reality was largest) would have to be Animal Collective.

I really can't see 2010 turning out to be quite such a glut of gigs and festivals. All the same, part of me thinks I should just print this post out and hand it to anyone taking issue with one of my reviews who has the gall to suggest (as has happened on occasion, and indeed did happen last year) that I can't possibly be either a music fan generally or a lover of live music more specifically...

Know Your Enemy

"Maybe U2 could pay back all the free advertising they got for their last album by funding 6 Music."

James Walsh of Starsailor (remember them?) attempts to forge himself an unlikely reputation as a sharp-tongued voice of wisdom in his reaction to the news that the BBC are axeing 6 Music.

Danny Wallace, who regularly appears on the station, phrased his disgruntlement more delicately: "Today I fell a little bit out of love with the world's most fantastic organisation, which is now less fantastic".

You can register your own displeasure at the proposed loss of both 6 Music and the Asian Network by signing a petition here (though I'm sure there are others elsewhere).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blocks party

The Manganiyar Seduction
Barbican Theatre. 06mar10.

To put it trivially, it’s like Celebrity Squares, but instead of nine celebrities you have 38 Manganiyar musicians in 33 compartments of a giant, but still relatively cramped, dolls house hidden behind curtains until their turn in the spotlights dotted around their segment comes around.

The Manganiyars are a company of Muslim folk musicians who historically were employed as court performers for the kings of Rajasthan. Director of this theatrical presentation is Roysten Abel who became so enamoured with their sound after working with two of them on a play in Spain in 2006, that after leaving for his next job, he found himself missing their music so much that he called them up and asked them to sing to him down the phone.

Thus the seeds of the Seduction began. You can certainly understand Abel’s thought process too, he was removed from the sound, and found himself craving it and thus in this 75 minute performance we are held back from the full experience of all 38 musicians and vocalists performing together until ten minutes from the end. Having it cascaded so stealthily, rationed out like wartime cheese, causes the intrigue and imagination to effervesce and to become enraptured, sucked in by the consistencies of the rhythms, the subtle undertones and the vocals that sound like the issuing of an ultimatum.

In a way, the swish of the curtain rail is part of it, part of the ‘reveal’ of course, but also an aspect of the excitement of the sound diverting and layering. It begins with just one musician, bowing a kamancha slowly, establishing a base drone to which dholak players add percussion before the vocalists are introduced largely one-by-one.

As the piece continues, different instruments such as the murli, dhol and sarangi are brought into play; introduction and re-introduction to the arrangement highlighted by the increased lustre of the lights that box them in, the bulbs fading out as their instrument falls to rest.

Certain instruments are given the chance to solo, or trade off with each other. Daevo Khan not only conducts from in front of the box structure but also works the kartal, a percussion instrument similar to a castanet, and at one point engages in a duel with Kutla Khan’s morchang (similar to the jaws harp) that has a jazz-like fortitude.

Eventually an intense four-drum breakaway builds the pulse-rate, a down-tempo diversion then cleverly counters expectation of this being a non-stop race to the summit before the entire ensemble comes together as a whole for the first time. Naturally, the breath is stolen from us at this point.

The deliberate and hesitant exposure, the red boxes and the lights betray the burlesque aspect that Abel had in his vision but it seems unbecoming to refer to it as a ‘tease’, strip or otherwise; to introduce a seediness that doesn’t do justice to the majesty of the music. Abel’s suggestion that he also had the windows of Indian palaces in his mind’s eye appears much more in keeping with the intricate and ornamental nature of the visual spectacle

The Manganiyar Seduction @ YouTube [5 mins]