HANS-JOACHIM ROEDELIUS + ARNOLD KASAR @ JAZZ CAFE, LONDON

The pair began on a 40-minute collaboration which was completely improvisational and played from memory, with Hans-Joachim Roedelius on classical piano sounding keyboard against Arnold Kasar’s solarised synth effects which contrasted with the former’s melodies that are akin to landscape painting, with him also creating electric noise such as ethereal grumblings and light rays, radio frequencies and cavernous depths.

Kasar also created these sonar-like noise effects with Roedelius’ rumbling piano becoming more dimmed and forming a bassline for the former’s sharp synthesiser. Roedelius next moved onto his quick footed piano concerto as well as a composition he wrote with his former Cluster peers, Brian Eno and Dieter Möbius, named ‘By this River’, to which he sang vocals and dedicated to Eno.

For their only non-improvisational track of the night, the pair performed from their 2017 collaborative studio album, ‘Einfluss’, with a short ballerina-like melody called ‘Rolling’ that Roedelius had interpreted following their meeting at a festival that Kasar was invited by them to perform at in 2012 and he has since been familiarising himself with the genius’ vast catalogue of works. They both returned to do an encore with a final piece of haunting ambience; the former’s methodical keys were complimented by Kasar’s soaring synth injections, until they jammed the two sounds into one ringing body of light, adorned by Roedelius’ fluttering trills. Sheer magic.

08/04/24: Hans-Joachim Roedelius + Arnold Kasar @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

J MASCIS @ EARTH, LONDON

Following soon after his 30th anniversary tour of Dinosaur Jr.’s album ‘Where You Been’ in which he played five consecutive nights at The Garage, frontman J Mascis returned for a one-man tour of his new solo album, ‘What Do We Do Now’, although he only played three songs from the tracklist during the whole set.

He started on the new album early on performing his dainty single, ‘You Don’t Understand Me’, with high and low guitar pitches against a backing rhythm guitar track. There were plenty of Dinosaur Jr. covers such as ‘Out There’, which was performed at the band’s residency at The Garage, featuring its distinct tumbling riff, Mascis applying reverb with pedal and utilising delay microphone effects. He performed a rare track from the band’s post-breakup period when he formed The Fog, playing its most pivotal release, the hopping ‘Ammaring’ with heavier pedal solos and moved onto an acoustic cover of Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Motion Sickness’.

Following new song ‘Can’t Believe We’re Here’ and its pedal interlude, the title track of the new album, ‘What Do We Do Now’, was played on a more acoustic sounding guitar before Mascis sang ‘Get Me’ with a howling voice effect and intense, pedal-driven noise solo. The perturbed, brash strokes of ‘Heal the Star’ ended on a country-tinged noise solo with Mascis finishing his main set on Dinosaur Jr.’s ‘Alone’ from their 1997, ‘Hand it Over’.

He returned for an encore of Greg Sage and Mazzy Star covers, with the latter’s ‘Fade into You’ being particularly melodically haunting.

07/04/24: J Mascis @ EartH, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

MODERN ENGLISH @ KOKO, LONDON

Supporting Buzzcocks on their UK & European tour, Modern English made their first live appearance in the country for over five years. They performed a short set, currently promoting their new studio album, ‘1 2 3 4’, which was released earlier this year, although did not have their full lineup, with a touring lineup that was missing some of their original members, keyboardist Stephen Walker and guitarist Gary McDowell.

They began on ‘Gathering Dust’, the 1980 single release on the brilliant 4AD label. It was showered in electronic keyboard effects from a backing track, with wirey, rippling guitar throughout. They then played ‘Someone’s Calling’, a single from their second album, 1982’s ‘After the Snow’, with its distinct hammer-on and pull-off guitar parts, although at times the rhythm guitar would have benefited from being even louder. Frontman Robbie Grey’s vocals carry a live quality which harkens back to an ‘early days’ feel, with him also playing tambourine between lyrics.

