Dark Tea and Roscoe Roscoe – Shacklewell Arms – November 12th 2019

I’m in a new zone one property guardianship, an old, disused Natwest bank building that’s a stones throw from Angel Islington underground. It’s only been two weeks since I left the last one but it’s felt longer. Being without roots and living out of a suitcase in AirBNB’s is both exciting and exhausting. Having a bit more permanence, albeit with fewer rights of tenure than if I were renting, allows me the chance to think, to take stock and to get a bit comfortable. I stay in for a couple of nights getting my room to a level that can be lived in before the draw of the free London gig scene again entices me out.

It’s seriously so well connected here. I walk out of my front door to bus-stops galore. Different routes will take me to all of my favourite venues on these chilly, dark nights when walking and exploring is less of an option. 

I arrive at the Shacklewell Arms just in time to see Roscoe Roscoe. They’re a five piece who indulge in dreamy and woozy shoegaze-filled psychedelics. Their frontman, complete with a moptop that marks him out as true indie, flits between falsetto and a deeper singing style whilst the others in the band give the impression that this is little more than a prog-jam. They all know how to play but could now maybe look like they’re enjoying themselves more. A Mum of the band (years of gig going has got me well-skilled at spotting them) sings along with every note and dances wildly in the otherwise static and earnest crowd. Roscoe Roscoe’s overall impact is positive. Ultimately there’s something of interest happening here and I’d happily watch them again.

Dark Tea is the current musical vehicle of Gary Canino, a resident of Brooklyn, New York. His latest album, named after the band, is well worth listening to if skewed stoner Americana is your thing. Sitting somewhere between Wilco, Bright Eyes and Jeffrey Lewis on the music mind-map, Dark Tea are also a five piece tonight. It’s none too clear if this is a permanent arrangement (one of the guitar slots is taken by the orange jumper wielding guitarist from Roscoe Roscoe) or a temporary bulking of the sound. What is true is that the full band oozes with a shambolic shuffle that’s kind of endearing. Camino, sporting a Norwegian ice hockey jacket, sings with a muffled casualness; the lyrical quality slightly obscured by the deliberate half-effort. Dark Tea’s main guitarist shuts his eyes and looks towards heaven in an euphoric state as a ‘down to love’ mantra spins out. It’s over quickly. I must have been enjoying myself.

In between bands and after the sets have finished, the iconic Lawrence (from Felt, Denim and Go-kart Mozart) chooses some wayward tunes for our aural education. Bonus for sure. 

That’s what happens in London. It’s difficult to stay in.

Tne Pinheads, Fat Earthers & Bad/Dreems – Shacklewell Arms – June 10th 2019

Search around a bit, keep your ear to the ground and London will reward you with free gigs that should probably be charged events. That’s why I’m here at the Shacklewell Arms for a sandwich of Aussie garage-psych rock with an Isle of Wight based cheesy middle.

 

It might be June but I’ve not seen rain like this so far in my London stay. The puddles are almost river-like as they cascade down the streets. A driver in a jeep clearly swerves into a stream to drench my already soggy frame. I curse the fucker as he speeds off, no doubt chuckling at his prank. The lovely barman at the Shacklewell offers me a roll of industrial-strength paper towel with which to dry off. It’s needed.

Bad/Dreems are currently on tour with Midnight Oil and are thus playing some pretty big UK shows. But they have a night off and so are late additions to this bill. The wise have spotted this and the Shacklewell back room is pretty full when I enter. 

Archetypal Aussies from Adelaide, this five-piece all have facial hair. Some have shaggy curls and a couple wear linen-shirts with the top few buttons undone to show off the hairs on their chest. No band member removes any shirt during their set. This is important given what occurs later. 

Bad/Dreems do a garage punk, indie-rock thing. They sing about big muscles pumping in sweatshirts though I suspect this is an ironic swipe at machismo rather than a song in praise of such lifestyle. Lead singer, Ben Marwe, is thoroughly engaging to watch; at one point he rapidly blinks as if on the edge of a fit; at another, he bashes a tambourine against his thigh standing proud like a toy soldier in a  regiment. He’s a bit Roger Daltrey and the band a bit Who-like. I curse myself for not seeing the full set. 

 

Fat Earthers make quite a noise for a two piece. We’re only two songs in and already lead singer, Puke, has his top off and torso bare. Typically such rock ‘n’ roll excess would have me heading for the door but there’s s gnarly cheekiness about this Isle Of Wight based duo that keeps me onside. It doesn’t matter a jot that each tune sounds largely identical. They rant about Theresa May selling off the NHS, still paying tax on your tampax, boredom and suicide bombers. By the time the set finishes, Henry the drummer has also got his top off; naked upper-halves becomes a theme for the night.

 

The Pinheads, tonight’s Aussie headliner, are a riot. They have a very tall, lanky lead singer who you fear is going to bang his head on the ceiling every time he jumps. He contorts with his microphone stand and palms dust from the Shacklewell’s glitterball – you suspect it’s not had a good clean for some time. 

