Friday, August 26, 2011

Drum lift me up

Charles Hayward
Shoreditch Catch. 25aug11

In the mid-70’s, This Heat provided a bridge between the German progressive rock scene and UK post-punk, incorporating loops to advance a pre post-rock, eerie industrial sound. Following their disbanding in 1982, drummer Charles Hayward went on to play with Camberwell Now, Gong, About Group, Monkey Puzzle Trio and Blurt, as well as undertaking session work with groups ranging from Everything But The Girl to Hot Chip to Crass. In addition, he has performed in a number of free improvisation collectives, as well as performing solo.

To some the idea of a drummer doing a solo show will no doubt bring one of two thoughts to mind; noodling prog acts giving their sticksman an ego boost and their guitarists a fag break; or a council- funded community rhythm workshop. Charles Hayward fits neither profile.

First of all one must disengage from the idea of the drum solo which tends to be a case of “let me show you how quickly I can hit all these drums”, and into the idea of the drum lift, where the vocal is of equal prominence. Indeed, the drums are never chaotic, every beat and fill dovetailing with the pre-recorded bleeps and synth washes; Hayward staring roguishly into the middle distance whilst projecting his fragile vocal.

“My maaaaad-ness” he begins, the glint in his gaze increasingly vivid, before moving smoothly into a groove that feet can respond to. A kindly, mildly eccentric presence, he later rises from his stool to pause one song for a good thirty seconds just so that he might peer out at us incredulously.

Rather than showcase lightning speed, he is unafraid to use space and the pregnant pause, whilst his experience of free improvisation means the catatonic beat is consistently side-stepped whenever a full-on groove threatens to take-hold.

The lyrics tend to be the repetitive hook, cycling around a kind of 21st century paranoia; “information rich, information poor” he intones as mantra, at one point backed only by shaken maracas. He may only be one 60 year old man inside one drum set but Charles Hayward’s sets not only engage, they haunt.

*photo found online and was taken at Sonar Festival in 2007.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shout, shout...job done

Old Blue Last. 14aug11.

Time was there were six of these bears, with flutes, horns and all kinds of caper that clattered about like prodigious toddlers high on sugary contraband. They had a disarming tweeness to beckon people towards them, to wriggle under stroking hands like a playful kitten, only to then morph into a beast of pure malevolence, launching the suckerpunch assault of caterwauling chaos.

Now there are five of them and the wind and brass have been replaced with a greater emphasis on synths and while it’s not different per se, it’s certainly not entirely the same. Not that singer and guitarist Iain Ross sees it this way, suggesting by way of introduction here into Foxy Boxer (an atypical ‘oldie' this evening) that “we’ve only got six songs, it’s all the same formula isn’t it – shout, shout.”

However, if they do only have finite methods, they are clearly keener to play the newer versions born of them than delve into the back catalogue. As if to plant a big new footprint down upon the world of pop, their set is top heavy with material from their latest LP The Phantom Forest with popular singles from their earlier years, such as Drink Ink, Stephen F****** Spielberg and Itsuko Got Married, seemingly put out to pasture.

Amidst Joe Naylor’s frisky drumming and the vocal and instrumental fidget provided by three original members Ross, Jan Robertson and Lisa Horton, Charlene Katuwawala is a fairly low key presence but her gritty bass is vital in underpinning the ever increasing maturity within the Bearsuit sound.

With an electro-pop tune like When Will I Be Queen, so bright you could floodlight a goods yard with it, and in A Train Wreck a glorious song which marries a hymnal harmony with both ripening art-pop and post-punk thrust, it is clear that Bearsuit have added plenty to their toolshed since their salad days.

Thankfully though, we cannot look at the Bears and consider them all grown up as fundamentals of the Melt Banana-esque whizz and skid which dictated the pace of their early tunes are still extant in Princess, You’re A Test and, even more vividly, Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop which top and tail tonight’s set.

While there appears to be less of that well defined cutesy-abandon-leading-to-frenzied-assault element, there is still a roughness around their edges and a sense of requiring to surrender to them; that to not be seen dancing during their sets is to meet with their eye-narrowing displeasure.