WASPs and tigers


John Peel: a man known for speed. How many times did we hear him get it wrong on a record, sometimes even sticking with wRongPM coz it sounded better? (if it sounds right, it can’t be wrong .. right?). Easily done. Not being schooled in the drumnbass arts meself, but tempted by a gnarly guitary Temper Temper collab with Gallagher Noel and the whole Goldie/Bowie thing, I jumped in and bought Goldie‘s 4-record Saturnz Return when it came out. Side 1 sounded OK but a bit off, but side 2’s Chico – Death of a Rock Star was way better, all mid-tempo breakbeating attitude and heavy on-the-level groove. Nice. Before even playing the rest of the album, I stuck that track on a tape I was finishing for a mate at work.

But Saturnz Return is a 45RPM record set, innit?

Which I learned soon after, but not soon enough to recall the tape (sorry Steve) and its revolutionary cock up. Still, it never did Peel any harm and anyway, Chico does sound pretty good on 33 (honest) so give it a go sometime, but flick the speed switch before the Bowie-sung Truth groans into half life – a downer on a good day, it’s last-breath deathly on the slowdown. 


All of this is a long way of introducing a record that you CANNOT play at the wrong speed because it’s been created to be played at both: Lost Chants by Kandodo McBain. The McBain is John, ex Monster Magnet, Kandodo is three bods from The Heads, and with this double-speed set-up we get two albums from the same set of instrumentals. The 45 version has track titles like Blowed Out, Holy Syke and Chant of the Ever Circling (Last Vulture), and their 33 equivalents are Really Blown Out, Holiest Syke and Chant of the Ever So Slowly Circling (Last Vulture). Even with the revs set to 45, Lost Chants ain’t the freak-frazzle burnout you might have expected from Heads mainstays – nah, this is a mellower kinda flow with overlapping waves of guitars… echoes of Hendrix Ladyland 1983/Moon Turn the Tide, Earth Pentastar, Julian Cope s.t.a.r.c.a.r., Carlton Melton, maybe even a less-fucked Tab by McBain’s magnetic ex. Guitar loaded without being riff heavy.

Three Trapped Tigers landed in Oxford in Nov and bugger me if there was no way of making it  – mildly gutting, but the Silent Earthling CD from Truck Store was some consolation and these instrumentals are definitely NOT Kandodo McBain high-plane drifters. Mathprog for the dance tent is what it is, all firecracker percussion and Battles/65daysofstatic/Aphex disorder with a Big Synth overload, and as right-now a production as you can imagine.


What were you doing on November 4th? Stacking up credibility points at Audioscope’s annual mindbender the day after Three Trapped Tigers?

Not me. Couldn’t make it this year, so while James Sedwards was no doubt killing it at Audioscope with Nought, I was doing the next best thing:

listening to WASP.

Ahem. But fuckityes, why not??? Blame Scream Until You Like It from the Hairy Halloween playlister – enjoyed revisiting that vid way too much, then wondered what happened to one of THE names of 80s metal: WASP, those crasser-dirtier-wronger descendants of Alice Cooper, the high-profile enemy of the State c/o PMRC. The Headless Children was my last brush with the Law-less way back in ’89, and that album – especially side 1 – is one whose lost-to-the-era greatness I’ll propagate to anyone anywhere. The Heretic (the Lost Child) and Thunderhead are metal classics in every sense and proof that WASP were capable of more than just fire-ejaculating sawblade codpieces…

…weren’t they? And so, after late night sampling, a WASP purchase was made just 27 years after the last one – KFD, aka Kill Fuck Die. ’tis a killer (WASP’s heaviest?) and blasts hard, taking you to a time when peeled-off solos by caricature heroes (Chris Holmes on this one) were the norm. Check the drum attack and the so-very WASP hook on Killahead … man, that track’s got some fury.


Back to 2016, but with another bunch of veterans with 80s roots: Metallica. In what seems to be even more controversial a move than getting haircuts or working with Lou Reed, they’ve gone and made a record that their fans* actually like!!!! Or at least, don’t hate. Yet. Maybe. Happy(ish) Metallica fans, the thing that should not be…who woulda thought? Still getting into Hardwired meself (also reopening tonnes of other ‘tallica sounds, as you do), but they’re the band of the moment and will be for a while yet. I really don’t get the level of criticism thrown their way, but more on the meninblack another day.

’til next time! 

(Monster Magnet Tab review posted on Head Heritage 2004)

*loose definition



This is what’s being said about Audioscope 2015. I saw it, on a poster. On the wall. In the men’s toilets.