He’s out of it. At one point he temporarily leaves the stage, probably to ablute in some way; he heads down into the crowd and orders a pint from the bar at the back of the venue. He cares about his audience enough though to advise moderation when a raucous and fighty mosh breaks out amongst agitated youths. 

The rest of the Pinheads tightly play an urgent and shimmering garage-psych whilst their singer cavorts. It’s fun and certainly without pretence. As damp condensation drips from the ceiling, three of the band members also strip down to bare their chests. It’s just that sort of night. 

Satisfied and yet fully shirted, I get an Uber home. I can’t bear to be bare in the continuing downpour. 

Wovoka Gentle, Gareth Jones & Laucan – Corsica Studios – June 5th 2019

Wovoka Gentle release their debut album today.

 

‘Start Clanging Cymbals’ is a glorious record. Complex, kaleidoscopic and smart, it draws upon all sorts of influence whilst remaining charmingly accessible. It’s a bold thirteen track statement that says hello to the wider world by making a lot of noise without straying far from the core ambition of ensuring that the overall effect is one of joy. It’s clearly no accident that the final words on the record are a fading refrain of ‘Happy Music’. 

The press release gets things right when it observes that Start Clanging Cymbals is an ‘experimental, psychtronica, folk-rock wonderland’. More than a little obsessed, Sonic Breakfast heads off to the album release party to see Wovoka Gentle for the fourth time in 2019.

Corsica Studios, built in industrial arches a stones throw from Elephant & Castle, is a new venue to add to my list. Dark, compact and club-like, this is an ideal location for tonights sold out gig. Visuals are projected around the box-shaped room; the impact is immersive, inclusive and euphoric. Short DJ sets ensure that the music flows in between the support acts. 

Laucan perches on a stool off-stage and in the crowd with a guitar and gadgetry. He loops his falsetto vocal and guitar licks to draw Thom Yorke-like comparisons. “Where did you all come from?”, he says when the crowd respond by surrounding him. Some sit on the floor at the front of the circle and that feels entirely appropriate for the gentle very-English folktronica that follows. “This one’s about the Old Kent Road”, says Laucan before confessing that he’s wearing his Mum’s jumper and the sleeves are getting in the way. As a whole, this is music that’s yearning for something lost in history and it’s a fine tastter for what’s to come. 

 

I must mention the crowd; Wovoka Gentle’s audience are a good-looking bunch, so much so that I stick out like a sore thumb. Beautiful and classy with the whitest of toothy smiles, a bit plummy, you suspect that these are friends made during stints at conservatoires and finishing schools. It’s not an unpleasant discomfort that I feel. Many keep chatting unaware that the second support has started. 

Gareth Jones stands in a similar place to Laucan but twiddles knobs on a complex array of sound-making machine. When he starts, it’s not immediately clear that he has; the sound is drone-like, glitchy and confidently considered. Gareth stands by his equipment wearing a bandana; he’s a surgeon completing the most complicated operation known to man. The slightest error might cause death and his concentration levels are appropriate. As his set progresses more of the It crowd become IT conscious; they turn away from their chats increasingly aware that this understated noise is actually a performance. The beats build and the melody grabs. “Oh my, this is such a dirty sound”, says somebody nearby, now enthralled by what they’re witnessing. At the set close, there are loud cheers. Gareth joyfully raises his arms aloft; a triumph over initial adversity.

 

Everyone knows when Wovoka Gentle take to the stage. This is their night. I wonder if the set-list will be different from the half hours I’ve previously heard this year; there’s much on ‘Start Clanging Cymbals’ that doesn’t see light of day live. I don’t wonder for long; Wovoka Gentle have plumped for the tried and tested set list; the well-rehearsed one that they’re clearly comfortable with. All three are clearly delighted to be playing a sold-out night here; a vindication that their approach to music-making might well put them on the map.

Two large papier-machė eyes look down on us from either side of the space; a nose made from similar material sits on the floor creating a face to play within. When strobe-like lights shoot out of the eyes, the effect is electric, virtually psychedelic. This is club music for a Nick Drake fan. The acapella sections attain aural perfection with Imogen, Ellie and Will’s voices delightfully balanced together. 

For me, it’s a set that allows three of Wovoka Gentle’s recent releases to come to the fore. ‘1000 Opera Singers Working In Starbucks’ simply sounds respledent and ‘Peculiar Form Of Sleep’ emerges as an audience singalong. ‘Sin Is Crouching At Your Door’ has surely never sounded better and I’m reminded of the quote I’d seen earlier in the album press release.

Yeah, so we tried to restrain it and incorporate natural sounds,” says Imogen. It’s not heavy metal – it’s heavy wood!

Wonderful, happy music with the ability to get under your skin; rewarding noise that is far from simple yet so joyful you can’t help but beam. ‘Start Clanging Cymbals’ has arrived with fanfare and I humbly suggest you join this ride pronto. 

 

Maheekats – Without Horizons

Sometimes you hear a song or watch a video and know that it’s one you want to feature on your blog. You start writing about it many times but give up or move onto something else because your words refuse to come out in the right order. That’s the dilemma I find with Maheekats and Without Horizons.

