Saturday, 30 April 2011

Preview: the week ahead (2nd-8th May)

May is here and I'm looking forward to some great concerts. Also C* is back some time this week, so you/I won't have to be jealous anymore about these great L.A. concerts, fancy locations and stuff. ha!
The Nightingales and Trouble at bei Roy: The Nightingales already existed between 1979 and 1986. They released some records on Rough Trade and according to Wikipedia they "played more sessions on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show than any other band excluding The Fall." Early Rough Trade, Peel Sessons... you probably should listen to this! Currently playing with the drummer of Faust (yes, the Krautrock Faust), I think they could be great live! Trouble play something completely different. Consisting of Zs' (check the review from last week) saxophone player and his wife, they play experimental instrumental music, check the link above to get the idea.

Bonne Humeur Provisoire and Infinite Livez at bei Roy: Give this a try if you're looking for weird experimantal "hip hop"/electro stuff!

Dufus and Phoebe Kreutz at Schokoladen: I just read something about Dufus in the highly recommendable Music is my Boyfriend book by Martin Büsser who sadly passed away last year. They are an Antifolk collective consisting of between three and thirty people and are (or were) part of that vivid New York scene Martin Büsser wrote much about. They are supported by Phoebe Kreutz, who, when she doesn't play music, works as main puppeteer for the american Sesame Street. She plays humorous and catchy folky songs and although I'm not that fond of her music I think this could be a neat Thursday evening.

Sissters, Alexis Gideon and Antikaroshi at Kastanienkeller: I think we already mentioned Sissters a few times here and there. If you haven't got the chance to see them live yet, here's another one! Kastanienkeller is also a cozy location so check this out.

Forgetters and Witches at Schokoladen: I think I don't need to say much about Forgetters. Blake Schwarzenbach's (ex-Jawbreaker, ex-Jets to Brazil) newest band is playing their first European tour and I'm excited! Witches play nice indie punk, not unlike other Bakery Outlet bands (Des Ark, Solid Pony, Tubers). Schokoladen homepage says this is going to be a Matinee show and is supposed to start at 5pm. Anyway, be sure to get there in time, I suspect the Schokoladen will be packed this Sunday.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

LA Report: Abe Vigoda, Cold Showers, Beaches + Pope Anything

What a bill! Every single band last night made me tingle with excitement. Shame about the non-rhythmic audience. 

I arrived at The Smell well early because I was actually worried it could sell out. It didn't but Pope Anything played very early on and I was lucky enough to be there for that. I don't know much about this group but I really liked what I heard. Fuzzy indie guitars, poppy yet a bit noisy. And a great voice on vocals, a bit like No Age with a higher pitched voice. I can see this going somewhere and hope to hear more from this group in the near future.

Beaches are a girl group from Australia. Did I say girl group? Well, yes, they are girls. But hell no, they don't play that typical 60s girl group influenced music. Instead, fuzzy, phychedelic music, noisy songs that build up, Sonic Youth would be proud. This was so much more powerful than I expected and I loved it. Watch out for these Australian ladies because they know how to rock!

Luckily, Cold Showers managed to meet expectations, too. They sounded like an upbeat Joy Division and although their set was short, it was so danceable and fun. I can't wait to hear more from this group!

So here is a quick audience update, in reference to my first comment above: Up to this point, the bands had been playing on the floor and not on the stage and not a single soul had been dancing. Everyone had just stared at the bands, and clapped between songs.

Then, Abe Vigoda played on the stage. As you know from previous posts from me, I am a great admirer of their work. Especially their recordings blow my mind. Unfortunately, so far I have not had the live experience I had hoped for. Something was always in the way - be it a mind-blowing main act that put Abe Vigoda in the shade, a too big stage for their performance or, as the case was last night, an annoying audience. Because these kids in their teens decided that Abe Vigoda was the perfect music to start a mosh pit, too. I kid you not! It was so ironic because the band utilises more disco elements in their music everytime I see them yet these kids danced like it was Suicidal Tendencies playing. I held out at the front for a good part of the set until I realised that the aggressive dancing was not going to end and that I wasn't actually enjoying myself the way I should. So I moved towards the end and danced and was just glad I was seeing Abe Vigoda at The Smell, in their home. And even though they are more raw live and less polished than on record, and they're one of the few bands I prefer polished, oddly enough, I was also glad to know that I am seeing them again in Berlin very soon, hopefully with a more supportive audience. 

