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.