Posted in SHOFT on Wednesday 30th May 2012 at 10:05am

North American War - Ivory And/Geraniums on a Spit 7I'll be honest, I've been itching to write about North American War for a long time now, and with this new release they've finally given me the excuse I needed. Since hearing their debut EP - which is still available free from Winning Sperm Party - I've been trying to contrive a reason to feature them here. However, having not managed to make it north of the border to any of their sporadic and often short notice live appearances, it's only now with the release of this 7" single that I get to talk about this intriguing and - for me at least - rather mysterious band. It's going to become painfully clear in the next couple of paragraphs that I know woefully little about them, so readers will have to indulge me and take this at face value - because it's a damn fine record you really ought to hear.

The really unfair thing to do here would be to pull in a few reference points, make some lazy comparisons and leave it at that - and it's inevitable that reviewers with good record collections, long memories or (like me) a few years on the clock will resort to mentions of Sonic Youth. This is no bad thing, because if North American War have picked up the thread from that behemoth of US alternative rock, they've selected that brief moment when they balanced bubblegum pop and experimental guitar destruction almost perfectly. But there is far more to North American War than a set of, albeit very well chosen, influences. Not least in the laconic and brutally disinterested vocals provided by Anna Schneider which set them apart from other bands ploughing similar furrows. She carefully half-speaks the fragmented, paranoid lyrics of "Ivory And" while scratchy, urgent guitars duel for attention. Occasionally, they burst free into a squall of ungoverned white noise. But Anna never breaks her stride, carefully pacing her distant, disconnected utterances. After a brief respite, there is a storm of irrepressible, beautifully discordant guitar noise with at least three distinct melodies vying for dominance at the track's conclusion. These few moments of blissfully tinnitus-inducing racket make me want very badly to see North American War play live as soon as possible.

Meanwhile "Geraniums On A Spit" is a different proposition, opening with a delicate and almost pretty guitar melody and just slightly ominous sounding backing vocals. The vocal drifts between German and English while the bass and drums drive things forward with a little more form and pace this time. The guitars shift between their melodic, slightly off-centre drift and a satisfyingly gruff, edgy note which maintains the tension. It's never as simple as loud/quiet/loud here, with the track collapsing and reforming several times while the vocals are wound up towards the concluding - and oddly sinister refrain of "if you don't come now/I'll never get out of bed again". There are points here where they drift into that dark, uncharted territory inhabited by The Dead C and their New Zealand brethren - where the squalls of noise fuel the imagination into hearing things which aren't really there. It's unsettling, enervating and dangerously addictive stuff. While it's easy, as I hinted, to parcel off North American War in terms of bands who have done similar things historically, in pieces like this they display an acute understanding of songcraft and dynamics which is often absent in some of the more waywardly experimental guitar music out there.

It's a huge relief when a band gets me as excited about music as North American War have managed to over the course of their debut EP and this single. I started this blog to record and relate music I loved, and whilst it might seem because of that policy that there is never a shortage of things for me to get fired up about, it does sometimes spook me that not nearly enough of it is genuinely new and coming up from the grass roots. This record, and the band which made it restores enough of that faith to make me want to keep listening. I get the sense here that this is the start of a very interesting journey for North American War.

North American War - Ivory And

North American War's "Ivory And"/"Geraniums On A Spit" 7" is released today. You can purchase it in a limited, hand-painted sleeve including a digital download from Bandcamp. The debut EP is available as a free download from Winning Sperm Party, or as a cassette featuring additional tracks here on Bandcamp. They can be seen at Doune The Rabbit Hole on August 24th-26th.


Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 29th May 2012 at 8:05am

King Creosote - I Learned From The GaelsThis is the first new King Creosote solo material to be widely released since 2009 - which apart from being a criminally long gap in releases, is surprising since the "Diamond Mine" effect means I can now have meaningful conversations with work colleagues about him without blank looks or nervous glances at the clock. During that time Kenny Anderson appears to have almost lost faith with the turbulent and slowly imploding music business, going as far as to provide an album via live performance only, to thwart the more mercenary elements of the business. But now, back on Domino who at least seem to understand how (and when) he works, this is the first in a series of EPs which re-visit and re-work the songs from the largely acoustic "That Might Be It, Darling" LP, which you could mostly get only by fronting up at a Fence Records event of some description. So with Kenny's profile rarely higher among the nation's music lovers, and with the industry still languishing on it's collective arse and lashing out at the hand that feeds it by way of lawsuits, talent shows and format wars, what exactly has King Creosote learned from the Gaels? If you've come looking for an honest, warts-and-all critique, you'd better leave now because Songs Heard On Fast Trains isn't the place... This release has seen days crossed off calendars in anticipation, pre-orders placed at the first possible moment, and a mercy dash to the Post Office depot to effect an emergency rescue. This is, in all fairness, unlikely to be an objective piece of writing...