Review: Liturgy + Mi Ami

I was so looking forward to seeing Mi Ami, the main reason for my visit at the Levee Club, that night. Turned out it wasn't that bad that I missed their first songs...
When we arrived at the club, Mi Ami were already playing. I knew from a friend, who saw them a few days ago, that they play entirely without their former bass/guitar/drum setup. So I was a bit worried beforehand. And my worries were sort of totally legit. Their latest record has very few to do with their former weird dancy post-punk records (which I really really like), but is an all-electro disco album (which I don't like at all). So maybe it wasn't all that surprising that I disliked their electro disco live set, but anyhow I was pretty disappointed. Musically it was uninspired dancy electro music paired with the typical high and hysterical Mi Ami vocals. Levee Club was hardly filled while they played and the handful of people dancing in the front also didn't make up for the somehow lousy atmosphere. The sound was shitty too, so this was like a total bummer for me.

We waited outside until Liturgy played next. The club quickly filled and it was obvious that there were a lot more people there to see Liturgy than Mi Ami. Liturgy started to play and right from the start they were really great. They play "transcendental black metal" and somehow this description fits well. Their music has something almost meditative. They have a harsh and aggressive sound but their repetitive complex rhythms (their drummer is incredible!) and often almost catchy melodies go really well together and create an intense atmosphere. I sort of preferred the instrumental songs but the ones with high croaked "black metal vocals" were also really good.
When you normally think of black metal, burning churches, corpse paint, NSBM and Burzum come to mind. Liturgy, being featured in all sorts of Vice/Spex/Pitchfork magazines, managed to make "black metal" more accessible to a broader audience and apparently got rid of most black metal stereotypes. They didn't look like a typical black metal band and they didn't sound like one either. Maybe that's why there were so few apparent metal fans in the audience and probably that's the reason why there luckily weren't any corpse paint Burzum people. But at the same time that's what made them so likeable.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Austin Report: Migas + FingaarBangaar

One of the perks of visiting Austin was meeting my friend Jason and his family. Jason used to play in a band called Starfish for whom I booked a European tour in the late 90s. As soon as I knew I was going to visit Austin Jason invited me to the gig of one of his current bands, Migas, who apparently only play once a year. What a great coincidence!

The attendance at the gig wasn't great. There were too many shows on that night. The Meatmen were playing next door, which was fun because both gigs were outdoors and when one band would finish a song, you could always here the other one in the background.

Migas basically play metal influenced rock and use The Fucking Champs as a reference. I was strongly reminded of Helmet and my infatuation with their album Betty. Quite obviously, all three guys in Migas play well technically and the energy was there, too. For me, the whole metal feel was also enhanced by a girl in leggings dancing very sexy in front of the stage, waving her long locks around. Ow baby!

The last act of the evening was a band called FingaarBangaar who are greatly influenced by Indian music. If you can, I recommend that you check them out by all means. I was highly impressed by this group of people and their large range of instruments with which they played psychedelic, slightly ambient yet very rhythmic sounds. 

The small crowd loved it and danced under the open sky. Outside the fence people passed and watched. I wanted stay the night but had to catch my plane in the morning. I hope they make it to Berlin some day so I can watch them again and for longer.

Austin Report: Billy Joe Shaver

I'm not sure how many of you are into country music. But when in Texas...

We were invited to watch Billy Joe Shaver at Antone's. Rumour had it that the 73-year-old had just been released from hospital two weeks earlier. He had undergone cancer treatment. I was also informed of some shooting he had been involved in but acquitted from earlier in the year. Sounds like a real country icon to me.

The crowd was so what I expected and made me smile all the way through. Cowboy boots. Cowboy hats. Some elderly people seated. A couple of Betty Page lookalikes dancing.

Billy Joe Shaver delivered country music in its classic sense and at its finest. I very much preferred the songs on acoustic guitar, or even the couple of a capella numbers, to those songs played with electric guitar and full band. But the best part of the concert were the stories he told and the jokes he made. We listened and laughed and were touched. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Preview: the week ahead (25th April - May 1st)

Although you may want to prefer hanging out in the park, it's not summer hole time, yet.

Liturgy and Mi Ami at Levee: Liturgy are somehow the hipster's answer to Black Metal. Minimalistic and heavy, I think they really could kick ass live. Mi Ami play a highly danceable mixture of psychedelic and noisy post punk. They often remind me of a poppier version of Liars. If you liked Black Eyes and comparable bands you should not miss this! I already got my ticket.