The band soon moved to the new studio album with its singles, ‘Long in the Tooth’ and ‘Not My Leader’; for the second one especially – a defiant song about political leaders – there was lighter keyboard backing, so the more stripped down instrumentation came through, with both whirring guitar pedal effects and melting post-punk tones amongst a beating rhythm section, featuring original bassist Michael Conroy. From neo-punk they moved to classic punk from their 1981 debut album, ‘Mesh & Lace’, playing two tracks from this period: ‘Black Houses’, with the guitarist keying the fretboard to create a feedback effect at the start, and then their explosive non-album 1980 debut 4AD single, ‘Swans on Glass’, with scratchy pedal and wah wah effects. Grey strummed acoustic guitar for this song as well as their last one, their 1982 single ‘I Melt with You’, on which the band finished ahead of their fuller London headline show later this month.

22/03/24: Modern English @ KOKO, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

ELECTRONIC CAFE LIVE, VOLUME 2 – PETER DUGGAL + TINY MAGNETIC PETS + WOLFGANG FLÜR + MARK REEDER @ 299 THE VENUE, LONDON

For the second volume of Electronic Cafe’s showcase of talent from the electronic genre hosted by organisers Mark Wibrow and Andy McNab, the former Kraftwerk percussionist, Wolfgang Flür, headlined with his techno rave show. Before his set, his music partner Peter Duggal opened the night performing a selection of his own tracks, playing the dizzying, brassy synth track, ‘Always Rise’, for which he did vocals, and the warm, spatial breathing space of the ambient and uplifting ‘Edifices’. Duggal moved onto the EBM beats of ‘Disconnected’, from the 2023 EP of the same name as are the aforementioned tracks, for which he also did vocals, and ended on a long, bleeping electronic piece called ‘Lozells Drone Survey’, from a release just the day after his set on the Polytechnic Youth label, and his own collaborative track with Flür, ‘Birmingham’, featured on the latter’s last album, on which they worked with Peter Hook; it noticeably having a New Order feel to it. He did vocals for this too which made it feel more like a live performance than just a DJ set.

Tiny Magnetic Pets were next on the bill with their three-piece synth-pop blend; having supported the likes of Flür and Midge Ure on tour, the Irish musicians have firmly cut their name in the electronic landscape. They started on the fizzing synths and bracketing electric drumbeats of ‘Here Comes the Noise’; Paula Gilmer’s vocals carrying hints of Marc Almond. They moved onto hard hitting, robotic dance track ‘Automation’ which was re-mixed by Erasure’s Vince Clarke, merging the ’80s with the early ’90s. ‘We Shine’ saw repetitive keys that were as emotionally uplifting as the lyrics and the deep pools of liquid synth in darker track ‘No One at the Safehouse’ surrounded a more minimalist duet between Gilmer and keyboard player Seán Quinn. They also included the Numanesque synth of ‘City Sleeps’, ending their set on the 9-minute rocky track of ‘Semaphore’ and its wailing Ultravox-style keyboard solo, which dissolved into ambient waves before lighting up again for the finale.

With his traditional slideshow of Kraftwerk related imagery playing out in the background, Flür began his set on his last studio album, ‘Magazine 1’, with ‘Say No’; a collaboration with Maps. He then launched into his manic techno rave with ‘Musik Soldat’; a marching tune that the ex-Kraftwerk group member has played all over the world – it retains elements of Kraftwerk’s trademark electronic sound infused with white noise and oriental synths. This was taken over by a mechanical, boxy drive track and the growls and arcade game effects of a more industrial sounding track, although these would have been better if there were some noise effects performed by him live, but he opts for his robot dancing throughout the set instead.

