Archive for Scotland

Wickerman Festival – Burn

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , on August 10, 2013 by Noise Road

P1010123

A day previous to the festival, I had flown back in from Australia. After me and the whisky partied a little too hard to Primal Scream’s awesome set, a few hours kip in a tent wasn’t healing my hurts. As my mum would say “there is no sympathy for self inflicted wounds”…

My head hurt, my stomach wobbled and barely a stitch held the arse of my shorts together. That’s not a euphemism. My shorts were old and in danger of loss of structural integrity if I danced too hard or bent down too quickly…

However, amazingly summer did fall on the weekend of the Wickerman Festival. And so a few hours off the firewater, and a stroll to a rocky beach soothed my various sores.

The beach in Scotland? Sun in Scotland? There is no better place to be on a sunny day than Scotland. It just that a sunny day in Scotland only happens once in a decade. Back home in Oz, we are spoiled for sunshine… but here everyone is so happy to see the sun. The Scottish forget that they are miserable bastards, and drop everything to have fun in the sun. Its the happiest place on earth… and then the sun leaves… And the Scottish people return to playing their role in an Irvine Welsh novel. They know I love ‘em.

1091195_490579997697534_2136363755_o

But here we stand, beer in hand. The sun is shining over the rolling fields of Dumfries and Galloway. The campsite is a couple minutes stroll back up the hill to our right. The stage is right in front of us, and… over the hill behind us, a giant effigy lies in wait. It waits to burn.

Between the Buried and Me @ Garage, Glasgow – 3/10/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by Noise Road

How do you judge a man?…  By his accomplishments? By the way he treats others?  No.  These superficial means are no measuring stick.  The true measure of a man is by his record collection.

It follows then that Between the Buried and Me are the best humans on the planet.  Tonight’s set displayed a deep knowledge of every genre of music that you can think of…  and even some genres you’ve never heard of.  Their record collection sh!ts all over your IPod playlist.

BTBAM did not invent genre-hopping.  Mr Bungle bounced between funk metal, circus music, jazz, techno, avant-garde and pop.  Bungle, however, did not base their structure in 20-minute prog freak outs.

I’m not sure I have 20-minute freak outs in me anymore.  Consequently, even though I love The Great Misdirect album, I am no BTBAM expert.  When I got into BTBAM I was travelling the world for 6 months.  I had room in my life for intricate music.  BTBAM are the definition of busy music.  As I’ve moved into ever increasingly stressful and challenging work, my appetite for busy music has diminished…  My brain now craves Sunn 0))) holding one note for 70 minutes.

The only room I have for busy music is in 30 second doses of grind.  A blast of Pig Destroyer means that unlike John Dolan Vincent**, I don’t require 6 cups of coffee and a rail coke to haul myself out of the house in the morning.  Although having said that, I ain’t really kicking any goals before my 3rd coffee at around 10am.

Periphery

I haven’t paid any attention to Periphery previously.  I guess the kids would call them djent.  Between the Meshuggah riffs, there were techy melodic breaks and soaring vocals to give a bit of colour.  I don’t think that I would buy a record, but it was enjoyable enough to watch while I sank a couple of beers in Glasgow’s Garage venue.

Between the Buried and Me

With such intricate, genre-hopping music, there is always a danger that the virtuoso musicians could disappear up their own @rse.  With the vocalist often locked behind his keyboard and guitarists focused on their frets, I feared that I might find it necessary to visit the bar more and more frequently.  This was not the case.

A couple of minutes after BTBAM walked off the stage, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody eased onto the speakers.  BTBAM relieved Freddy Mercury and the Queeners of their duties in almightily rocking performance.  The crowd had been filing out the door because they thought the show was over.  Smiles abounded the returning flock as we all sung along “Ohhhhhhh baby! Can’t do this to me baby! Just got to get out, just got to get right out of here!”

BTBAM followed Bohemian Rhapsody with the death stomping opening of Mordecai.  There was plenty of this triumphant fist-pumping, death metal throughout the night to keep the neanderthal in you headbanging.