There haven't been many songs which are complimentary about the 1980s. In fact musically at least there seems to be a collective amnesia about some of the aberrations which occurred during those dark, confused times as Britain began it's slow transit to modernity. Sure enough, in these similarly gloomy financial times, there is a money to be made in ironic theme nights, and it was left to the long-since decommissioned Prolapse to succinctly sum things up in their scathing piece "Deanshanger". But, calculating that I am in fact a very similar age to Kenny Anderson, its impossible to deny the influence that the eighties had on some of us who grew up during the time, and "Doubles Underneath" is King Creosote's love song for the lost decade. Shuffling in on a jaunty drumbeat with little reels of accordion and a nifty bass melody appearing on cue, Kenny is in fine voice - his oblique and cryptic lyrical opening giving way to the more direct observation that "there's definitely something up/'cause the clocks have all but stopped back in 1984". Part way through it becomes apparent that this isn't perhaps a simple nostalgic look back at the music of that bygone era, it's King Creosote's apologia for what he sees as his own past deficiencies. In his words it's the decade that came "before that 90's guff" was the one "you're overly proud of". Whilst I'm not sure his assessment of either of those periods in terms of his own releases is accurate, if this signals the rejuvenation and reinvigoration King Creosote, then that's got to be a good thing. With a reverb heavy guitar solo, and a droning organ ending this is a proper rock song which wouldn't have cut much muster back in the era of synth-pop and highly elaborate haircuts perhaps? But then again, it's maybe no accident that this EP is available on 12" only, with the heyday of the 'Maxi-Single' format being one of my fondest memories of the decade. You always knew you were in the presence of a proper fan if they had the twelve-inch...

One day I will count the references to stars in King Creosote's back catalogue - not an easy prospect, as I'm often reminded by pangs of horror that I have only the tiniest bit of his massive output here - but even so, its an image which crops up a lot. Maybe it's something about clear, northern skies and the lack of light pollution in the East Neuk of Fife? In any case "Near Star, Pole Star" is a welcome addition to this list. By far the quietest and most uncomplicated song on the EP it benefits from the initially strange but ultimately beguiling overlaying of HMS Ginafore's song "Ounces" onto its quietly direct and emotive structure. A rolling, maritime rhythm with a gentle acoustic guitar line and a woozy organ backs Kenny's plaintive vocal here. A painstakingly described would-be-relationship sees its false-start laid bare - like all the best ones, starting with dutch courage, a nervous proposal, drunken late-night coffee and alcohol induced vomiting. But it's ultimately all for nothing, a brief episode in a life described in acute, slightly raw detail with buckets of sublime pathos and a little humour. It's left to the distant, spectral and gorgeously underrated voice of HMS Ginafore to bring the song to a close.

There is of course, a whole new generation of King Creosote fans who will have heard Kenny mostly in reflective mood, with Jon Hopkins slowly manipulating a harmonium by his side. How they'll make the transition to this new material will be an interesting prospect, and "Single Cheep" is going to be the acid test. It's good old fashioned pop music, performed by a band which strides stylistically across the decades - bright acoustic guitars tangle with delicious sixties-style rock'n'roll solos and fifties-throwback vocal harmonies courtesy - in part at least - of BBC Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway. Meanwhile Kenny leaps for the notes and belts out the bitterness in inimitable style. In her hilarious but neatly apposite sleeve notes Nicola Meighan makes reference to Anderson and Galloway's previous exploits in the Khartoum Heroes, a band rejuvenated for a riotous Homegame 2011 performance and now occasionally to be reformed on special occasions it seems. This is very much in that spirit, a high-speed dash through an old tune now infused with new energy and a shiver of anger and frustration. Finally, and in the time-worn tradition of Fence Collective related releases, the everyone-is-in-everyone-else's-band effect arrives in earnest on "Little Man". With the majority of the vocals delivered by the tiny human dynamo that is Alan Stewart aka Gummi Bako, this was always going to get messy! It chugs and stutters in, a tangled mix of noisy, garagey guitar sounds. Gummi Bako's oddly alien vocal delivery is well-suited to the angry, frustrated lyric which complains "I'm so tired of this old life/just can't seem to get it right". With each wheel around the song, Stewart ups the ante, his voice sounding increasingly unhinged and urgent. Guitars build, an urgent patter of djembe sets up courtesy of Captain Geeko, and the organ whirls appealingly. King Creosote himself orders a final crash from the band, and the record is done...