Continuing with his latest album, Flür sewed samples from his title track, ‘Magazine’, into a fluid techno beat, but it was a shame to lose so much of it in the thumping sound. Continuing with the new album, he played the galloping beats and samples from ‘Best Buy’, with sound effects and maniacal laughter. He also included a cover of the magical ‘Neon Lights’ from Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man-Machine’, and a fashionably banal ‘Cinema’ with underlying synths and a built-in vocal sample. Flür then played his latest single, ‘Electric Sheep’, from his last album, with deconstructed, bubbling synth. He ended his set on exploding synth streams which launched into a full fledged whizzing techno track, before donning his kaiser helmet and marching about the stage to the last song.

The night closed on a more sparsely packed dance floor for the phenomenal talent that is Berlin based, Mancunian DJ Mark Reeder, who made a rare appearance in the UK doing a set inspired by his ’70s-80s influences. This began on a drawn out mix of John Foxx’s ‘Underpass’ and moved to his own tracks such as ‘Lovers of the World (Remarkable mix) and ’21st Century Girl’, with him also playing his other collaborations such as ‘Chaos (Downtown in China remix)’ by STOLEN and closing on Anne Clark’s ‘If’ (Mark Reeder’s Seemingly Forever mix). Unfortunately, Reeder’s set was cut short due to the venue’s licensing laws, so it would be fantastic to see him come back to the UK to headline in the near future.

16/03/24: Electronic Cafe Live, Volume 2 – Peter Duggal + Tiny Magnetic Pets + Wolfgang Flür + Mark Reeder @ 229 the venue, London.

https://youtube.com/@electroniccafemusic?si=TIBkptTDkn1Pei-s

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

SWELL MAPS C21 @ MOTH CLUB, LONDON

The experimental collective now known as Swell Maps C21 put on a rare, sold out show featuring some new and previously unreleased tracks. The group consists of Jowe Head (guitar, vocals, occasional bass, tambourine), Luke Haines (guitar, vocals), Dave Callahan (guitar, vocals, occasional bass), Lee McFadden (bass, occasional guitar), Chloe Herington (melodica, synthesiser), Lucie Rejchrtova (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jeff Bloom (drums).

They began with a new song, the growling ‘Morning Star’, moving onto their recorded favourites from their various albums such as ‘International Rescue’, from the album of the same name, and ‘Harmony in Your Bathroom’ from their 1979 debut, ‘A Trip to Marineville’, with Head on vocals and radio transmission. They also performed ‘Secret Island’, originally a 1980 Peel session, with Wiresque layered guitars and whizzing radio frequency effects. Following the keyboard based duet of ‘Jelly Babies’, the band played ‘Helicopter Spies’ (Haines on vocals) racing guitar and its classical piano ending, ‘Raincoat’s Room’. They did a cover of Can’s ‘One More Night’ from the group’s acclaimed ‘Ege Bamyasi’ album, building instrumentals over the rhythm section, with hopping electronics and deep guitar tones.

After playing their 1980 single, ‘Let’s Build a Car’, Swell Maps C21 performed two unreleased songs, the choppy ‘Foam Rubber Wedding’ and ‘Vertical Take Off and Landing’, the latter inspired by Head’s air force upbringing. They extended a long noise rock piece for ‘Full Moon (in My Pocket)’, which amongst wailings included vocals from Can’s ‘Mother Sky’ and traditional folk song ‘Gower Wassail’. The band finished on the ‘Pink Flag’ feels of ‘Midget Submarines’, jam packed with feedback.

15/03/24: Swell Maps C21 @ Moth Club, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 

ECHO + THE BUNNYMEN @ ROUNDHOUSE, LONDON

On their ‘Songs to Learn and Sing’ tour, the Liverpudlian band commemorate their chart topping compilation album from 1985 featuring all the singles they released up to that point in their history. However, the setlist also included other non-single tracks that do not feature on the album but are staples in the band’s set honing back to their 40th year anniversary tour in 2022, headed by with their original singer and guitarist, Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant, the former who confessed he would make more effort to chat with the audience during shows.