BTBAM live take you on a vision quest.  The peyote kicks in and the prog metal path may lead you to death metal stomps on one trip.  On other trips it leads to clean jazzy breaks.

The start of Fossil Genera recalled the circus metal of Mr Bungle’s first album.  The soft melodic vocals of Disease, Injury, Madness crescendo into a noodling climax.

The show made me question my recent abandonment of Between the Buried and Me.  I’d write longer but I got to go check out their new album which has a title longer than this review.

**  The Contortionist’s Handbook, Craig Clevenger

Lazarus… OM @ Stereo, Glasgow – 28/09/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on October 1, 2012 by Noise Road

Which is your favourite OM?  The two-man droning fuzz-out of yesteryear, lulling you in a meditative trance?  Or the middle-eastern-themed stoner metal of tonight, forcing your head to nod and your body to groove?  Or similar to your love of Michael Bolton’s work, do you celebrate the band’s entire catalogue?

Personally, I celebrate the man’s entire catalog. To me, it doesn’t get any better than when he sings ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’

- Office Space

OM in the flesh has always been a different experience to the recordings.  Before seeing them live, I considered OM quiet music.  A chilled-out soundtrack to ease into the day, to lick my self-inflicted Sunday morning wounds, or to zone out the rest of the office.  However OM live, dude, is not quiet music.  I remember in a small Somerset town, the overdriven bass so loud that it vibrated my chest.  The repetitious volume was hypnotic.  Like a Sunn 0))) show, or an UFO abduction, time was lost.

Tonight, Al still sparsely chants a collage of widely sourced spiritual phrases over the droning riffs.  Late in the night, it brings a smile to my face when the word “Lazarus” is repeatedly plucked out of the wet air.  Thanks to Al, I’ll be in a tense conversation with my boss at work and all I can think of is “Damascus Road Traveller”.  UK passport control ask me where have I travelled from today and “Lebanon” pops into my head.

As ever main man Al Cisneros bops his head like a stoner Gamera.  His headstock near perpendicular to the sky as he plucks, strums, taps out repetitive fuzz-laden riffs that drive the night.

On the previous album, God is Good, additional instrumentation added colour to the bass and drum loops.  On Advaitic Songs, flute, cello and key sounds not only add colour but they frequently lead with strong melodies.  Tonight’s set is heavily dominated by those last two records, and as such OM third man, Robert A A Lowe, takes a central role.

Unusually, the band is not hidden in the usual lack of stage lighting.  For the first time, we do not just see Al bopping in the shadows.  We see the energy with which Emil Amos attacks the kit.  We see Al gazing into the aether as the riffs flow from his fingers…  and we see Lowe.  Al carries a laid-back stoner vibe.  On stage he is softly spoken anti-frontman.  Amos is the straight man behind the kit.  However Lowe is a charismatic showman who visually engages.

Al ducks his bass down, evading the structural pillar on downstage right to allow Lowe to take the musical and visual lead.  Lowe is never stationary.  When he is not switching between drums, tambourine, guitars, keys and a mic, he is throwing a drum to himself.  He is hugging that drum tight to his chest like a child’s favourite teddy bear.

Al’s bass is noticeably lower in the mix to allow the other instruments to feature.  I miss physically feeling the music – Al’s low end vibrating on your skin.  In its place you are engaged by the new dimension of melody.  At one point, Al insisted that the bass be turned down in the mix.  Down?  At an OM show?  The mixing desk seemed as confused as the rest of the crowd.  Al kept insisting to the supportive drunken Glaswegian bellow of “Get him, Big Al!”

The Scottish crowd are as enthusiastic and boisterous as ever.  A mystical local climate at Stereo creates an inverse relationship between the temperature outside on the Glasgow streets and inside the basement venue.  By the end of the set, everyone is feeling a little sweaty.  Most are a few lagers heavier when the Bhima’s Theme chant of “Lazarus” announces a familiar fuzzed-out climax.

Whilst I love the OM of old, dropping me out of the world for a fuzzed-out hour, OM 2012 provides a more dynamic set.

Lazarus.