Well, done for now at least. By my calculation there will need to be at least two more of these all too tantalisingly brief forays into the post-Mercury world of King Creosote in order to cover all of the "That Might Be It, Darling" material. These songs have burned slowly, gestating over a long period whilst the promotional duties for the project with Jon Hopkins have consumed time and energy no doubt. That these new versions haven't landed far from their stripped back, simpler cousins at all is testament to just how good they are perhaps? But where they have altered and developed, it's to become even more engaging, direct and impossible to ignore.

You can purchase King Cresote's "I Learned From The Gaels" via the Domino Records Mart, or from the Fence Webshop on proper, old fashioned 12" vinyl only. Wherever you get it, you'll find a download voucher inside. What you won't get, sadly, is any sort of preview here. Because I suspect that would make Kenny very angry indeed! King Creosote curates and headlines the Refugee Week Scotland Opening Concert on June 18th, at Glasgow's Old Fruitmarket, and can also be seen in a variety of fields across the nations this summer including Camp Bestival, Green Man and Festival No.6.

Movebook Link


Posted in London on Saturday 26th May 2012 at 10:05pm

Just now, the whole world seems to be on pause. Events are grinding to a halt to accommodate the twin national patriotic rallying points of the Diamond Jubilee, and more disruptively the 2012 Olympiad. I've written copiously about this, fact and fiction, and I risk painting myself as an obsessive if I'm not careful. Already, it's assumed by many that I'm nothing more than a disciple of Iain Sinclair who can't form my own opinions on the issues as I'm not resident in those distressed eastern environs. Well, much as I admire Sinclair's stance and very much love the way he expresses it, my own view has been formed by passing through the site over the six years since work began, watching it change in character and tone - and most alarmingly in it's loss of the sense of being a public wilderness. But I've never quite dared to walk the waterways myself - afraid of bumping into others like me who are compelled to visit despite doubting the wisdom. I realised though that time was running out. And so, I had to act.

The stars aligned when the London Topographical Society published a walk around the park. By the time their twice-annual journal landed the walk was dangerously out of date, but with a day in London and only the loosest plans I decided to tackle it in preference to other less pressing treks. It was, by far, the hottest day of the year - and perhaps for many years - as I stepped out of the train at Paddington. I breakfasted at leisure and took the 205 bus to Bow Road, a long and sluggish, but as ever interesting transit from suburb to suburb avoiding the city's core. Here I decided to use the Underground for the last leg to Bromley-by-Bow, just to avoid too much diversion before the walk began in earnest - and because there was a sense of purity beginning the walk by popping out of the ground rather than seeing the landmarks of the Olympic Park arise gradually. I surfaced again beside the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road. Passing under, and calling briefly into Tesco for water, I found myself giving to the local foodbank too. It felt right to pay tribute to those struggling in this hostile environment before setting off into Three Mills Lane. This triangle of reclaimed land between Bow Creek and the Prescott Channel is now far from the run-down, dereliction it once was - as it's home to a large complex of film and TV studios occupying two of the former mills, with a great deal done to preserve the character of the area. Crossing the Creek, I noted a tour group huddled around "Tony", their guide. He'd been outside Tesco earlier, holding up a sign saying "2012 Official Tour" and had looked quizically at me, obviously guessing I was a tourist of sorts. Now he was explaining the significance of the area's waterways, linking it back to the Olympics. The group, mostly non-British were a mix of experience-seeking adults and their teenage offspring who looked by turns bored and confused. I pressed on to Three Mills Green. Immaculately manicured, and a rather pleasant spot to absorb the sunshine, as a few locals lolled around on the grass never slow to take the opportunity for a free tan. I walked to the eastern edge of the green to gain a view of Abbey Mills Pumping Station across the tangle of allotments, and the new lock installed to allow building materials reach the Olympics by water. It was in the process of building this that lumps of the Doric Arch from pre-electrification Euston were dredged up, and now sit in storage somewhere awaiting the next development opportunity there. Edging around the park I noticed the tour group again, perched on the rather impressive polished concrete ping pong tables. Lingering in the sun to let them pass, I encountered them again near the Three Mills Wall River as Tony rattled off significant dates in Olympic History. He broke off briefly to ask if I was "trying to get a free tour or something?". I showed him what I was doing, and told him my own history as a guide of walks, and he seemed more relaxed and chatty. He talked about how business was good, how he could do seven or eight of these trips each day if pushed, and how he'd considered charging £20.12 for the walk - but "couldn't carry all that facking change about". He said I wouldn't be able to follow the planned route and "I'd see why" before returning to his group and saying "I can't get you into the Olympic Park - no-one can - but I can tell you about what we can see, and what you can't". On this metaphysical point, I left him to it. Veering onto the tight towpath I headed onwards passing a 'phone mast disguised as a giant Olympic torch as I emerged on the busy strip of Stratford High Street. Passing cars kicked up clouds of building dust, and my nostrils complained bitterly at the assault. I was sick, but determined not to let a summer cold stop this final walk before the games began.

