Sunday, 28 August 2011

2000 Trees 2011

Okay, so this one's been a long time coming, for reasons that are frankly too dull to bother with, so without further ado... 

So, 2000 Trees. Best festival ever. Let's begin with that, as the rest of this is likely to be rather incoherent due to a) being written at a months' distance, or b) how drunk I was during the festival. 

So, the first band we got to was Vessels in the Cave, who managed to pack out the tent with a crowd that was probably bigger than that garnered by either ASIWYFA or Amplifier, the two Cave headliners of the weekend. After a storming set that peaked early with 'Monoform' and 'The Trap', the bar had well and truly been set for the weekend. 

I'm fuzzy on the order, but at some point we also caught the post-hardcore progressive racket of The James Cleaver Quintet, filing them in the 'check out later' pile before seeing (in some order) Charlie Barnes, Jim Lockey and Mojo Fury. The latter, in fact drew quite a small crowd, and it's still frustrating to me that they aren't growing more rapidly, despite their great songs and seemingly perfect run of choice support slots and press. Oh well. 

Then it was onto Dinosaur Pile-Up on the main stage. By this point, a combination of Badger's Bottom and G & T was rapidly rendering me a Total Fucking Liability (I believe that is the technical term); nevertheless I recall a great rendition of 'Hey Man' (or was it 'Broken Knee'?) and a new tune called something like 'Daydream' that needs some more work. Not as triumphant as their ridiculous homecoming show in Leeds earlier in the year (where I had my head split open by Harry's bass in a moshpit), it was still a rad show. 

I've been told that I saw The King Blues. I've also been told that I was singing along to 'Save the World, Get the Girl', so I'm going to assume that it was a great set. However, personally I can't remember anything at all. My memory creeps back in around ASIWYFA's set, where they were ramping through 'Search:Party:Animal' and 'Gang'. Putting in probably the best set of the weekend, ASIWYFA reminded the crowd that while they may well have released the album of the year in Gangs, they are still the same formidable live band that they always were. Moshpits, crowdsurfing (band and crowd) and high fives before encores, goodnights and bars. Lots more bars. 

Then sunlight, confusion, headache and a beer before Ellen & the Escapades on the mainstage, kicking off the Saturday entertainment. At that point, her warm folk songs were exactly what our ragged band needed, and we almost felt ready when skapunks Chewing on Tinfoil took the stage for what turned out to be a really fun set. I think I napped through Zun Zun Egui, dreaming dreams of motorik beats, before catching a bit of The Cape of Good Hope in the Cave. They were good, but a little complex to form an opinion of while hungover and attempting to stop your mind from physically tearing in two, and I've yet to check them out post-festival (add to the long list). 

After that, we wandered back to the main stage to see what all the fuss was about with Islet. 

Okay, so imagine if all the characters from the 'We're All Dickheads' video got together and formed a band. Now imagine if it was about four times as pretentious as the one you're thinking of, with like three drumkits. That still doesn't quite accurately represent the level of absolute pretentious indie dross we're dealing with here. I mean, I don't much like Egyptian Hip Hop, but Islet are almost a different level of wankers. Phil from Metamusic described EHH as 'pretentious wankers with a flanger'; Islet were grah, I can't even be bothered. If you want a positive review of them, look in the NME. If you want the truth, they bought a fucking Neu! album in some dusty record shop and now make pointless, boring, sub- Sonic Youth experimental cack.

When the opportunity presented itself, we fucked off and caught &U&I, who were pretty interesting; heavy and mathy, shot through with that post-hardcore bite you'd expect from a heavier math band. I wasn't too sure about their live show, but I'll keep an eye out for their album, due out some time in the future. After them, Talons; post-rock in a vein that didn't impress me overly when compared to Vessels or ASIWYFA, but didn't more me either. Then, Hawk Eyes, impressing me more in the late afternoon fug than at any previous time I've seen their thrashy guitar antics. 

I stuck around for Japanese Voyeurs, expecting great things on the evidence of their debut, Yolk, and their fine set at ITC 2010... but to be honest they let me down. Rather than a wall-of-sound grunge roar, it was rather more flat, and I left before their set ended in order to catch Three Trapped Tigers. 

Cards on the table, I think with Route One or Die I've found my album of the year, and Three Trapped Tigers never disappoint live. They are just bloody fantastic in every important way, and if you haven't already, you need to buy their record and go to a show. Not should do but need to. 

For the life of me, I can't actually remember what time Charlie Barnes was on in the Leaf Lounge, but he was fucking awesome. Playing a host of new songs, he's finally grown into the frontman he always threatened to become, and has firmly placed both himself and his band into the vacant space left by the recently-deceased Oceansize. More mathy in feel, progressive in length and heavier in attack, his newer material shows two things; firstly, that his experiences of touring, both with his band and Amplifier have deepened his appreciation for dynamics and instrumental interplay in a way that was not felt on his solo debut, and secondly, that the guitar is once again at the fore of his compositions, a welcome change in direction that breathes fresh interest into an already fascinating young career. If Charlie gets this new material out there into the right places, he could easily find himself on the main stage next year, that's my two cents.  

Anyway, after a bit of Frightened Rabbit it was time for Amplifier, who saw out the weekend in a tidal wave of riffs, moshing and sheer awesome. Enough said, really. 