Moon Duo and Mueran Humanos at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Moon Duo play psychedelic dark music, often sounding somewhat like a "goth" version of other Woodsist bands. Their latest record was released on Woodsist, so if you are into this labels releases you may want to give them a try. Mueran Humanos from Argentina play minimalistic dark wave music.

Peter Evans at Ausland: Peter Evans is an experimental jazz trumpet player from New York. He played live sets with Weasel Walter, Zach Hill (Hella's drummer), Brian Chase from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and numerous other. If you are into experimental music, go see him! This evening he gets supported by Magda Mayas, Clayton Thomas and Tony Buck.

Publicist at Monarch:Publicist also plays in Trans Am and Weid War. He plays dancy electronic music. Not my cup of tea but maybe you'll like him.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Austin Report: Lightning Bolt

Some people get emotionally touched when they hear Elliot Smith sing. I get very emotional when I see Lightning Bolt play. I kid you not. My heartbeat was racing and I thought I was going to explode with joy.

But let me tell you about the venue first. I was explained the other night that Austin is on the same latitude as Kairo. It's hot and humid and the perfect place for open air venues. And the city administration doesn't seem to be concerned with noise pollution - they pride themselves in being the music capital. So Mohawk is a club with an open air area spread over a courtyard and several balconies. If you are on one of the upper levels you can watch the band and whatever is going on outside at the same time. This was very unique and I wish we had these types of venues in Berlin.

If you are not familiar with a Lightning Bolt live set: They're a two-piece, bass and drums, who usually play on the floor with the audience. The drummer wears a custom made mask over his head in which he carries the microphone to allow him to drum like a maniac and sing/grunt at the same time.

This night, they actually played on a stage, which was weird but also welcome given the layout of the venue. My date remarked that this was the first time he could actually see the band play and there is a lot to be said for that. Because this band is amazing to watch. It's not just the drummer but also the interaction between drummer and bass player that just oozes energy. 

Musically, I couldn't have felt more pleasure. For me, Lightning Bolt manage to play so much more than just noise. It may be the rather melodic bass lines or unusual singing style. But it's probably a bit of everything. This duo shows that bass guitar and drums can be so much more than just the rhythm section to a show off guitar front. They are the centre, they are the show and they move people: mosh pit, dancing, you name it.

It was by chance that I ended up in Austin but I wouldn't have wanted to miss this for the world. Lightning Bolt, please come to Berlin soon!

Review: Zs + Hubble

I think this was the least crowded West Germany concert I ever attended but it was also one of the best there for a long time. Probably spending the nice warm spring evening outdoors or at Berghains Friction Fest attracted some people more than a concert evening at usually often filled and sweaty West Germany. But I'm not at all going to complain because it was hot enough there either way.

Hubble is the solo project of Zs guitar player and opened this night. I listened to some of his stuff online beforehand and was quite curious about it. He played with just his guitar and some effect pedals and did some crazy fast tapping stuff with stereo delay effects. He had to pause from time to time to rest and shake his hands and his music got more and more atmospheric and meditative the longer he played. He did a set of just two long songs and although he did not vary that much in what he played, he created an intense and interesting mood. I liked it!

Zs were up next. Although I knew some of their records, I wasn't really sure what to expect live from them. They started really quiet and suddenly burst out into some sort of highly rhythmic guitar and saxophone noise "rock". Although I think the only "rock" aspects of their set were that they used an electric guitar and drums. They played "jazzy" songs without a classical song structure but at the same time played no impro-noise (or at least I think they didn't). Their songs consisted of repetitive elements and crazy unusual instrument sounds which all came together in complex rhythms and patterns. I was deeply impressed and left happy after hanging out a while on the West Germany balcony.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Austin Report: Cold Cave + The Kills

OK, so what am I doing in Austin? I was spontaneously invited to fly over to Austin for a few days and I took up the offer to stay at a beautiful house by the creek and go to the springs to bath, to restaurants to eat and to a different venue every night to report to you on some of the most amazing gigs. 

The Kills are currently on a tour of the US and have chosen Cold Cave as their support act for the entire tour. When I heard this I got well excited! Cold Cave is the new project grouped around Wes Eisold, a lovely person who I admire greatly artistically. They play dark new wave with a dance beat and are very much in fashion with that.

At the band's request, Cold Cave played with only blue lights on stage. It made for a great eerie atmosphere. I had never really thought about stage lighting that much before and this group showed me how much the whole atmosphere of the gig can be influenced through the type of lighting you choose. I was very impressed by their first few songs. The music with the stage presence of the band just really captured my attention. To my surprise, the rest of the audience was not for dancing or showed any signs of appreciation except for the mandatory claps between songs. Austin, you can do better than this. But I have to admit, with an audience that wasn't dancing, and this being dance music, and with every song sounding roughly the same, I did get bored a little halfway through the set. I would really prefer to see this band again at a small venue with a party audience. It could make for a great gig.

