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Friday, 12 November 2010

The Best Of Live Unsigned part I

What follows is a representative sampling of the artist reviews I've been writing for Live Unsigned: it was going to be 12, but I did well to hold myself back to 14! Please follow the links and look at the artist pages on the site to find out when and where they're playing.

The Turbo A.C.’s
Turbo indeed. This is turbocharged, twangy surf punk that gives Agent Orange a run for their money, with it’s big anthemic choruses built for shouting along from the mosh-pit. Tight as a nut, raw as sushi, and more in-your-face than your teeth. Do not go to their gig to stand at the back and look cool: this is a band that really lays it on the line, and they deserve nothing less in return.

Lester Clayton
Grooving, rootsy, acoustic good-time rock, that reminds me of John Butler in a lot of ways: sophisticated but simple songs; top flight musicians with a deep, downbeat feel; and an irrepressible funkiness that comes through whatever else is happening. Real quality stuff, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Maximum RNR

This is refreshing: a punk/ hardcore/ metal band that sounds more punk than metal. Richly distorted guitars hark back to an earlier form of metal than most such fusions, from an era when the word ‘extreme’ was not yet debased through overuse. Frenetic beats sound like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, with drumming that proves you don’t need a double kick to sound like a force of nature. Love it.

Folky and bluesy vocals accompanied by arrangements that sound sometimes very traditional (in the folk sense), and sometimes very twentieth century (in the classical sense), finding echoes of that additive circularity that links minimalism with the gamelan. All of which sounds very abstract, but the resulting sparse sound world is a very habitable, welcoming place, full of ethereal warmth and melody.

Mojo Fury
It’s always refreshing when a band describes their music as ‘rock’, rather than ‘nuanced post-genre neo-gregorian rock’, or some such. Mojo Fury are as good as their word: it’s not heavy rock, it’s not soft rock, it is straight ahead ass-kicking songs-and-riffs drums-bass-and-guitar rock. Impassioned vocals, pretty melodies, driving grooves, well balanced songs, great playing.

Logistic Slaughter

I have to make an admission regarding extreme metal: I can rarely make out the lyrics, and I rarely go to the trouble of finding out what they are. It’s not because I’m old, it was always that way… for me, those genres of music are all about the visceral impact of the performances. Logistic Slaughter are nothing if not visceral: this is a demonic, hellish, overwhelming psychic attack of grindcore malevolence, and I’m loving the abuse!

Christine Owman
‘I don’t need to stand out of the crowd. I just don’t want to be a part of it.’ So says Christine Owman on her MySpace, and as a manifesto for her music making, it’s something she stands by. Her music doesn’t grab you by the throat; it doesn’t rub your face in its dissonance or difference, but it follows its own distinctive path, a gentle, tentative, experimentalist exploration of the edges of acoustic songcraft. Robert Plant is a fan, and you can hear why.

The Good The Bad
Atmospheric and idiosyncratic garage surf, performed with swaggering determination on guitar, drums and baritone guitar. They say they play ‘surf and flamenco’ but it sounds more like a spaghetti western soundtrack on crystal meth. They have no singer because they ‘couldn’t find one that would stand behind the drummer’ and their songs are numbered rather than named.Oh, and they are absolutely superb.

Susie Asado
Observational, descriptive, literary, wordy but musical songs. Susie Asado presents her material very simply and sparsely, and you can hear why: any messing about would get in the way of these very intelligent and fragile slices of work. Listen closely, and prepare to be charmed.

Sink’s music is non-formulaic improvisation: I use that term to mean improvisation that doesn’t follow formulae such as key centres, chord sequences, or metronomic rhythmic frameworks. As such it demands a certain commitment from the listener, and a very open pair of ears. These spacious soundscapes incorporate found sounds with instrumental performance, and evolve gradually, hinting at the self generative qualities of minimalism. Difficult, excellent sound art.

1000 Robota
This band is entirely too original and creative to be adequately described in a paragraph: they could be refugees from the 80s underground, but they look far too young. Guitars are utensils of aural deconstruction, layered texturally against propulsive, mechanistic slabs of bass and drums, surmounted by vocals that sound bored and wistful by turns. Engaging and unpredictable.

Banane Metalik
A scary onslaught of a punked out psychobilly horror show, with lyrics in French and occasionally English. Screaming, thrashy electric guitars predominate, but when he gets the chance to step forwards the bull fiddle player shows he can slap like Lee Rocker. This exhilarating band is the real deal.

Snarky Puppy
The first few bars I heard from this outfit reminded me immediately of uber-fusioneers Tribal Tech’s more technologically experimental moments, or Herbie Hancock’s 80s electro period. They describe their sound as ‘showtunes’ on MySpace, but they’re joking: this is creative jazz-fusion with an emphasis on danceable groove and texture. There are solos, and playing of the highest order, but this is no noodlefest. Egos are in check and the music is mind-blowingly good.

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