New Noise (Road): Stockholm Syndrome

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by Noise Road

Britain is buzzing.  Due to Glasgow’s cultural (and physical) distance from the London Olympics, I did not feel it until I headed south of the Scottish border.

When I arrived into the UK nearly 3 years ago, Britain was down.  Jobs were hard to come by.  Like my new colleagues, I clung desperately to my sh!tty job.  The locals could not envision a brighter future…  but the Olympics has been a massive boost to the optimism of the nation.

As a side effect of the games, Heathrow Airport actually works!  A couple of weeks previous, I arrived back from a short trip to Australia.  Instead of the usual hour in the passport control line, I was actually processed in under 5 minutes.  I was processed too quickly.  The tube wasn’t even running yet.

Despite Heathrow functioning tonight, I still missed my connecting flight to Stockholm due to a heavily delayed flight out of Glasgow.  When I should have been aboard a mechanical bird aimed at the Stockholm sky, instead I nursed a guinness in an airport bar.  Locals sang God Save the Queen as a British cyclist once again defeated an Australian rival at the games.

After Noise Road eventually landed into Arlanda at 11:30pm, we took in a quick march of the city.  I was a little out of a place, still wearing the same shirt and jeans that I threw on 15 hours early.  Since then they had seen the office, the workshop, 3 airports and 2 planes.  In contrast the stylish Swedes were dressed up for a Friday night out, while I ruined their neighbourhood.  Lucky for the locals,  I was soon passed out  on a central Stockholm couch.

Noise Road had been invited to Stockholm by local and new Noise Road friend, Sara.  Sara acted as my excellent tour guide and gave me a couch to crash on for 3 nights.  Hopefully I didn’t snore out and stink out her beautifully presented Stockholm flat too much.

After an early breakfast, we busted down through the paved old town to a peak overlooking the city.  The sun shone over the clean blue waters that link the Stockholm islands on the edge of the Baltic.  Whether it be walking along its edge, or on the bridges, or even aboard a boat, the water is the way to see Stockholm.

On a touristy boat tour, we passed a controversial district.  Here very modern apartment buildings rose as part of the city’s Olympic bid.  The complaint is that they do not fit in with the older, traditional buildings of Stockholm.  I would live in those apartments.  They are modern, clean, spartan.  It sounds like my bag.

I have two dream accommodations.  One is an entirely stainless steel apartment.  When I lock the door behind me in the morning, any water vulnerable equipment retracts into the walls, while shower heads throughout the apartment automatically hose the place down.  The other dream is permanent residence in a hotel like in an old Jimmy Stewart movie.  An old door man will say “Hello Mr Road” every morning as I pass in the lobby…

Apparently Swedish people meticulously furnish their apartment.  The apartment is a reflection of their personality.  I have nothing in my apartment in Glasgow.  My personality must be a void.

The centre of the modern town is an older controversy.  Traditional housing was torn down in the fifties to make way for a blocky “modern” city with easier access for cars.  Development is always a controversy here… Even an ugly part of town’s proposed rejuvenation is a contested issue.  These are the intricacies below the touristy surface that you learn when you walk a new town with locals.  As we passed down one street, Sara and Johan pointed out where one politician had been shot and another stabbed.

We wandered back through the more tourist friendly basements and narrow paved streets of the old town.  There is a reason why old towns in Europe bring the tourists.  We just don’t have anything like these historical centres in Australia.  These building predate the nation of Australia by hundreds of years.  It is difficult to not be impressed by the history of these places.

A newer addition to the centuries old town was this afternoon’s annual gay pride parade.  I can’t say that I am an experienced gay pride spectator but I’m pretty sure the Stockholm version is more conservative than most.  There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of leather, spikes or d!ldos.   The pride parade was kind of sprung on me, so I hadn’t really mentally prepared myself for a d!ldo fest.

I found the general acceptance of the pride parade reassuring.  I did not have enough time to bother the locals with political questions – but even though there is a significant Christian party, the Swedes seem quite accepting and tolerant.

After the pride parade, I spent my first decent bout of sun this summer strolling along the beautiful waterfront.  The esplanade brought thoughts of Venice.