P.S. O mighty Gods of 2000 Trees, next year let's have Brontide and Wot Gorilla? on the bill though, yeah? Cool. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Tao of the Dead
Superball Music
Out Now
Rating: 5/5

My discovery of this album if anything proves that at least I'm writing for the right people. After reading a glowing live review in Classic Rock Presents: Prog, and trusting that any label willing to sign Oceansize would probably put out good craic, I picked up their most recent long-player, Tao of the Dead, out on Superball Music. It's a concept album, and admittedly I haven't got into that side of it especially yet, but the music has proven infectious enough that it's become the soundtrack to my Californian roadtripping these last two weeks.

Opening with the 'Introduction', you're confronted for the first time by a scalic, harmonized math guitar riff that will return throughout Tao, as it ebbs and flows with the dynamic of a record written almost as a single piece of music. When Steven Wilson announced The Incident, I have to admit that, rather than what he eventually delivered, I was expecting something much more like Tao; gleefully self-referential, sprawling and unrelenting.

Possibly my favourite thing about this album is that, as band members switch instruments, you can almost feel the changes in personnel; where 'Pure Radio Cosplay' and 'Summer of all Dead Souls' have drums that'd be at home on any Shinobu or West Coast punk record, 'The Fairlight Pendant' has a motorik drive to it, and these are just the tip of the iceberg where subtle shifts in playing style are concerned. The punk reference is apt too, for while this record is often going to be heavier than some casual listeners would prefer, there's also a breeziness to it; most of the album is in a major key, and for all the Fugazi-Sonic Youth dissonant turns it's certainly not so hard going that a mainstream rock listener couldn't dig the bulk of it.

With the emotive pull of 'Ebb Away'- directly following the fantastic reprise of 'Pure Radio Cosplay'- the record takes its final turn, as the band embark on 'Tao of the Dead Part Two: Strange News from Another Planet', a sixteen-and-a-half-minute blast of summery math-prog and post-rock meandering that neatly encapsulates everything I've grown to love about this band. Unlike all the other tracks that have preceded it, 'Tao Part Two' changes from a D tuning to an F tuning to mark the transition, though arguably the end of 'Part One' falls shortly before the intro of 'Ebb'; regardless, it's still an impressive feat of musical arrangement and artistic vision.

Ultimately however, the greatest thing about Tao is that it's the sound of a band literally doing whatever the fuck they feel like, and being good enough musicians to pull that off. It's fucking brilliant. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Calimocho Club
Whoa Whoa, Hey Hey
Out Now
Rating: 4.5/5

Need a soundtrack to a barfly night of whiskey drinking? Well, I might just have the solution for you. After announcing their untimely demise a while back, the band formerly known as The Black Knights have returned with their new project, The Calimocho Club. Where The Black Knights were the soundtrack to an alcohol-fuelled frenzy, TCC have changed tack somewhat; while there's no doubt that on tracks like 'Baby Got A Switchblade' TBK's more brutal side lies in wait in the wings, in general TCC's sound is more soulful and melodic, songs to get wrecked and hit the town to, rather than see the place burn.

'War Machine' is the best of these, a laid-back, slow-motion haul that makes you almost feel the drink weighing you down into the soft alcoholic glow of a Friday night, while 'Roll the Dice' is the overall highlight, with a chorus so rad that it'll have you kicking things over just to show some fucking appreciation. 

All in all, it's a pleasant return to form for the blues duo, and given the outstanding songwriting and recording quality of this first effort, let's hope there's more to come soon. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Out Now
Rating: 4/5

I remember once my bandmate admitted whilst very drunk that he had a great secret. Casting an eye this way and that, he lowered his voice before speaking. “Dude,” he said in a confessional tone, “I think I like Team Sleep more than Deftones.” He stared into his drink as if it held some sublime wisdom.

Well, I think my would testify to the fact that I love the Deftones, but I think I'd have to agree; much of what I love about the Deftones is present (in a roundabout way) on Team Sleep, and my favourite Deftones album, Saturday Night Wrist, arguably was heavily influenced by Chino's experience of working with the musical styles he flirted with on Team Sleep.

Anyway, whilst I had high hopes for Team Sleep coming back with a second record, it looks like that's not going to happen, which is a damn shame. However, there's a silver lining; namely that he had the time to hook up with some of the dudes from Far (admittedly a band I'm not that familiar with) and form Crosses (or †††, if you prefer).

Essentially a more electronic iteration of all of Chino's avant-garde urges, apart from a fatter bass tone Crosses have much in common with Team Sleep. The electronica of opener 'This is a Trick' is balanced out by the dream-pop 'Option', reminiscent of Curve or SPC ECO, while 'Bermuda Locket' has a little bit of Smashing Pumpkins' 'Eye' about it, and with a Corgan vocal could easily be a track from their Adore-era output.

The highlight of the set though is 'Thholyghst', which is kind of a mash-up of 'Tomb of Liega' and 'Live from the Stage' from Team Sleep. It's menacing and atmospheric, and when it finally cuts loose, Chino's voice soars above washes of triumphant, Machina-era Pumpkins industrial fuzz. It's joyous, sending shivers down the spine as it brings a smile to the face.

The question is, with this under his belt, can Chino put a foot wrong? Well, yes. There's no physical release for the EP yet, and no news of an album to follow, which leaves me frankly with a thirst that cannot be slaked.

While I wallow in existential angst, I'd suggest you download a copy for free from their Facebook page