I have written enough about The Kills to bore you with yet another review. Just this much: They were way more energetic and powerful in Austin compared to Berlin. And I was ever so impressed by that. What a fantastic duo.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

LA Report: CSS

Go Pomona!! There is a lot to be said for this little town that smelled of pee the night we went to see CSS.

Pomona is just outside LA and therefore a good place to avoid the "play Coachella, don't play LA" rule. We happily made the one hour trek to see CSS in the home town of their drummer. "Come again? Aren't they from Brasil?" Yes, beats me. 

The Glasshouse looked like a former bowling alley but I couldn't say for sure. Maybe it was a cinema or maybe something entirely different. They had built the stage in one of the corners rather than at one side and that was a really good idea. Even as a small person I had a fantastic view.

We were at first disappointed when the place only filled up half. It looked like there wasn't a need for a gig one day after Coachella. But our fears were unfounded. As soon as the band came onstage, the audience went berserk. I'm not exaggerating. Everyone was dancing, singing,  shouting, laughing. People in Pomona sure know how to have a good time.

And who could blame them? The four charismatic girls in CSS (the guys fall to the background somewhat, and rightly so) put on a show you don't forget. Dressed up and in for a party they interacted intensely with the audience from the word go. It wasn't a CSS gig, it was a "CSS with audience" gig. They also delivered the goods musically. The sound was great and CSS made sure to play all their dance hits and the crowd favourites from the first album. Fantastic!

The ticket to this gig was my birthday present and I couldn't have wished for a better one. We came away in awe for a group that's proved all prejudices wrong. And we forgot about the bad noodles we had had for dinner. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

LA Report: Body Parts, Tes Elations, Telematique

Ever since I booked my ticket to Los Angeles, I have been particularly excited about going to The Smell. This DIY super venue represents everything I love about independent music: courage to support the unusual, art, commitment and fun. So while others were baking in the heat at Coachella, I invested a lot of energy into convincing my host that we should go to The Smell instead of Brokechella, LA's alternative to Coachella. Needless to say, I won him over.

Of the bands on the bill, I had only really heard of Body Parts before. So we arrived not knowing what to expect. And were pretty impressed straight away: Telematique is a two piece playing the violin and the cello, using these instruments in their classic sense but also in alternative ways like strumming, knocking, etc. The music is very rhythmic but the female singing brings a softer side to it. I can very much see myself listening to this on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea. Hopefully, they bring out a record in due course.

I can see Tes Elations, the next band on the bill, having a future. Featuring two members from Upsilon Acrux, the band is mainly based around a cellist and a vocalist who is not shy to interact with the audience. The music is a bit post punk and very rhythmic. This was very much my thing and I was instantly taken in and recommend this group to anyone looking for new music of the genre. 

The evening was to end with the set of Body Parts, the band we mainly came to see. Interestingly enough, I was the least moved by this four-piece. They came across as incredibly nice people and brought along some great ideas like playing a drum stick solo and similar ideas. But musically, I thought them OK, not amazing, which came as a surprise to me since I really liked the two recordings I had heard before. However, when they covered Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, we made it our time to leave. I adore Kate Bush and I think nobody should attempt to cover her songs because there is just no way of getting anywhere near that voice anyway. But I am fond of the Futureheads cover of Hounds of Love and truly believe that unless you are some sort of musical genius you should stay well clear of that now that it's been done to perfection already. Maybe I'm a bit uptight here but it's really the way I feel about it. 

Nonetheless, Body Parts' set was enjoyable, Telematique and Tes Elations were pretty special and the evening was considered an overall success. I shall report again from my next Smell gig, which will be Abe Vigoda next week. I cannot wait!!

Wall at The Smell 

Preview: the week ahead (18th-24th April)

Compared to last week, the upcoming one seems a bit more quiet. But there are also some promising shows so let's see what we have.

Architecture In Helsinki at Maria: Everyone knows by now that this group is not from Helsinki. But who cares. They play unusual danceable music that fits Maria perfectly. The question is whether they'll fill the venue, given that they've been kind of off people's radar. Well I hope it's going to be a great party because AiH are one of my favourites when it comes to analog dance music.
The Monochrome Set are a wavy early post-punk band that used to exist since 1978 and reunited now already for a second time in 2008. I'm usually a bit prejudiced against reuniting bands, but since I saw the great Chameleons (now called the Chameleons Vox) earlier this year and really liked them, this could be worth a visit. They play at West-Germany and I'm sure it's going to be well crowded.

