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-machÄ— 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.

 

 

Memory In Plant – An Epic Triumph

“Have you ever been placed in your own prison from your thoughts of how you see your past? We wrapped this feeling in a Up/down beat song.”

It was in this way that Memory In Plant first got in touch with Sonic Breakfast by E-mail.

In truth, this is probably a pretty universal feeling; surely, even the most productive and dynamic of us (I don’t count myself in that group) are trapped. We beat ourselves up over the mistakes we’ve made and the opportunities we failed to take. And seek comfort in repeating patterns of behaviour simply because they’re familiar.

A few weeks later, Memory In Plant sent me a link to their EP, ‘An Epic Triumph’. Intrigued, I listened. There’s much going on. Cluttered yet simple, complex yet accessible, mysterious yet obvious, this is an EP of contrasts. It dabs in the psychedelic paint pot but refuses to be pinned to any genre for too long.

In an effort to get beyond the mystery, I sent an E-mail with questions to the band. Here’s the responses I received: –

Many readers of ‘Sonic Breakfast’ won’t know much about Memory In Plant. How would you introduce yourself to them? What are Memory In Plant about? What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

We are a Psychedelic band with no obligation to a certain genre. The whole point is to do what ever the fuck we want.
The things that makes us get out of bed in the morning (and sometimes at noon) is mainly our day job, but also making our own music which is the perfect escape from it.

You’ve recently released ‘An Epic Triumph’ to positive reviews. What is it that makes you proudest about this EP?

That it’s truly An Epic Triumph! We created this thing that has no specific rules and people really get it.

A fair bit is made of your special recording process? It certainly generates a creative sound. How does this recording/writing process work in practice?

In practice, the writing and recording were as one. The main work was to build the parts of the songs and to make them sound as one unit. The album was recorded in our humble home studios and that was a big part of the sound of this album.
We didn’t try to imitate the sound of professional studios, We used what we had. Because we didn’t work with a time and money limit, we had the chance to use unconventional recording methods and embrace the mistakes.

Who and what are your influences?

We prefer to let the listeners to speculate who and what by hearing our music.

How much does living in Tel Aviv influence the sort of band that you are? Is there a ‘scene’ there and if so, do you sit comfortably within it?

Living in a rough neighbourhood at south Tel Aviv does have its effects on some parts of the album. Living with a lot of immigrates around you, and in Israel as a Melting pot in general, has made dreams of a better places put a kind of new world sound on this album. There is a scene in Tel Aviv and there are some great bands over here, but they are outnumbered than the potential audience. We are not sitting with the scene here, we’re standing with our luggage, ready to tour the big world and to see some amazing places.

A number of reviews have mentioned the ‘psychedelic’ aspects of your recordings. If you were forced to listen to ‘An Epic Triumph’ on a drug, what drug would that be? Combinations also allowed!!!

Actually, we asked our fans this question and as of this moment only one answered us that he would totally hear the album with the after effect of “psychedelic toad licking”. We recommend to listen to the album with all the drugs that you can get (not all at once) and then please contact us and tell us about your trippy experience.

What might the next year hold for Memory In Plant? Do you have any plans for translating these recordings into a live thing?

We are working on the live show a while now, planning on playing where ever they let us. Also working on some new stuff, always.

 

 

For those who are now itching to listen to ‘An Epic Triumph’ in its entirety (highly recommended), you can find it here….