Three Mills
Three Mills

The tangle of navigable waterways here was once a necessity due to the congestion and the politics of using the various routes. A price war between canal owners led to these channels becoming part of the vast canal network, and because of this they remain in the ownership of British Waterways. Here, my aim was to use the towpath of another stretch of waterway, the Bow Back River, to reach the Greenway. I crossed the High Street at the lights. Nearby a new bridge, apparently temporary, had been constructed to carry this footway over the road to cope with large Olympic crowds. How many would realise that their walking route was in fact a large, Victorian sewer I wondered? Turning west, I passed City Mill Lock and the river of the same name coming in from the northeast, before surfacing on Marshgate Lane. Here I was due to head up Pudding Mill Lane, beside the now beleaguered DLR station, and to ascend onto the Greenway. However, this was out of the question - Tony had been right. As I poked around trying to figure out the best way to go, a security car drew alongside me and three bored but edgy looking men clambered out. "Path's closed unless you want the DLR" he offered. I replied I was after the Greenway. "Why?" he asked "Been closed for months now. You can't get up there until after the games". The Greenway has been used a means of viewing the park since the build began, even playing host to a dedicated viewing position called View Tube and an associated cafe. Now, in the distance I could see it - a high-fenced channel running through the site like a bristling, protective spine, parts of it due to provide public access to the games while others apparently served as a sort of linear sentry emplacement for the security services. As I wandered off he called after me "No pictures, we know you've been taking pictures and you can't. Not here. It's illegal". I didn't turn back to argue the point. I got the sense that in training these people to protect this national spectacle, they've been told to expect something to happen. Every interaction, every encounter could be that event - and they are hyper-sensitised to it's potentiality. In short, these men felt dangerous to be around.

The official diversion signs took me back to the main road, and almost to the throat of the treacherous Bow Interchange which continues to claim the lives of hapless cyclists despite being part of Boris' Cycle Superhighway. Just before I arrived at the dusty concrete wilderness, a bridge and a stair dropped down to the path beside the River Lee Navigation. I gladly followed it into the cool green tunnel. Walking north, the high fence of the park with its razor wire and frequent CCTV points soon came alongside. Accesses from the towpath were discretely but absolutely closed, booms and anchor points ready to close the river to boats and this main towpath to feet and cycles as soon as the event begins. I felt unwanted - and I felt like I was being watched once again, shrugging off the suspicion as irrational but never quite escaping the sensation. However, there were lots of us walking - and there was an unspoken code of nodding or just exchanging morning greetings. Cyclists mostly rang their bells to warn of their passage too. A gently defiant population using the route, adapting to diversions, refusing to be excluded from their wilderness - and as I began to enjoy the walk despite the dust and heat, my wilderness too. We were trapped in a channel, an oddly idyllic single approved pathway through the chaos of the unfinished park above. As adjoining streams came in, I noted their walkways blocked by the last vestiges of the blue wooden fence that once demarcated the whole site before the security fence came. Little bits of ODA history, a history of corruption and displacement, preserved down here where no-one will look.