Zs and Hubble at West-Germany: Zs play experimental and jazzy no wave stuff. They sometimes sound like free jazz, sometimes like noise rock with a crazy saxophone and sometimes like a drone ambient noise band. I'm sure this is not going to be boring. Hubble is the solo project of Zs guitar player. Check it out, I definitely will be there.
Al Burian at Bis Aufs Messer: Mr Burian is coming back to give his third performance at our favourite record store. Your guess is as good as mine as what he's got in store for us this time and whether it's going to involve any music at all. But last time he performed a reading there, he blew my mind, unexpectedly so. So go early, enjoy, and still be in time for Zs.

Ovo, Jealousy Party, Ratbag & Anton Maiof and Rocchetti & Janek at NK: Ovo are a duo and play mean and harsh noise or almost metal guitar and drums music. They wear crazy masks and crazy clothes. I saw them once opening for Lightning Bolt at Festsaal Kreuzberg and I left the room before they finished one song. I know that doesn't sound encouraging, but maybe you want to give them a try before giving too much about some random blogger's opinion.

Ten Volt Shock and Electric Electric at Schokoladen: Ten Volt Shock seem to exist since forever. If you are into groovy noise rock you should consider another Schokoladen visit this night. They are great live. They are currently on tour with Electric Electric from France, who play crazy math rock. They listed "Trance" as genre on their Myspace page, listen to it, they are not joking.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

LA report: The Kills on Conan O'Brien

What a fun thing to do on your first day of vacation! And how very LA!

The Kills had been invited to play a song on the Conan O'Brien show and I had been invited to come along and sit in the audience. As VIP guests we were also allowed to watch an additional Kills performance backstage that was being recorded for the website and has since appeared on Pitchfork.

Time and again I am impressed by how professional The Kills are. Alison was wearing a jacket that was designed for this TV appearance and had her hair backcombed to a massive piece of art. Jamie had obviously paid a lot of attention to the set-up of the equipment. The sound was excellent, which I didn't necessarily expect in a TV studio. And of course, they performed "Satellite", a firm favourite of mine, live, even with gospel background singers - none of that taped rubbish. 

The sound in the small room that the extra material was being filmed in was a little more raw. The audience there consisted mainly of younger employees working for the Conan show. With a relaxed atmosphere, nobody seemed to mind that the song had to be recorded twice in order to ensure that no mishaps were included. 

Review: Dum Dum Girls

Frankly, although I really wanted to see the Dum Dum Girls and had bought my ticket well in advance, my expectations weren't actually that great. I full-heartedly support female groups and believe that women are still disadvantaged and not taken seriously in the male-dominated music business. But I have recently also seen a few female bands which weren't actually that great and where I had got the impression that they were being supported for the wrong reasons.

My worries were very ill-founded. Dum Dum Girls lived up to everything great you have heard about them. Or her that is, since the band members change regularly, except for Dee Dee Dum Dum, head of the band. And here was my first surprise: Despite this, Dum Dum Girls are anything but a one-girl-show. With a kick-ass drummer and good support on the guitars, the band was very solid. Dee Dee herself made an impression by coming across a little shy yet also displaying that femme fatale aura she is known for.

My second surprise of the evening was not related to the band: Despite playing danceable girl group inspired rock tunes, the audience was very restraint. There was not any dancing worth mentioning and even the clapping in-between songs could have been a bit more enthusiastic. Props to the dullest audience Berlin could possibly offer.

But nevermind. With a flight to catch in the morning, I was grateful for a comparatively short set and a Smith cover encore - probably the best Smith cover I have heard so far. I went home happy.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Review: The Ex + Axel Dörner

Shitty weather and tiredness aren't exactly the most motivating circumstances to visit a concert but this one turned out pretty pretty good (note to self: use more Seinfeld/Curb your Enthusiasm references and quotes).

We arrived on time for Axel Dörner tonight at Marie

Antoinette, which was already quite crowded at the time. I watched a few youtube videos from some of Dörners former concerts before the concert and I somehow expected what I got - an experimental trumpet performance which could be best describes as "interesting". It was really interesting to watch him play and to listen to the sounds he managed to get out of just a trumpet and a mixer. What however was really annoying and disturbing were the people talking through the whole time. Dörners set took I guess about half an hour and towards the end there was too less variety for me. He repeated certain patterns and sounds and I think I was too tired to follow him attentively. Nonetheless he did good.