They opened on their earliest material with a trilogy selected from their debut 1980 ‘Crocodiles’ album, with ‘Going Up’, ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Rescue’, also with a later track sandwiched between, ‘Flowers’, from their 2001 album of the same name; its pastel post-punk shades interrupted only by a short fuzzy guitar solo, although McCulloch’s vocals were a bit sloppy, with the acoustic guitar driven track ‘All My Colour (Zimbo)’ also lethargic, but his vocals had improved by the time they had reached the end of the first set with the soaring majesty of ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’.

The Bunnymen had decided upon an interval to split the night into two sets; the second set following with ‘Show of Strength’; the tribal drums of the track being particularly standout but not reflected as much live. One of the strongest points in the entire night came in the next single, 1981’s ‘Over the Wall’, which had crashing drums and stretches of turbulent guitar exploding into its chorus. McCulloch then sang The Bunnymen’s 1997 hit single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, which he neatly integrated into a cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. His vocals, however, were still off tune in ‘Bedbugs & Ballyhoo’, with ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘The Cutter’, their consecutive year hit singles, similarly suffering to the point McCulloch let the audience take over. Fortunately Sergeant’s crisp, oriental guitar made up for this.

The band finished on an encore of ‘Lips Like Sugar’, which broke down into an interval in which McCulloch during murmurous banter with fans called for the skinning alive of paedophiles. The band finished the night on a second encore with the delicate acoustics of ‘Ocean Rain’, from the studio album of the same name. A little disappointing but there were moments of reprieval.

08/03/24: Echo + The Bunnymen @ Roundhouse, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

JOHN COOPER CLARKE @ LONDON PALLADIUM

Following the release this year of his latest book of poems, ‘What’, Dr John Cooper Clarke performed from the collection, the publication of which also coincides with the artist’s 50th anniversary as the ‘punk poet’. Support sets came from Luke Wright, Mike Garry, Freya Beer and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Clarke delivered a setlist of his best known poems amongst the new works, beginning on the tradition of ‘The Official Guestlist’ and ‘Hire Car’. He also honed in on his northern background with the “predictable rhyming style” of ‘Burnley’, proceeding to mock the town as being full of inbreds. ‘Smooth Operetta’, written many years ago but which now features in ‘What’, is an advert for Clarke’s favourite pair of jeans – “Farahs: they cover your legs.” ‘Thug’ is a new poem, with seedy lyrics about an unsavoury character who threatens to “block up your airways with a secondhand butt plug”; to uplift everyone from this awful image, he performed another poem from his new book, the short comical quatrain of ‘Sir Tom Jones’.

He returned again to some classics with the horse racing commentary narration speed of ‘Beasley Street’ (and its updated regeneration in ‘Beasley Boulevard’). Clarke then spent a fair amount of time speaking about marriage, which he mostly negatively critiqued; a sentiment quite evidently seen in his dual titled new poem, ‘The Marital Miseries of the Modern Misogynist’ or ‘The Rime of the Ancient Marrier’, for which he got into a ‘misogynist mood’ with the joke, “What is the difference between Iron Man and Iron Woman? One is a superhero; the other is an order.” The poem, a lockdown tale about a weary husband who’s about to snap from the imprisonment of his “sugar trap” marriage, is both dark and humorous.

The post-punk bard did a quick encore of two more favourites, ‘Twat’ and a short version of ‘I Want to Be Yours’ before wrapping up the night and ushering people to go to the lobby to buy some merch.

12/03/24: John Cooper Clarke @ London Palladium.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 

PETER COYLE @ THE FORGE, LONDON

The ex-Lotus Eaters frontman now turned solo artist did a short nationwide solo tour celebrating 40 years of the band’s 1984 debut album, ‘No Sense of Sin’, which he performed in full with a backing band on acoustic guitar and keyboard. The decision to play the tracks acoustically was brave considering the full instrumentation of the ‘new wave’ Liverpool band.

