Monday, 19 October 2015

Joygaze!–Gig and Album reviews, Pinkshinyultrablast, The Go! Team+Glockabelle


Pinkshinyultrablast, 11th May 2015

One of my most played albums of this year has been Everything Else Matters by St. Petersburg shoegaze outfit Pinkshinyultrablast. So it was great to be able to catch them with regular gig buddy the Bossman on their first UK tour when they played at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen on the 11th May. And yes, I am a little embarrassed that they’ve since embarked on a second UK tour and it’s taken me months to write this! So I’m treating this as an album review too (which is also late!)

They play hook laden shoegaze, punctuated by blasts of razor sharp guitars and overlaid noise, the album itself is a beautiful thing. The opening song “Wish We Here” starts delicately, with its vintage analogue synth sound pulsing over you, singer Lyubov’s fragile otherworldly vocals, then a steady building, a marimba beat, synth bass, another layer of synths… then it hammers you, (lots of) guitars, bass, crashing drum runs, more vocals. It’s a fantastic album, great to run to on a darkening moor, it feels like a winter album.

I imagine they write in a shack, holed up in a snowy pine forest somewhere in the Baltic and their music permeates through the ice encasing their studio, firing out refracted light and colour into the night sky. They are an aurora borealis band, people of the sky consigned to live on the ground. What am I talking about? I have no idea, so buy the album. You’ll get it.

Photos © Mel Melis

You can never have too many effects gadgets (below)

Other standout tracks include Marigold and the fun Holy Forest, with it’s quirky beat and spiky riffs. The video is the band’s homage to martial arts.

Pinkshinyultrablast–Holy Forest

Played live the songs are more savage, noisy, the kind of wonderful ear battering you expect from an intimate venue like the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. The last time I was there was to see Roman Remains, the Duke Spirit side project, which I reviewed here.

The Go! Team + Glockabelle, June 17th 2015, The Village Underground

As well as the late review of Pinkshinyultrablast, I also wanted to review the return of the ever brilliant and fun Go! Team. I think I’ve seen them six times, maybe seven, probably four of those times with my friend John from work, who I also went to this gig with. They are almost certainly the band I’ve seen the most times out of all the gigs I go to. Why? Because they are the most fun live act you can ever go and watch, that’s why. See my review+photos from a gig they played at Icelandairwaves in 2006, here and here.

But before I wax lyrical about the Go! Team, special mention must go to their support act Glockabelle. Ten things I know about Glockabelle.

1. She’s French. She sings in French.

2. She plays retro Casio-tone organs. Several of them. At the same time. Really fast. Impressively fast.

3. She also wears thimbles and plays metal glockenspiels. I mean made of metal. Not like heavy metal, although I’m sure heavy metal glocks could easily be part of her repertories. (I initially thought they were xylophones, but lucky I googled it and learnt xylophones are wooden and glockenspiels are metal… phew no-one will realise I’m stupid… seeing as “glock” is in her performer name!)

4. Her drummer was dressed as a cat. He hid under a blanket during the gig and the audience were encouraged to entice him out.

5. She has covered Bach, The Ramones and the Tetris theme

6. Her songs are eccentrically brilliant. Regardé

Wolf BBQ by Glockabelle

7. One of them is about a washing machine and contains the lyrics “splish splash, splish splash… aaaahhhhh!”.

8. She sells her EP on a stylish personalised USB. I bought one. It’s the future.

9. She was very gracious and had a photo with me. Even though it looked like I was wearing hideous novelty braces (that’s my bag shoulder strap, honest!)

10. She sings one of the songs on the fab new Go! Team album (Catch me on the rebound)

Which brings us nicely to the Go! Team.

Another album I’ve been playing again and again this year is The Scene Between by the Go! Team. It’s a near perfect bundle of joygaze energy (if no one has invented the term Joygaze, I’m claiming it ™) – a similar template to their previous offerings, danceable, endearing, noisy, jangly, guitary, heart warming songs and beats which make you grin from ear to ear and even… dance (not me though, ok, a bit). Songwriter Ian Parton has refreshed the line up, he’s kind of like Professor X of the X-Men, except he plays about seventeen instruments instead of reading minds and has a red and white striped “where’s Wally” tee shirt instead of a wheelchair. There are some new superheroes in his band, only the effervescent and irreplaceable Ninja has been retained. Added to Ninja and Ian there’s Cool Geography Teacher, Disney Princess, Joan Jett with immaculate hair (circa 1977) and Road Warrior Drummer Lady (or Sam, Angela, Cheryl and Simone respectively). The new album is better, more polished, more addictive than previous offerings. And they clearly love playing live! A real treat is The Art of Getting By, an uplifting anthem reminiscent of a 1970s fizzy drink commercial telling us to get on, love each other and do huggy stuff whilst drinking a refreshing beverage. All the songs and little skits are great.