After that The Ex took the stage and blew me away.
They exist since 1979 with various line-up changes and their current singer and guitar player replaced their former original member in 2009. Nonetheless they were well-rehearsed and they seemed like playing together since ever.
They played highly danceable and groovy noise-rock with unconventional and very tight drums and guitar rhythms and they often managed to play their songs longer and longer and take them to a certain climax. They surely are a "rock band" but they have an unpretentious and totally likeable attitude and approach to their playing and performing. They have fun on stage and they manage to pass it on to the audience. Towards the end of their set, Axel Dörner supported them on stage and played trumpet on the last 4 or 5 songs, which fit in really well.
And now I'm even not going to whinge about the annoying "pogo dance action" during the last songs, because in the end this was a really good concert of a really good band.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Quick review: John Maus

My friend went to see John Maus and I'm jealous. Here is what she said about the gig. 

"We arrived pretty late and therefore only got a spot at the back of the room. But we were instantly taken in by the atmosphere: The audience was nice, the sound was excellent and the minute the music started it was impossible to stand still. Everybody danced to the magic tunes of John Maus and his dark voice added that special magic to the music. When you watch John Maus you feel like you are part of a big movement. He conveys this pathos that's very intense and makes people feel that they need to get active, as individuals and as a group. Everyone feels this moment that they share together. It was the second time that I watched John Maus play and I had only gone along spontaneously but I left HAU happy that I had been able to share this experience again."

Oh brother, doesn't that make you just want to jump on a plane and go to where Mr Maus is playing tonight? It was sold out and there was no way I could have made it into the gig. It's the second time that I have missed this magic because of sold out venues and next time this magician comes to town, I shall buy my ticket well in advance. And he'll be back, I'm sure of it.

how social is that.

I set up a Facebook group a while ago. I was told that's what you do. It's very doubtful that I will go as modern as Twitter. But if social networks are your thing, join our FB group.

Long live vinyl records, fanzines and house parties.

Review: Battles

This was the first gig I went to without a jacket on this year. And I saw a fox cross the street on my way to the venue. Kids, spring is here. 

I arrived a little late for the gig and missed Oval (which played first, to my surprise). Because of the mild weather, the courtyard of Festsaal was so crowded I could hardly get into the venue. To my surprise it didn't feel nearly as crowded inside when the band played. It was pretty easy to get to a good viewing position, so I situated myself in front of the stage, and the speakers. The latter had a serious effect on my gig experience because the sound was very deep and drony and my body vibrated from the bass.

"You know when you watched Star Wars as a kid and thought that the band playing those weird sounds was absolutely preposterous? That's kind of what Battles do." 

My friend is clever. Even Zitty failed to describe Battles' sound and my friend hit the nail on the head when he drew that comparison. While Battles' music is still pretty suitable for the masses, it's also such a mix of styles and ideas that it's challenging the listener to think outside of his known categories. And although the first few recordings were very experimental, they have by now evolved into a dance music band. It's as if you mixed early !!! tunes with the drums of Shellac and threw in some world music. Then, on the newest record, they've added different guest vocalists, thus giving each song its own character through that, too.

Live, the band performed as the three-piece as we expected (having recently parted ways with their fourth member): A bass player, a legendary drummer and an IT-freak who uses his laptop as an effect machine on various pieces of electronic equipment as well as his guitar. Just watching the band play is amazing because it's so unconventional. Because they currently don't have a set singer, they used video panels which showed films of the guest vocalists singing. And that made me realise that the songs are not nearly as spontaneous and improvised as they appear, or the filmed vocals wouldn't fit the songs so well that you could imagine they were sung live. For a short period of the set, a singer did actually appear on stage but I wasn't too impressed. He somehow seemed out of place.
The set was fairly short and only featured new songs. They played none of the old hits, possibly because of the departure of the singer of those, and in my eyes that was a shame. The new songs lack some of the energy and weirdness of previous recordings, but I did enjoy myself and I danced. And although in my eyes, this gig wasn't nearly as good as the one at Berghain, I'm still glad I went. And who knows, once they find a new singer, this trio might take their music to yet another level and we might all flock out to see them again next time and be amazed. It may just be possible when the three geniuses that are Battles do their magic.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Preview: the week ahead (11th-17th April)

This might turn out as the busiest week of your life. If you are into live music that is. c* will be off on a plane to LA while Berlin is partying every night.
Dum Dum Girls at Festsaal Kreuzberg: The week commences with Dee Dee Dum Dum and the girls playing girl-band inspired rock music that's poppy and dancy, too. Girls, guitars, black tights. What else do you need? Spot the craze girl in the crowd.