Both being shipbuilders by trade, Sara took Noise Road to the VASA museum.  A ship that was too tall to ever live sank shortly after its maiden launch three hundred years ago.  In the latter half of the 20th century it was retrieved from the seabed and restored magnificently. Archive footage of the recovery shows a salty old sea dog within arm resting on his knee while he puffs away at his pipe.  Now that is a real captain.

Continuing the tourist mode, we needed to see some lynx and wolverines and bears…  Oh my!  The wolverines were hiding at Skansen open air zoo, but we did catch lynx, bears (five of them dude), moose, reindeer and otters.

A traditional meal of meatballs in a beer hall closed the day.  Very tasty.  Meatballs are a far better traditional fayre than the Swedish Christmas dinner I dealt with last year in Motala.  Undefined fish stood in various states of pickling and mayonaising and other unattractive processes, all housed in jars.  Jarfish.  The jarfish caused one of our team explosive diaoreha for the remainder of our work meetings on the frozen compound.

The morning of my exit we braved the woods of Sweden.  From the woods of Vancouver to the woods of Sweden, its been a busy few months of travelling out of the Glaswegian base to Vancouver, Australia, Belfast, Oxford, London, Venice, Stuttgart.  A quiet coffee in a small town overlooking the bay and we were soon aboard a plane out of Sweden.

But Sweden Week lives on…  It lives on in the form of the Refused gig in London!  Next weekend!

Alcest/Les Discrets/Soror Dolorosa @ Stereo, Glasgow, UK – 20/02/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by Noise Road

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

 - Douglas Adams

There is a rise in spirituality on the fringes of underground music.  Music of substance seems to carry a burden of searching for something more than what one can see.  The elders of the underground, Neurosis, embrace elements of paganism, ritualism and mysticism interwoven in their work.

Dylan Carlson of Earth and Neige of Alcest have embraced the more obscure idea of other worldly beings – namely fairies.  Neige makes this clear that these are not fantastical themes.  This is some thing he believes in and something he has experienced as a child.

If you hear the word “fairy” in Glasgow, it is usually preceded by the adjective “southern” in a jab at the perceived softness of their English neighbours.

Fairies or not, Alcest’s music lulled my head out of a grim winter in a Leeds bar at the end of 2010.

Tonight, Alcest did not lull me out of the subterranean Glasgow venue, Stereo.  I did not think of other worlds or fairies or driving by the water’s edge by moonlight.  I was engaged by the music itself.  The garden is beautiful, even without fairies at the bottom of it.

All night, drums dominated the mix.  Initially I thought there was just too much drums for support act, Les Discrets, and then again for Alcest – but it added a strange forward propulsion to the Alcest set.  It gave it a far more rocking nature.

This rocking nature was complimented by a far more engaging performance by Neige and his band.  Unlike in Leeds, Neige interacted with the crowd.  All three bands for the night were completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of Glasgow.  It was a solid turn out for a Monday night, and as always the crowd were drinking boisterously.  It is always steamy in the basement venue, but with the unusually mild winter it seemed especially so.  Like the rest of the punters, I found the beers going down way too easy.

Both Les Discrets and Alcest have quite sections within their sets.  Glasgow failed to keep the volume down.  They started “Hey! Hey! Hey!” chants.  The Frenchmen embraced, smiled and were clearly enamoured by the enthusiasm.

I had not listened to the new record, Les Voyages de L’Ame, prior to the show.  Initially I thought that Alcest has completely removed the black metal framework.  Autre Temps sounds like fairy music – folky rock with clear soft vocal melodies higher in the mix rather than hidden in atmosphere.  With the warm guitar tones, there is no hint of metal.

Midway into La Ou Naissent Les Colleurs Nouvelles a short passage of harsh vocals and blastbeats, reminded us that metal is still a tool in the Alcest arsenal.  Overall the track is straight out rocking.  I am still trying to think what that closing guitar riff reminds me of.  Nineties alternative rock?  Post rock?  For a song previously unheard, that simple riff was a favourite of the night.

