Showing posts from March, 2011

Van Der Graaf Generator - The Assembly, Leamington Spa, 24th March 2011

Arriving in good time we bought our drinks and found ourselves some decent seats about ten rows back. This venue was obviously a dancehall or similar, and the design is on the lines of all these places of which there must be hundreds in the UK, although it was on a smaller scale than most. I would say it held about five hundred, all seated on what would normally be the dancefloor.

The band arrive quietly on stage, Peter Hammill dressed in his by now traditional stage garb of black trousers and white shirt, as is Hugh Banton. The pair sit opposite each other, Hammill stage left behind his electric piano, Banton stage right behind his modest bank of keyboards, and not forgetting Guy Evans who is as imposing as ever, between them stage rear behind his drum kit.

The gig kicks off relatively low key with Interference Patterns from 2008 album Trisector, and this is one of a large proportion of that album played tonight. Next up is a marvellously wired version of Nutter Alert from the first …

Half Past Four - Rabbit In The Vestibule

Dominated by the always smart and intriguing but never strident vocals of Kyree Vibrant, this Canadian based band who apart from Kyree all hail from the USSR are not classifiable in the classic sense and all the better for it in my opinion. The album has a playful spirit epitomised by the instrumental Salome, and only occasionally flags under the weight of its ambition.

Highlights for me are Strangest Dream which has a great hook and could be a hit, Twelve Little Words puts me in mind of Steely Dan for some reason and has some nice guitar breaks. Southern Boogie is just that and sure is funky. Poisoned Tune has a Canterbury feel to it and a really good guitar break and along with Biel these are the two longest songs on the album at around eight minutes apiece. Biel is probably the only song one would recognise as prog in the classic sense, It announces its intentions with an operatic chorus no less, and Kyree gives her best vocal tour-de-force on this song.

This album crosses all sor…

Van Der Graaf Generator - A Grounding In Numbers

In 2005 after an absence of 27 years, one of only a handful of the old school "progressive" rock bands worthy of the over used description, the mighty Van Der Graaf Generator, unexpectedly reformed with the classic line up and blessed the world with "Present" a double cd of superb noise. Whereas most of their contemporaries that were still performing were content to gift a shadow of former glories on new works while peddling greatest hits tours to their ageing audiences, VDGG still had that manic and unpredictable edge, albeit mellowed by time, that made them such a great band all those years ago.

Derailed somewhat by the departure of sax impressionist David Jackson (aka Jaxon) after the Present tour the band bravely decided to continue as a trio, and 2008 saw the release of the somewhat underwhelming Trisector, which sounded more like a Peter Hammill solo album than a group work, and has not been played much chez moi since its release. I will have to dig it out be…

The Pineapple Thief - Camden Underworld, London, 19th March 2011

Last night saw a trip to the capital for a gig by The Pineapple Thief in cosmopolitan Camden Town, a place for which the word "bustling" is woefully inadequate.

After a leisurely drive down the M1 enforced by 20 odd miles of 50 mph speed limit restrictions, then straight down the A1, then A400 we arrive in Camden, and park in the street, for free! A simpler journey to the heart of North London I have never witnessed. Fortified by a rather good Chinese meal, we enter the Underworld, which, as it's name suggests, is underneath a cavernous pub called The World's End.

Support act Godsticks, a guitar/bass/drums trio augmented by electric piano on the laptop served up some heavily Zappa influenced almost fusion styled noise, the two guitarists playing some neat syncopation. Not bad at all.

After a short break The Pineapple Thief appear. If you have been following this blog, you'll know that I consider this band should be playing far larger venues than 500 or so capacit…

Blow Up Hollywood - Collections

Since 2002's self titled debut, Blow Up Hollywood have been releasing wonderful paens to love, life and loss, with a healthy side of order of strange ambient soundscapes thrown in for good measure. They've even tackled the dreaded concept album in their time. It's nigh on impossible to pigeonhole this enigmatic band, as they never stand still long enough for that dull journo habit. Blow Up Hollywood is one of the more interesting places to visit in the ever expanding map of underground music, thanks to the joys of the world wide web opening up communication around the ever shrinking globe. Leader Steve Messina now decries the information overload we all suffer and harks for a return to good old fashioned one-on-one communication. I kind of agree with him, but you have to remember that were it not for the internet, I for one would probably never have come across this great band.

As the title of this new album may suggest, this is a collection of songs, instrumentals and sou…

Light Year - Reveal The Fantastic

Formed in 1974, Light Year were what seems to be a short lived fusion band operating out of the Bay Area of San Francisco. After support slots with the likes of The Tubes, the band's attempts to secure a record contract culminated in a showcase gig that had  "....record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears" according to their biog.

From what I've heard they certainly did not deserve such treatment, as they serve up a potent stew of jazz fusion music that fair belts along. A highly competent ensemble featuring the diverse talents of Cornelius Williams (piano), Zak McGrath (drums), Randy Sellgren (guitars), John Yu (bass), Doug Johnson (percussion, marimba, vibes, etc) and the soaring vocals of Sharon Pucci.

This album, a posthumous collection of recordings finally seeing the light of day some 36 years after the event, kicks off with a crash and Giant Babies sees some furious guitar work from Randy and is an indication that if, like me…

Faust - The Faust Tapes

Another in ""The formative years" series.

As a 13 year old in 1973 I had a meagre income from washing neighbours' cars and suchlike, but pocket money from Mum & Dad was in short supply. The financial necessity of having to feed the stirrings of what would become an all consuming vinyl habit by trawling through remainder bins in my local discount supermarket led to my purchasing some truly oddball classics that were far below any commercial radar. The average price of these albums as I recall was about 75p, which I could just afford. Most of those albums are now worth at least three figures now. I may have mentioned before that my best mate of the time had an older cousin who used to play us all sorts of strange aural delights, so these circumstances combined led me to taking a strange parallel musical journey alongside digging the usual mainstream rock and prog music of the time beloved of my peers.

In that same year a certain Richard Branson was beginning to ma…

Radiohead - King Of Limbs

Firstly, let's make one thing clear - I'm not a Radiohead fan(atic) - they inspire a kind of mad devotion along the lines of the equally deranged Dr Who-ists (or Trekkies for our American friends) that I just don't get. I like the band sometimes, that's it.

In my humble opinion OK Computer, if not in my all time top 10 albums, is certainly in the the top 20. It had everything- tunes, rock, vast swathes of emotion, weirdness, roll, the kitchen sink. Since then - jeez was it really 13 years ago?! - they've gone all experimental and, dare I say it self-indulgent, and with the largely failed noodlings present on Kid A and Amnesiac they have shown themselves to be ambitious certainly, but maybe lacking in the chops to carry it off. To make truly inspiring experimental music you have to have either an intuitive musical genius, or be highly technically proficient, or in very rare cases both. Look no further than the unsurpassable Can of the 1970s for that elusive mixture.