(Click on page 2 to discover if I resolved that dilemma)

Joel Gion – Tomorrow

You have to enjoy it no matter how stupid things get, ‘cause we always have each other and you always have yourself.” – Joel Gion, 2016

The film, Dig!, had quite an impact on me when I first watched it at the local arthouse cinema. I probably left the cinema and said to friends that it was the best music documentary ever made though I’ve always been prone to hyperbole in an effort to stress my point. 

 But, there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s something hopelessly desolate and tragically romantic about the way it tracks and contrasts the careers of the Dandy Warhols and  the Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s sometimes not pretty viewing but it’s always exciting. As one band digs towards a drug-fuelled, psychedelic oblivion, the other spends millions on state-of-the-art videos. Creatively, we all know which band we’d want to be in – and it’s not the Dandy’s. 

 

Joel Gion, the tambourine player in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, creates quite an impression throughout the film. He’s a cheeky space cadet and, for the most part, you can’t help being drawn to his impish humour and honest charm. Despite being off his head, you like him and want him to succeed. You worry that the story might have a tearful ending given the amount of abuse going on and breathe a sigh of relief when it doesn’t quite.

 Over the past weeks, I’ve received a few E-mails from Joel’s PR company telling me about his new single, Tomorrow, which was released last week in advance of an album later this year. 

 (Read Sonic Breakfast’s review on page 2)

 

Corner Suns – Borrowed Time

The books on my bookshelf were moving. One by one, from left to right and top to bottom, they declared their presence by edging forward and then returning to their original space. The effect was akin to a Mexican wave in a stadium, an epic dance routine and a choreographed shimmer. It was a bit ghostly but I wasn’t scared.

Fuck, these mushrooms were good. 

The tune that was blasting from my CD player seemed to be on constant repeat. My sense of time was skewed and hazy as I stared at the shelf, captivated by the swishing novels. Over and over, that same tune played. It seemed like it would never end. But, I didn’t mind. I couldn’t quite compute what was happening. Had I inadvertently put on a 12 inch remix? Or was time just going slow? 

The tune – One Of Us Is Dead by The Earlies. How I loved that band.

A few months later and I’m standing with most of the band in a field in Somerset. Brian Wilson has just taken to the Pyramid stage. After an early part of the weekend when the festival was threatened by fierce rain, the sun had shone and the mud was bouncy by this Sunday afternoon. I nodded in acknowledgement and muttered platitudes but, in truth, I think that The Earlies were too enthralled by Brian to notice their fanboy.. And that’s how it should be.

I was over the (super) moon to receive an E-mail today telling me that Brandon Carr, one of The Earlies, is one half of a new band, Corner Suns. The other half, John Dufilho, is also no stranger to my ears having been prominent in the fab Apples In Stereo. I didn’t even have to read to the bottom of the press release to know that this was going to be a marriage made in heaven for me.

And it is. There’s an album out in January 2017 and I can’t wait to listen to that but for now I’ll indulge myself with the lead track from that album, Borrowed Time. This has cheered me up no end today. I’m older and arguably wiser than I was back then. My sense of my own mortality has definitely heightened. “Down borrowed time I’m running”, emits Carr over this fuzzy dose of psych-rock. I get what is meant.

Those were Corner Suns.

 

 

 

 

 

Jacco Gardner – Find Yourself

I’ve had a restless night of half-sleep. I lay wide awake at half past four in the morning aware that, if I did fall to sleep, I might again be woken by one of the fleeting nightmares that are punctuating my dreams. In the past half hour, a ghost-like witch has briefly joined me in bed, poked me hard in the back with a long fingernail, cackled as I jumped awake and left as quickly as she came.

Fortunately, such dreams rarely disturb my sleep as much as this. I’ll be tired when I head off to present in Bedworth later but I know that I’ll probably sleep better tonight. I turn to music and listen to Jacco Gardner’s single , Find Yourself, from his forthcoming album, Hypnophobia, that’s getting a release in May.

I feel for those with hypnophobia. Hypnophobia is the often irrational and excessive fear of sleep. It results from a feeling of control loss, or from repeating nightmares or anxiety over the loss of time that could be spent accomplishing tasks or maximizing leisure time instead of sleeping. Maybe, I’ve got a mild form of this tonight. My mind is full of the things I need to do.

‘Find Yourself’ is taking me away to another place. I don’t need to defrost my car later today because I’m transported to a warm summer day. I’m lying under a tree, taking shelter from the warm rays of the sun. Men and women, dressed in white robes and with long flowing locks are beaming broadly as they dance and whirl around me to the sound in the distance of a Wurlitzer organ. Next to me a beautiful woman smiles as she pulls daisies from the earth and ties them to others that she’s previously picked. This is bliss.

Jacco Gardner is described as a baroque-pop prince. A Dutch producer/multi-instrumentalist, Gardner’s all set to cast a majestic and vibrant psychedelic spell that will hypnotize listeners at the point dreams and reality meet. Since unveiling his Cabinet of Curiosities in 2013 (released on the Trouble In Mind label), fans have been drawn deeper into his fantastical fairytale kingdom. The opening track from ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, ‘Clear The Air’ sets the tone and ‘Find Yourself’ strides further down that path of discovery.