The terms of reference for Alcest have previously been black metal, increasingly shoegaze and a little cringeworthy the term, metalgaze.  The black metal framework is now used sparingly…  and I don’t know if it was the upfront drums, but the set seemed too rocky to be shoegaze.  The strength of the new material is distinct songs and memorable riffs.

Later in the set the older material surfaced.  Ecailles de Lune reminded me of that dream world that Alcest can create.  The set closed with hugely catchy Percees de Lumiere.

Alcest have improved as a live act and their material has escaped easy categorisation.  They engage the crowd.  This may mean that they seem to real to create this other world… But I don’t need another world.  The music is enough.  It is a better live experience – fairies or not.

Stereo

Another tired Monday night.  This one after over week ridden with a chicken pox like virus.  All I saw for a week was work and my bed.  Rashes and bumps covered my body, head and face.  There is only so much a beanie and short-notice beard can hide.  Looking like a leper and generally feeling like sh!t can get a man down.  Also not touching a drink for over a week is a harsh state of affairs for a man who has lived in Glasgow for nearly 11 months.

Even though Noise Road wasn’t feeling super energetic, we took the short post work shuffle from the flat on the western edge of the CBD to Stereo – a club in the Rennie Mackintosh building, hidden down a lane a block from central station.

That is Glasgow.  You have to keep your eyes open or you’ll miss the gems amongst the the wet, grey tenements.  And don’t ask a local, as they don’t know what they’ve got.  They won’t tell you about the amazing cobblestone alleys tucked away in the west end.  They won’t tell you about all the parks.  They won’t tell you about awesome pubs hidden behind the university…  and they won’t tell you about Glasgow’s best venue, located in a building by a world renowned architect in an alley a few metres from the central station.

Stereo has oodles of character.  One might be initially wary of the kids upstairs with their fashionable hair cuts and scarves (never trust a man who wears a scarf when it is above 10 degrees celsius).  It kind of looks like the crowd at an Interpol concert circa Antics….  I often bring cats to Stereo because I have fond memories of gigs here – Earth, the Ocean… Fond memories of seeing dudes from the Ocean stealing the club wifi on the upstairs lounges while the headline played.  Stereo is central and always open late – which is handy with the weird Scottish liquour laws.  When you are entertaining a squadron of whisky-thirsty Swedish pilots for work on a Tuesday night where else do you go?

Like the best venues in the world, Stereo features entirely intrusive structural pillars.  Like many venues in Glasgow, expect to pay half the price of a beer at a London show.  Although that 10p increase to £2.10 for a can of Carlsberg, started to weigh down the pockets with shrapnel.

Les Discrets

Earlier in the mild evening, the rotating show of Frenchmen kicked off.  Noise Road strolled in towards the end of the Soror Dolorosa set, oozing a gothy post-punk type vibe.  I didn’t get the opportunity to study the band in detail, as I checked out the merch desk and handed over my first £2.10 of the evening.  I believe Soror Dolorosa’s singer switched to drums for the remainder of the bands for the evening.

Call me a savage but I had not even heard of Les Discrets before the start of the night.

Les Discrets main man, Fursy Teyssier, joined the rest of Alcest lineup onstage, including Neige on bass.  We had the most black metal moment of the night as the members of the rotating troupe performed a song from their former guise as black metal band Amesoeurs.

I don’t know if Les Discrets are rooted in the warm take on black metal that Amesoeurs were.  There is very little metal to the set.   There was the odd double-kick break accentuated by the loud drum mix.  Even more so than Alcest set, Les Discrets set rocks in an almost psychedelic way.  There are clear guitar leads and noodley passages.  It was another rocking set.

Teyssier continued a night of charming Frenchmen showing great enthusiasm.  In a second language, he awkwardly apologised for microphone failures and guitar string breaks.

I was suitably impressed by both Alcest and Les Discrets that I bought the latest CDs of both bands.  I am mostly sure it was because I enjoyed a night of French rock in Glasgow, and only a little to do with the enthusiasm generated by one too many £2.10 Carlsbergs.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers