One of my favourite blogposts from this year is the interview that I was able to carry out with John Swale (here). He answers my questions in such entertaining fashion that it makes for a great read. So when John gets in touch with a recommendation it’s inevitable that my interest will be piqued. Last month, he did just that introducing me to his friend, Mircha Ivens, and the enigmatic project of ‘The Vaine Man’.
‘The Vaine Man’ has just released their second single. ‘Addendum’ is a complex and glorious swirl of industrial electronica; artistic, glamorous and with glimpses of scratchy psychedelia, this cinematic piece refuses to be pigeon-holed and stands up all the better to scrutiny as a result. “The song sounds like Walker Brothers’ song Nite Flights was covered by The Knife then remixed for the post gender generation by Grimes“, says the press release confirming that genre confusion.
Mircha directed the accompanying video; the radio edit of the song extended to suit the short film experience and a spoken word piece of poetry bolted on to the beginning. At its heart, Addendum is perhaps a song about letting go of trauma, a footnote encouraging the move-on from a challenging relationship. It’s both confident and disorientating, creative and poppy.
It’s what you expect a young Bowie might be producing right now – and that’s high praise indeed for a Wednesday morning.
I loved my two trips to Groningen for the Eurosonic festival. They formed part of a perfect January break. As snow and sleet fell all around and I stomped from venue to venue across the city dressed like an Eskimo, I probably took the freedom of it all for granted. Packed bars and clubs hosted the finest up and coming acts from across Europe and I was in my element. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
On that first trip to Groningen, I had a brief conversation with some cool dudes at Southend Airport. You can read about that encounter here. I’ve since written about L.A. Salami and Francobollo a few times for eFestivals and have always made an effort to see them live when they’ve been on a festival bill. The brief encounter at the airport was one of those fortuitous moments that life keeps spinning back to.
I was thus very happy to hear about the make-up of King Casio. An Anglo-Swedish trio formed between vocalist Aaron King and members of Francobollo, they specialise in psychedelic Lo-fi ambles. King Casio’s first two singles had videos directed by L.A. Salami but I’ll let you review those in your own time. Today, let’s look at their latest release, Big Truck.
Aaron describes ‘Big Truck’ as “happy, sad and a bit nostalgic as well. It came about through my cat getting run over and it symbolised the sudden death of a relationship. These two events informed the feel of the song, which allowed us to think about how It was sad to lose these things, but happy to have had them in the first place.”
The sudden death of a relationship and the mixed emotions that ensue – that’s clearly a universal theme that we can all get behind.
Musically, Big Truck is an awkward yet compelling track. It’s no singalong but I don’t think that entirely matters. Jazz tones and crumpled electronica give way to an off-kilter guitar gloss whilst Aaron’s vocal croons, deliberately wayward, within the mix. It’s skew-whiff brilliance, nostalgic, hypnotic and perfectly odd. And it works for me.
Apparently, King Casio and L.A. Salami were due to go on tour together this year but that’s looking increasingly unlikely now because of Covid. A shame but I’ll certainly be looking forward to those random meetings in Southend when the restrictions relax.
I had my initial Covid-19 vaccination earlier this week. I know that, for some people, the days following the first jab have been pretty horrible; fevers, shakes and unbearable headaches as their immune system deals with the dose. I’m happy to report that I felt none of this; perhaps there was an insignificant headache but that might have been a consequence of having to stare at the laptop screen for too long. The day job has been pretty intense this week.
Matt Monsoor, in his own words ‘a nobody from Wisconsin‘, also had his first jab this week. I know this because he tells me so in an engaging and informative note he sent to me. “A bit of normalcy will feel good again.“, he says “Even though there is still work to be done, with the sight and feel of spring in the air it sure helps.“. Sonic Breakfast does not consider Matt to be a nobody.
Indeed, on the evidence of recent single ‘The Rower’, Matt has a creativity and vision that demands much attention. “Honestly, I just got tired of people waving their Jesus saves flags while behaving like really awful people at the same time.“, he says. “The hypocrisy and greed in America was becoming more ruthless and embarrassing by the minute. It’s been ten years since my last release so apparently i had a few things to get off my chest.”
This commentary on the divided state of America runs deep. I can’t help but reflect upon my own disdain over the current state of this post-Brexit Britain when Matt says “it was a great sense of relief to get egomaniac trump out of the house but also really disappointing to see how it all shook down. So much damage has already been done and the division here has been intense. Trump and his cronies have brought out the worst in everyone. Now in the last week we’ve had two mass shootings to add to the deadliest gun violence in decades yet they still argue about reform. It’s all so sad and incredibly frustrating.”
A friend mentioned earlier this week that he’d been told to fuck off when asking another shopper to wear their mask properly in a supermarket. It sounds like things aren’t that different over the pond. “Some people here go about their business as if it’s just another day.“, mentions Matt. “Depending on what state you live in determines what you can and can’t do. They should just call it america cause there is no such thing as united states here with all the divisiveness.”
I’m getting distracted. This is supposed to be a piece about ‘The Rower’. It’s quite a tune; a breathy, appetising Blues-based starter gives way to a psychedelic poppy middle and conclusion. For me, it’s a long lost unreleased track by Marc Bolan; fab alt-folk that’s making a comment about those who use religion to nullify their minds. “I think the accumulation of frustration over the last four years came to a head sometime over this last summer.“, says Matt. “I’d spend my time in my shop playing my 55LG2 and found the opening chords to be a relief valve. I’d just play them over and over. I enjoyed the minor chords aggressiveness.The song just kinda fell out of that. Splat. It has felt good to put something out again after such a long gap.”
Don’t just take my word for it. Enrich your weekend with ‘The Rower’. It’s exactly the sort of quirky gem that Sonic Breakfast was established for.
I have never taken Ayahuasca. And I dare say I never will. My brain is a complicated box that teeters on the edge of sanity/insanity and I’m not sure that messing around with the delicately balanced neural pathways within is the best of ideas. But I can’t help being fascinated by the spiritual medicine used amongst the indigenous people of the Amazonas. I think I’ll stick to vicariously watching those documentaries in which intrepid travellers head to Shamanic ceremonies to discover transcendental states and higher levels of consciousness. And are always horrifically sick in the purging process.
For Fred Red, Bernhard Hollinger and Matthias Hetzer, Ayahuasca is still on the list. I confirm this when briefly connecting with Bernhard in advance of publishing this piece. Their collective curiosity about ‘Waska’ though has led to the production of a fine psychedelic groove. This is a track that will transport you to the Shamans; the delicious layers conjuring up all sorts of magical melody and Amazon spice.
The simple video that accompanies Waska is also a fine watch. A static camera, perhaps set up as CCTV, observes a residential street in day-to-day operation. At first, it looks like very little is happening but gradually you get drawn in to the minutiae of the street scenes. You notice people going about their daily business and the animals that come out to play. I guess there’s a point to it all. As our mind focuses on the one scene, more and more is revealed. The ordinary becomes fascinating and we feel calm. Towards the end of the video, the scene somewhat abruptly ends and we observe more of the beautiful surroundings. The simplicity is transcendental.
Fred Red, Bernhard Hollinger and Matthias Hetzer are now all living in Berlin. They were all born in Ingolstadt in the South of Germany. Fred produced ‘Waska’ whilst Bernhard recorded the bass, guitars, KeySolo and vocals. Matthias provided the tropical rhythm of the drums. I’m reliably told that each will be taking time out from their own projects to record together again before this year is out.
When the combined curiosity is of such quality, it’s a no-brainer to suggest that I can hardly wait.
Near Death Experience, the four-piece psychedelic rock ‘n’ soul band from London, have been busy over the last year. And that’s despite the frustrations that have come with lockdowns and the closure of venues where they were developing their fan base. I know this because Ian Whiteling, NDX’s growling crooner of a lead singer, tells me so by E-mail in advance of publishing this piece.
“We’re keen to start off by re-igniting our Ealing Live sessions, where we host weekend evenings in local Ealing pubs featuring us plus new and original artists,“, says Ian. “This was going well before the pandemic struck. Pub goers loved it as an alternative to the usual covers bands and the bands that played were paid properly.”
I make a mental note to head out to Ealing one weekend in the future. NDX would appear to be doing things properly over in West London. I’m struck by how much I miss random live music nights in pubs and bars such as this. Thank goodness light does appear to be at the end of a long tunnel.
“We’ve started creating beautiful things for our fans,“, adds Ian. “From personalised made to order CDs to art prints from our band visuals by Pedro Takahashi, as well as launching a range of T-shirts, one by one over the next few weeks.”
Yep, can’t fault the endeavour of a band who take advantage of the time we’ve all currently got to develop their merchandise lines.
But most importantly, NDX have also been productive in their recorded output. “We’ve worked hard, getting together when we can and I think our run of singles from Conquer in late May to Everything this year have been some of our best work.”
It’s that single, Everything, that I choose to feature on Sonic Breakfast this morning. It’s a sparky, soulful number that chugs along with a funk-fuelled rhythm. The psychedelic tones add a vintage feel though this never descends fully into derivation for things that have gone before. Ian’s vocal, reassuringly immediate, encourages us all to think big, to open our minds and to all reach out to the ‘places’ we’ve never been before. It all adds up to a pretty neat whole.
Best not take my word for it though. Have a listen yourself. Thursday’s have just got more cosmic, yeah.
I know that I’m not alone when I say that I miss gigs. The life I had just twelve months ago when I hopped onto London buses to travel across the City most evenings now seems like it was a lifetime ago.