Continuing north, I came to a spot where two huge pipes leapt over the river, and a substantial bridge crossed. It was clearly marked "Northern Outfall Sewer" and a sense of frustration briefly surfaced that I should be above this spot. The path zig-zagging up to the Greenway was closed, mesh gates and razor wire installed - a huge hospitality zone was being formed above from solid plastic mock-pagodas. But I realised if I had made that direct, diagonal swipe across the park I would have missed this walk through a geography I'd only seen from the railway above. I'd passed on foot the same cement works and sidings which were a tantalising glimpse of what might have been covered on railtours past. Continuing, the river opened out into a junction, with the other route closed by more blue signs. This river, from consulting the map, is the one which carves into the park behind the stadium, creating the Olympic Island and dividing the public areas from the Athlete's Village and other prosaic service sectors. Unsurprisingly, it's now entirely impassible, and I found myself instead crossing a narrow bridge to reach Old Ford Lock. Sitting on the edge of the lock apparatus for a much needed drink, I spotted a familiar sight through a fence. Now a private house, but unmistakable, was the former home of the Big Breakfast TV show. Beyond it, towering above a line of trees was the Olympic Stadium, looking more sinister than ever in this context. I turned and headed west. There was another security guard at the lock, less sure of himself on this non-Olympic property he just whispered into his radio and watched the procession of walkers and cyclists enjoying the weather.

No access to the Greenway
No access to the Greenway

The next part of the walk took me onto Fish Island and into the depths of Hackney Wick. I'd skirted this area previously on an ill-fated dash to escape from Milton Keynes, inexplicably drawn to it but also rather afraid of getting sucked into another desperate corner of London. As I plunged between former warehouses now become artist studios for the likes of Bridget Riley, I turned a corner and happened on a strange scene. On Dace Street, a glamourous but trouble-lined woman in an elegant evening dress was running a junk stall on the pavement, bohemian students picked over her wares and bargained over seventies crockery and oddly shaped lamps. Across the street in a reclaimed warehouse space a makeshift barbecue was cooking, with wonderful smells emerging. Another dilapidated warehouse block housed a cafe, offering ethically sourced goods and claiming to be London's finest. People milled around lazily. Despite being largely ignored I felt out of place in the urban oasis and swiftly passed by to reach the Hertford Union Canal via another footbridge. An ill-starred and little used stretch of water which never quite made the fortune it cost to dig, this cuts dead straight though Hackney Wick towards Victoria Park which was my final target. Having passed under the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road once again, a little before the ramp up to Cadogan Terrace, I noticed a strange bridge abutment practically in the back garden of a house it seemed. On checking later, I realised that this was the route of the railway to Poplar, once a passenger route and then a busy freight line. It was lifted in the 1980s, isolated and unused beside the Eastern Cross Route, its stations long closed. Only a few years later, the DLR took over it's southern reaches, but then turned east via a new route to get to Pudding Mill Lane and Stratford. The imprint of the junction at the former Victoria Park station is still visible, with trains now shuttling between Richmond and Stratford, straddling the Westfield shopping empire completely. Suddenly all of my interests and curiosities were coming together strangely in this tiny patch of dwindling wilderness amongst the city.

I lingered for an hour in the park, watching the sunbathers, frisbee players and walkers pass by. Looking back, the stadium leered angrily over the houses and trees, seeming very close indeed. Just two years ago, it hadn't been nearly this omnipresent or oppressive, barely showing over the curtain of trees. I made my way to the bus stop, elated from completing my walk but troubled by some of what I'd encountered. Oddly, my instinct was to return to the rails and take the diverted train service which curved through the geography I'd just walked from above. As we crawled into Stratford station, and the curved platforms which take the line to Coppermill Junction, I looked down on the tow path and the cement works, and peered hard into the tangle of green which marked the line of the river. The trickle of walkers and cyclists continued, the sun beat down on the dusty path and there was a heat haze rising over the stadium. In the still chaotic spaces around the main venues, security Land Rovers ferried back and forth, men muttered into radios and eyed with suspicion people passing on their way to shop at Westfield. I probably had left this walk a little too late, but I couldn't imagine a better day to have done it.

You can see more pictures from the walk here. As an experiment, you can also follow the route on the map below - the blue line is the walking route, the red line the rail journey.

View Pre-Olympic Walk in a larger map

Movebook Link

Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 22nd May 2012 at 11:05pm

Human Don't Be AngryThere are days when, even as someone who seems to be a source of technical support for everyone around me, technology defeats me. Today it was even more annoyingly totally out of my control, as vandals destroyed vital bits of the railway system turning travelling into a slow, hot and frustrating experience. Listening to the ill-informed griping, watching harassed staff being abused by idiots in suits, and looking at the faces of woe around me in the carriage, it was amusing to think of the name of tonight's headline act. There were a lot of angry humans around me today. As ever, pickings on a Tuesday night in Bristol were slim, and I pondered why bands who'd made the long trek down south always seemed to end up here on this quietest of days? Competing with the Olympic Torch Relay hadn't helped either, with Bristolians treating the arrival of that dim flicker of competitive spirit as an opportunity to get drunk in the sunshine. In some ways, who can blame them? It's probably the most they'll get from the London-centric circus that comes to town this summer. But I digress, and any drift into discussing that Grand Plan will get ugly.