Kolter and Gunzard at Madame Claude: Kolter for a second time. If you missed him the day before because of the Battles/Oval show, go visit him at Madame Claude. He opens for Gunzard from Italy who play harsh drone noise and there will be some fancy DJ afterwards.

Dustin Wong and The Urpf Lanze and Edgar Wappenthaler at Madame Claude: I know Dustin Wong for being the guitar player in Ponytail and everybody who ever saw Ponytail live may want to check out if his solo project is as great as they are. He plays experimental guitar stuff with lots of loops and effects. Check out the video below, I think you'll get the idea. The Urpf Lanze plays something between Cam Deas and Dead Western. Detuned free folk music with indefinable deep moans and growls. Edgar Wappelthaler is more likely known for being a part of Silvester Anfang, he plays lo fi and slow folky music. All in all great package and I'm sure Madame Claude is going to be packed.

No Age at Berghain: Oh boy. I know some don't get the hype around No Age but as I pointed out in my review in November it's the unprentiousness of this duo that's the appeal. That, and the wonderful indie punk classics that they write. And all that at Berghain? Come on!

The Ex and Axel Dörner at Marie Antoinette: The Ex play edgy noise rock, think of a great mix between Shellac and Sonic Youth. Axel Dörner is an experimental trumpet player and composer. This could be a great mix and this is certainly a must see if you're not going to the No Age show.

Last minute update: Oxes and Heatsick are playing at Raum20. If you got something better to do on friday, here's your second chance to see Oxes.

Oxes at West-Germany: I saw the mighty Oxes some years ago and still have them in vivid memory. If you are into The Ex or Shellac and are looking for something crazy and fun, go see them!

Sissters at Antje Öklesund: I've pre and reviewed this band before, so I won't say too much about it but this duo of Berlin natives is up there with the current great waft of dark psych bands. Go and be amazed.

The Dalaï Lama Rama Fa Fa Fa at Schokoladen: Psycho pop from France as mentioned in my year preview. I am actually really sad I'm missing this. You should go and dance to their wonderful music and fancy the cute French boys in the band.

Baths and ampl:tude at Watergate: Baths are on Anticon and play weird hip hop with great odd experimental beats and nice vocals. They somehow remind me of a mixture between catchy Autechre and TV on the Radio. I'm sure you know ampl:tude from Berlin. Analog synthies, teddy bears and stupid jokes, they're fun to watch and fit in well.

Bonaparte at Columbiahalle: OK, so I usually don't preview gigs at Columbiahalle. But I make an exception for Monsieur Bonaparte and his crew of nutcases. I'm a fan. Not so much because of the music, that's alright, but because of the whole concept, the lyrics, the circus, the persona. If you can get in, you should seriously do so. It's like going to a big performance art show, but with guitars. Shame about the venue but this band might just pull it off.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Review: The Kills

Let's start this review with some honesty: I am bias. Jamie and Alison of The Kills belonged to my close circle of friends when I lived in London and we all lived on toast with Marmite and nut roast back then. And even though we lead very different lives these days, I do share memories of birthdays, gigs, barbeques, scrabble and pub nights with table football and darts with this duo.

Despite this, I am a fan of The Kills as the band that they are. I would be a fan if I didn't know them personally. Two-pieces often convey a special energy and The Kills are the epitome of a duo which feeds on that energy. While their music is minimalist at times, it is also very powerful yet personal. And when performed live, the audience is mesmerised by the energy and connection between Alison and Jamie.

The Kills had been idle as a band for a couple of years, with Alison being part of Jack White's project The Dead Weather, and this was the first time that they performed in Berlin since that break. Has much changed?

I arrived at the venue at 7pm and was taken aback by the crowd waiting to get in. Gigs in Berlin never start before 9pm. As it turned out, these were die-hard fans, waiting to get an autograph and to reserve their spaces in front of the stage. A quick scan of the kids in line lead me to believe that hardly anyone waiting was over 20 years old. And this was a surprise. When The Kills performed at Postbahnhof two years ago, the audience was rather mature. 