I was delighted to read about the trial being carried out in part by the organisers of Primavera Sound. The forward-thinking Catalonian festival put on a gig in Barcelona at the weekend for more than 500 people. They all had PCR tests and rapid-result checks before entering the Sala Apolo for an evening of entertainment. The ‘results’ of the experiment will be available from January. My fingers are crossed as I’m sure are other fans of gigs, festivals and mass-crowd gatherings. (Read more here).
Gigs will become odder – of that there is no doubt. One act well placed to benefit from such a change would be LegPuppy. It might have been Halloween when I saw them at the Victoria last year (review here) but the theatrical, dystopian and bizarre world they inhabited now feels like an astute and prescient observation of the immediate future.
I was delighted to see that DIZZY PANDA, a duo from the Netherlands, cited the influence of LegPuppy in their press release for recent single, Turn Off The Light. I asked Mike from the band about that and he confirmed that LegPuppy ‘really inspires us to develop in a certain direction.’
Even before such a declaration, Turn Off The Light’ already marks DIZZY PANDA as ones to watch. A psychedelic electro-triphop track, it ambles along like a wayward nursery rhyme. Managing to be both ridiculously cute and ever-so-slightly sinister, the chug of the keyboard line consistently chips away as the child-like vocal forms on top.
The self-produced video, evidently a lockdown labour of love for DIZZY PANDA, provides a sketch for the sketchiness; it all comes together as a glorious whole.
DIZZy PANDA are an act that I’ll look forward to seeing live one day. “We hope you could help us out as our family and friends don’t like what we do :-)”, say the band. I’m sure that the good readers of Sonic Breakfast will oblige.
The wind rustles through the palm fronds. It’s been stormy for 24 hours now. When you’re as far out in the country as I am, you don’t get woken by the comfortable sound of traffic buzz or urban spaces coming to life; here, you hear the swirling wind making sounds like a trombone player warming up at the orchestra or a ghost that’s about to haunt. I’m used to it now but for the novice I’m sure it’s eerie.
Such days and nights are fortunately few and far between. I’m reliably informed that by Friday the weather will again be unseasonably balmy. This makes me glad. I can relax if I look forward.
For Lisa Akuah, the experience of ‘Dancing Trees’ is an altogether more positive one. But she has picked her moment well. She spreads a blanket underneath the tree in her local Berlin park one late summer afternoon, lies down and allows her mind to wander. In the shade but still feeling the warmth of the sun, she watches the intricate patterns made between leaf, bough and branch. From that, she finds herself going into a daze, hypnotised by the colours and shapes and perfectly content with her lot.
The psychedelic, folk track that is ‘Dancing Trees’ is born. It’s a gentle tune that slowly works its way into your core. If it doesn’t hook you immediately, give it another spin to let it work its magic. I’m sure it will given time.
I’m sure we can all relate. And for many of us, the thought of lying on a warm rug right now looking up at swaying leaves must feel like pure escapism. The chance of being able to lose yourself in the moment and to concentrate on the small things of nature must seem quite remote as our worlds progress at insane speed.
Escapism, nostalgia and an appreciation of the minutiae – three solid Sonic Breakfast ‘themes’ for a Wednesday morn.
I know that many of my dearest friends have found 2020 a struggle. They tell me that their anxiety is going through the roof and that their panic attacks have become more sustained and frequent. Some won’t see 2021 because they’ve made a choice that this is all too much. It’s not been easy.
When little makes sense, I often find that a healthy tablet of odd psychedelia clears the mind. And when it doesn’t entirely sort you out, it helps to rewire your brain so that little seems problematic any more.
Take this track ‘Gorgeous Pulse’ by Loving Backwards. It manages to avoid any elongated pomposity that could be associated with the genre clocking in at a mere three and a half minutes. It doesn’t half pack a punch in that time.
Changing time signature as often as a Tory Government backtracks (a lot), this wizard piece is the first single from a Tel Aviv consortium led by guitarist and vocalist, Or Izekson. When asked about the title, Or said, “the theme behind the phrase “Gorgeous Pulse” came to my mind while struggling with anxiety outbreaks during a personal crisis, which caused my heart to beat very strong and rapid. Writing this song was a way to address this, as in saying: “it’s OK, dear pulse, you’re absolutely gorgeous, and I have no quarrel with you”.”
‘It’s ok dear pulse, you’re absolutely gorgeous and I have no quarrel with you’ – let the power of that sink in for a second. We all should be telling ourselves how true that is every morning when we wake. It’s a beautiful statement and a helpful thought for these times.
Gorgeous Pulse comes with a magical video as well. An elderly wizard goes on a quest to regain his powers and is helped to do so by a young girl. It’s an epic journey in a short(ish) song but also an opportunity for Or to burn an old, broken guitar that he had at his disposal.
You are all absolutely gorgeous. Make time for treats this weekend.
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.
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.