Peter Coyle opened his set on the band’s 1984 single, ‘German Girl’, then after introducing the show he continued the tracklist in order with ‘Love Still Flows’; a fluttery song with guitarist Roger Cartwright also providing backing vocals. ‘Can You Keep a Secret’ highlighted Coyle’s vocal range accompanied by Joe Orban’s high pitched tumbling keys and Cartwright’s brisk acoustic guitar strokes. They went on to play the band’s ghostly 1984 single ‘Out on Your Own’, with Coyle scat singing and dancing about the stage at the end. Whist the acoustic interpretations of the band’s songs lacked the post-punk instrumentation of their recorded versions, this worked favourably to enhance Coyle’s great songmanship and intimate connection to the audience.

Moving onto side B of the album, Coyle sang the band’s third single ‘Set Me Apart’, with piano parts; like many of these stripped back, live renditions, it was surprisingly improved from the recorded versions. ‘You Fill Me with Your Need’ was performed with smacking acoustic guitar and pressured keys, Coyle once again doing his frenzied dancing and scat singing, filling the space well on what was otherwise a vacuous stage.

And then they performed the Lotus Eater’s debut 1983 single, ‘First Picture of You’; although without its magical, chiming electric guitar, the pastel post-punk song had the audience singing along to its memorable chorus even after the song had ended. ‘When You Look at Boys’ had a pendulum sway and dreamy synth, with the trio finishing the album tracklist on ‘Start of the Search’, with a more tense ending than the recorded version produced by twinkling piano keys. Coyle also included other songs not on the release such as their monumental standalone single, ‘It Hurts’, which was released after the band’s debut album in 1985.

01/02/24: Peter Coyle @ The Forge, London.

Photo © Simon Green.

© Ayisha Khan.

DEAD BOYS @ THE UNDERWORLD, LONDON

Following postponement of their dates a few years earlier due to injury and the pandemic, Dead Boys are finally back on the road with a fresh new lineup that consists of Jake Hoyt (vocals), Cheetah Chrome (guitar, backing vocals), Monk Burris (guitar), Sam Harris (bass) and Michael Maysonet (drums), with Hoyt hailing from Oakland, California and the remainder members from Las Vegas.

They opened their explosive set on the band’s 1977 first and best known single, ‘Sonic Reducer’, from their infamous ‘Young, Loud and Snotty’ debut studio album that has secured its place in esteemed punk rock history; its dark guitar reminiscent of bands that came after it such as the Dead Kennedys, because Dead Boys were the punk rock pioneers and now with the stubbornly death resistant Cheetah Chrome still at their helm as “the last man standing” from that era they spearheaded, combining the glam wave of the New York Dolls with the raw power of The Stooges and The Dictators.

With their show coincidentally being on Valentine’s Day, the band continued to play from their debut album with its range of love songs, including ‘What Love is’, with Chrome’s slick bluesy guitar, which was also audible in their second album ‘We Have Come for Your Children’ track, ‘Flame Thrower Love’. Although there were sound issues throughout the set, Dead Boys persevered and moved onto another song from the same release, ‘I Won’t Look Back’, with drum rolls and chord contrasts. The dual high and low tones of ‘Not Anymore’ also featured Chrome’s guitar fretwork and Hout crowd surfing before the band played a currently unrecorded song, ‘So Sad’, with undulating guitar playing, a track that will feature on their forthcoming new album.

The set climaxed on the second album with ‘Son of Sam’; Chrome, Burris and Harris lining up to play an extended interval to the song around Hout’s screams. In the same way the band repeated this with the debut album in ‘Down in Flames’; the clatter of drums and heavy metal guitars making this a kick-ass live experience. After paying tribute to departed frontman and original Dead Boy, Stiv Bators, the band ended their set on the windy comedown of ‘Ain’t it Fun’. Short but sweet, this tour marks the beginning of a new chapter of live and recorded activity that breathes new life into the original punk rock legends.