Thanks to my Access All Areas pass, I could watch the performance from a balcony at the back of Huxley's. Huxley's is a large venue and I'm a small person, so I was grateful that I was able to see from high up. A side note on the pictures I take: I try to take pictures that convey the feeling of my particular position during the show. Most of the time this means that the pictures aren't particularly artistic or necessarily clear but that you get a rough idea of where I was and what it looked like from the position I was in. At this gig, I realised for the first time that my concept is not working. I had a very good view from where I was watching but the picture looks as if I couldn't see a thing unless I had a lorgnette or some binoculars.

The performance itself was very professional, as you would expect from an experienced band like The Kills. They played the songs from the new album "Blood Pressures", which are a bit more bluesy yet poppy than older numbers, as well as some of the popular hits from the previous album. Where I was standing the sound didn't impress, with most special effects like an additional keyboard or distorted vocals not transporting at all. However, later quizzing others, I was told that if you stood in the main crowd the sound was fine. The interaction between Jamie and Alison was intense as always but came across a little more studied than on previous occasions when I had seen them and I guess you could expect that after all these years.

I don't think there is such a thing as a bad Kills concert and if you haven't seen them before, I recommend that you do. But I also didn't feel quite the magic I felt a few years ago. I cannot tell whether this is because I have seen them many times and it's not a suprise to me personally anymore or whether it's something else. But I guess, everyone in the audience loved The Kills as much as they had always done, and I was happy to hang out afterwards at a small Neukölln bar with a group of friends that I don't see often. But only once we had made it past another group of teenagers waiting to get autographs at 1am...

John Maus tonight

Somehow, don't ask me how, the John Maus gig was listed in our calendar as being on the 8th April. I only just realised now that it's actually tonight and that if you feel you missed out last night, as I kind of do, you can still go and see Mr Maus at HAU tonight. BTW, it doesn't start until 11pm. Enjoy!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Preview: the week ahead (4th-10th April)

April is here - with a bang. What a week ahead: temperatures over 20° outside and near boiling point inside, looking at the line up for the next seven days. See you around for sure!

Make Out! and Easter at M.I.K.Z: It's "Easter Special" with two live acts and a photo exhibition (starting at 6pm). If you are into weird punky no wave and like Erase Errata and Mika Miko, you probably should go see Make Out! They were great the last time they were in Berlin!
Sightings at West Germany: Having been around since 1997, this experimental noise outfit on Load is not as known as some of their counterparts. But it's a must for any fans of the genre. Bring earplugs.

Belle and Sebastian at Astra: I wrote about this gig in my year preview from January, so there isn't that much more to say about this. Stuart Murdoch will charm everyone, the amazing band will play amazing songs and everyone will hate the venue, once again. If you haven't seen them live before - go! That is, if you can get a ticket.

The Kills at Huxley's: Many people dismiss The Kills because of the amount of press they receive for reasons other than being in The Kills. Don't. This duo is as talented as it gets and perform their slightly gloomy yet dancy songs with an energy that's rare in a two-piece. I wish I could see them in a small venue for once since they always play large concert halls. In fact, the first time I saw them was their second gig ever and this was at the mighty Astoria in London. I don't think they ever played small venues. It's a tough choice whether I go to The Kills or John Maus tomorrow because I missed John Maus due to capacity issues at West Germany last time he was over. But I think given the choice, The Kills would win every time. (c*)

John Maus at HAU2: The wonderful Mr Maus will bring his wonderful dreamy songs to HAU and thus allow more people to witness the beauty of his music live.
Bodybuilding + Kid Ikarus at Schokoladen: "Thirsty & Miserable" are celebrating their second birthday with well known crazy Kid Ikarus, this time on stage with two supporters. There's also a new band in town. Bodybuilding are going to play their first show on this evening, consisting of members of Fuck U Is My Name, Vom Segeln and PLOKK this could be a promising mix.

Battles + Oval + Midnight Operator at Festsaal Kreuzberg: c*'s got her ticket ready and her dancing shoes are coming back from the cobbler on Thursday. All set. Let's dance and shout and dance some more. Cannot wait!!
Kolter and It's a Boy's Club at bei Roy: Probably perfect ending for the week, Kolter plays experimental ambient noise and is quite good in doing so, check out the video below. It's a Boy's Club plays noisy stuff with typewriters, tapes and voice. There'll most likely be some visuals to make this as artsy fartsy as it gets, so don't miss it, I'm being serious here! Also a good chance to visit bei Roy, if you haven't been there yet (or even more if you already have).

Friday, 1 April 2011

abe abe abe vigoda

Abe Vigoda are coming back to Berlin in May and I cannot wait!! Here is my favourite video of theirs, directed by the wonderful Vice Cooler <3.