Smattered through the live set were the live favourites as well as the new songs. Audience participation is optional, but I’ve never seen people not engage. I imagine if audience members didn’t, then I’m sure Ninja would reveal a taser with lovely pink flowers drawn on it and zap some electrified love into their twitching suddenly dancing carcasses.

Here is a bunch of clips I took at the gig. Best viewed full screen as I’m useless at filming.

The Go! Team, Village Underground, June 2015


Finally, a couple of photos. Can’t wait to see them live again.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

It’s October, October means Ray Bradbury


“He had never liked October. Ever since he first lay in the autumn leaves before his grandmother's house many years ago and heard the wind and saw the empty trees. It had made him cry, without a reason. And a little of that sadness returned each year to him. It always went away with spring.

But, it was a little different tonight. There was a feeling of autumn coming to last a million years.

There would be no spring."
― from "The October Game" in Long After Midnight

I was deeply saddened when Ray Bradbury died in 2012, part of my childhood died too. In my sadness I was thrilled to see writers such as the lovely Joanne Harris (who I also greatly admire as a writer who captures the essence of the human spirit) write with such love about him.

He was, in my opinion, incorrectly classed as a science fiction writer, but he wasn’t particularly. His short stories, especially in what might be considered his “pulp” era, in the 40s and 50s were masterworks of fiction, ahead of their time in both pathos and sometimes unsettling darkness.

He wrote about the human spirit, kindness, love, tragedy, adversity. He made you feel. Made you love his characters, root for them. The fact that his protagonists were often in fantastical scenarios or worlds, was secondary to his craft. And his craft was the poetry in his writing and the fullness of his characters.

I’ve read lots of “tips for writers” over the years, but when I write, I think of it in terms of a reader, what do I want to read? I don’t (usually) want to be left feeling cold, I want to be engaged. I want to read about people I care about, people I feel empathy for, people, who even if they fail, (because life is like that), I know that even with their flaws, their intentions were good, even if their actions sometimes were not. I am a child of comic books, of clear boundaries between good and bad, as I’ve grown older I’ve learn the hard way, there is no black and white in life, just different shades of grey. In a book though, you can create a world of your own. Sometimes these worlds are fairy tales, and remember fairy tales are often dark and bloody, but also sometimes these worlds are steeped in reality, of sadness, violence, or even the mundane, where someone plods through life, but dreams of something better, of true love, of breaking out of monotony, of fame or infamy. All of these types of stories appeal, because they concentrate on people and the anguish, joy, love and missed opportunities of their lives.

Bradbury captured that, the inner darkness, but also the light. There is always hope in his stories. Mostly…

The quote above came from a book I haven’t read yet, I saw it shared on social media, and thought “wow, I wish I wrote that” (I don’t have a highbrow alternative to that statement!). But it’s true. There is something tragic and beautiful about that passage which engages me, wants me to read more. So tonight I bought the book it came from, online, second hand, because it doesn’t appear to be in print.

Which leads me onto my favourite Bradbury Book, The October Country, a selection of dark, borderline psychological horror stories. October is a funny month, it’s the kiss of winter, the sleep of summer. I went for a run and saw the gold of dead leaves slowly falling from the trees and felt an ache of that loss. That soon the darkness will come, the remaining flowers will wither, the days will shorten further, and I will feel the gloom of the season. The October Country is a book for Autumn. I will read it again. As I often have.

I wrote above that there is always hope in his stories.. mostly. Well the October country has some deeply unsettling stories. Like Skeleton, where a man becomes obsessed and terrified of the bones within him. Or The Man Upstairs, a really quite disturbing story of a child’s detachment from reality and how he can moralise committing a heinous crime.. or was it a crime? The Veldt is a masterpiece, exploring technology yet to be developed, but also childrens’ propensity to explore, sometimes to their own detriment or those of their loved ones.

But there are also lovely gentle stories, like the Homecoming, which has the most heart wrenching ending, I wrote a little more about it here. There Was an Old Woman, who refuses to die, even when Death pays her a visit. He gets an earful. And the Emissary, about a bedridden boy who explores the outdoors through the adventures of his faithful dog.

Bradbury had depth and feeling. In one of his later collections, he was in his late 80s I believe, I remember a story he wrote about a mother who lost her son in an accident, but knowing her son had donated his heart, made it her mission to find the recipient. All she wanted to do put her ear to this man’s chest, so she could listen to her son’s heartbeat one last time. So simple yet such a beautiful premise. It made me cry.

Thank you Ray Bradbury, for helping me read, and making me want to write.