14/02/24: Dead Boys @ The Underworld, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

MICHAEL ROTHER @ BARBICAN, LONDON

The Krautrock pioneer Michael Rother returned to London for another Neu! anniversary show celebrating 50 years of the group playing with his band, with his 1970’s influential compositions which mixed flaring guitars with electronic experimentation. He was accompanied on guitar by his group formed of Franz Bargmann (guitar), Hans Lampe (drums) as well as his partner Vittoria Macaroni (backing vocals, electronics). The show was somewhat a repeat of the anniversary show last year.

They began their set on some of Neu’s best known compositions such as their ‘Neuschnee’ and ‘Isi’ singles from their eponymous debut album, the former with triumphant guitar streams and the latter like falling pyrotechnics with glockenspiel tones, performed by Rother with the help of his co-guitarist Bargmann. They then moved onto Rother’s other group, Harmonia, with ‘Vetaranissimo’, a live track on compilation ‘Live 1974’ which introduced more rhythm into the set with the oriental clatter of drums, Rother tweaking electronics, a sound that surely gave rise to the electronic dance genre with its techno beats reminiscent of CAN, as did ‘Maultrommel’.

Rother’s own solo material featured in the way of ‘Zyklodrom’ from his 1977 album ‘Flammende Herzen’, containing scaling guitar chords reminiscent of ‘Neuschnee’. The band then played another Harmonia song, ‘Deluxe (Immer Wieder)’ from the 1975 album of the same name, chugging beats with soft guitar strokes that built into longer, wizzing streams. In contrast, ‘Wiessensee’ had melancholy guitar, with the track’s harmonic mellowness accompanied by smashing beats. As usual, Rother finished the main set on ‘Negativland’, with Macabruni on vocals, however, these were not loud enough to be audible enough over the noise. The encore saw the group come back for three energising tracks that varied somewhat from their last UK show, featuring two more Harmonia songs, ‘Holta-Polta’, with Macabruni’s noisy electronics strangling out the guitar, and ‘Dino’ from their 1974 debut album.

03/02/24: Michael Rother @ Barbican, London.

Photos © Fernanda Bavaresco.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN @ PIZZA EXPRESS LIVE HOLBORN

The God of Hellfire played a one-off intimate show at the restaurant music venue but without his vast array of costume changes and masks, choosing to simply perform in one persona all evening wearing a plumaged top hat and crow feather adorned jacket as well as his traditional ‘shock rock’ facepaint.

The set was in two parts, which saw The Crazy World of Arthur Brown perform from the band’s eponymous debut album. They opened on the slow blues rock of ‘You Don’t Know’ featuring both guitar and organ solos and the vigorous creep of the ‘Devil’s Grip’; a track added on to the album in later reissues. Joking about his lack of commercial success, frontman Arthur Brown performed ‘Nightmare’, flailing his arms with his banshee screaming synchronising into a crescendo with bubbling keyboards, ending the song on a hilarious question about the cube root of a barnacle.

Brown also included two covers performed more poignantly, ‘Don’t Let me be Misunderstood’ with silvery guitar and trickles of classical piano (played on a piano forte) by Nina Simone and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’. During the set Brown read from his diary notes from back in the day, entertaining with all manner of musings and footnotes relating to his work which also allowed him to warmly connect to the audience, not usually afforded at regular music venues.

For the second set Brown returned with more tracks off his debut album including its cover of James Brown’s ‘I’ve Got Your Money’ and ‘Fire Poem’; a terrifying spoken word piece that ended in a frenzy of instrumentals leading straight into his number one hit song, ‘Fire’, which he opened in typical fashion with the words, “I am the God of Hellfire and I bring you…Fire!”. He paused with a cover of ‘Serenade’ halfway through the song, also with an organ solo, before finishing the track. Brown dedicated the sweetly sung ballad ‘Voice of Love’ to his wife before the band finished the set doing solo instrumentals.

18/01/24: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown @ Pizza Express Live Holborn.

Photos © Fernanda Bavaresco.

© Ayisha Khan.