The modestly filled upstairs room at The Louisiana quietened respectfully for Martin John Henry who took to the stage with just his acoustic guitar and a little bank of electrickery. Thinking back to his self-confessed nerves at Homegame a year or so back, it was actually really remarkable to see how his confidence and his songs had transformed in that time. Opening with "A Love Economy" from De Rosa's "Prevention" album, the set progressed through a number of songs from last year's superb but somewhat unsung solo debut "The Other Half of Everything" beginning with the fragile but affecting "Breathing Space". Using the electronics sparingly, and drafting in Human Don't Be Angry guitarist Paul Mellon, Henry was able to flesh out these largely acoustic takes on the songs into truly lovely, enthralling pieces in their own right. An edgily menacing "Only Colour" leads into another De Rosa track in the shape of "Pest" and suddenly it's clear just how many wonderful songs Henry has at his disposal, and how great it would be if he just kept playing. However, all too aware that his support slot was coming to an end, Martin delivered a plaintive take on "I Love Map" before closing with a re-worked Christmas song "Under The Stars", rejected from a BBC compilation "because I sing 'piss' in the second line". It turns out to be a spirited, rollicking winter tune with a leery edge of implied violence - fantastic stuff indeed and a lost to the prudes at our national broadcaster, who's recent decisions on the regional "Introducing..." shows indicates just how narrow their vision really is. Henry's set tonight exuded confidence in the performance and the material, sounded amazing as things seem to at The Louisiana's nowadays, and won him plenty of interest from a modestly sized but curious audience.

In contrast to Martin John Henry who I appear to have inadvertently stalked around Scotland for a while, I was a late-comer to Malcolm Middleton's most recent project, as I was to his other solo work. The ending of Arab Strap was just about the final straw for my musical frustration those years ago, and seeing them - coincidentally supported by Martin's recently reformed band De Rosa - at The Thekla on their final tour was one of the last gigs I went to for a very long time indeed. In the intervening years, Middleton's solo output has resulted in a collection of funny, painful and wry observations on relationships, the human condition and often by extension the identity crisis of the modern Scotsman. Despite only marginal exposure to this until recently, it was a bit of a surprise to first hear Human Don't Be Angry in all it's sprawling, post-progressive-rock glory. Tonight, it's hard to believe that the four musicians on stage are going to be able to recreate some of the delicate, multi-layered work on the recently released album, but rather amazingly they manage it perfectly. Middleton, joined by Henry on bass, the aforementioned Mellon on guitar and a live drummer, is a quiet and humble figure on stage who makes it all look annoyingly easy as the band meander into a wayward, opening instrumental which may have been loosely based on "After The Pleasuredome" from the recent album, on the back of their "Chariots of Fire" intro music. With a minimum of audience interaction, it's on to "The Missing Plutonium", where the urgent distorted throb of bass provided by Henry is filthily compelling, carrying the slight melody whilst Middleton and Mellon spin guitar magic around him. "First Person Singular, Present Tense" sees Middleton take, almost reluctantly to the microphone uttering the mantra of "looking for the person..." repeatedly with an air of increasing menace. This is about as vocal as he gets during my time in the venue, and on the eponymous "Human Don't Be Angry Theme" he elects to leave the vocals to disembodied electronics which echo oddly and unsettlingly around the small venue. Throughout these pieces, the influence - both in terms of sound and composition - of label-mates Mogwai looms large, with open, spacious arrangements. In Middleton's case though, these spaces are an opportunity to weave wonderfully dark webs of guitar work which take things spinning into other dimensions entirely. Somewhere during one of the pauses in the magic tonight Middleton introduces his new band to the audience and a voice from the crowd tells him "You're loud", adding after a brief pause "but GOOD loud!". I could probably have left the review at that, because his assessment is just about perfect.

With the railway still struggling back to normality after it's difficult day, I had to slip away a little early - something I utterly hate doing. But leaving the Louisiana with the sprawling, weird and epic racket of Human Don't Be Angry echoing around the street outdoors was a fitting exit.

Movebook Link


I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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