And that is exactly the right place for such scrawl – in the pisser, coz this looks like another excellent line-up for the multi-band fest that lands in Oxford around this time every year. The question is, which arteest inspired the above comment? I think I can guess, but I’ll slip in a subtle subliminal clue P A R T  C H I M P at the right time.

Anyway, on with the show, which has this year moved from the Jericho Tavern to the Bullingdon on Cowley Road, and it’s the usual mix of know-a-couple/never-heard-of-them mix, so a real test of a band’s merit is: would you coff up and buy some merch? It would have been a yes for Demian Castellanos (didn’t catch openers Kone), except that there isn’t anything to buy. Shame. His pedal-heavy hum ‘n drone guitar instrumentals, all Gilmour space and John Martyn echo over Urthona beds, are an agreeably experimental start to the aft.

Next, Taman Shud, but not before a swift pint round the corner to wash down a colossal slice of carrot cake. Back to the band and … this is ‘necro psych’, is it? Hmmm. With grating vocal effects? Hmmmmmm. Not sure, summat a bit forced about this rage but maybe that’s just me. Even so, whoever tweeted that ‘taman shud are crushing Audioscope’ had a premature ejac-on. Rein it in, twitterers.

Kogumaza …now there’s a name to grapple with. Literally. Couldn’t remember it all day, not even after a couple of medicinal dark rums, but that-K-band are a pretty impressive exercise in pure rhythm as their guitar-drum-guitar set-up cooks a nice line in Dead Meadow psyche, Earth-ly drone and part moto/part marching beats, the guitarists slotting in like a two-piece jigsaw. Finishing with a bit o’ familiarity by way of the Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Kogumaza prove to be an oddly compelling guitar act.

Marconi Union push a deceptively appealing set of mid-tempo steadybeat electronica, embellished by a bit o’ live instrumentation. Worth checking further? Very probably, yes.

One of the great things about Audioscope is that the people who end up on stage are in the crowd beforehand, but the next act – the gently feral Dave Heumann – is nowhere to be seen. And he’s impossible to miss. Why no here? Because he’s outside, chanced upon by us when we embark on a sustenance dash, guiding a cranky-looking old white M-reg Ford Transit van (check those curtains) into a tight spot by the front door, ready to wheel the gear in.

As Mr H and his Arbouretum/Trembling Bells hybrid touring band, featuring proper muso Alex Nielsen on drums, do their soundcheck we anticipate a gently mesmerising 30-minute groove thick with American folk ‘n warmth on this cold cold Saturday…. but what we actually get is a set that’s a bit, well, lacking. And I don’t like to say that, ‘coz these guys have got pedigree, but it’s a tad underwhelming from what should have been the first star of the star half of the day.

At this point, it feels like a long time since Kogumaza played and Audioscope is in danger of slipping away from itself. Fuck mid-road pleasantry and fuck cakes (for now), WE NEED AN ARSE-KICKING. Who’s gonna do that then? Who’s gonna grab that stage and own it, eh?

That’ll be Part Chimp.

Frontman Tim Cedar wears a Killdozer T-shirt and if you haven’t heard Part Chimp then that shirt’s a filthy enough clue for the riotous unwashed shitstorm they fling our way, all at one-louder volume OF COURSE. Noisy without being noise, sludgy without being sludge and groovy without being groove, Part Chimp rock like drunks on a sloping stage on the back of a Land Rover, yet they always always hold it together, JUST. Second track Trad gets the crowd jumping, the band enjoy it as much as we do and it’s fair to say that Part Chimp have lit the touch paper … no, forget that. They torched it. Party music for heavy times (unless you’re the Toilet Scribbler mentioned at the start of this review).

And with that half hour blasteroid, Audioscope is back. Gazelle Twin next … the masked, faceless Gazelle Twin. Don’t know anything about GT beyond the blurb in the programme (intense, uncompromising, unsettling, you get the gist) so she’s the darkest of dark horses on this bill. Who knows what’s gonna happen? Not I, that’s for sure.

Standing motionless, hoodied and silhouetted on stage with an backdrop of twisted electronic doom – and THAT mask – it’s the mother of all creep-outs, but as soon as she starts to move … you gotta watch. I mean, You. Gotta. Watch. Gazelle Twin mesmerises, not just singing but inhabiting every single word, breath and motion over Burial-heavy beats and after-hours menace. She’s genuinely thrilling, and as captivating and complete a performance (and this is a performance, not a gig, make no mistake) as I can remember seeing. Seriously. Dense and unnerving and both non-human/too-human, she casts a wicked spell and tonight, Oxford falls right under it.

If Gazelle Twin cranked our senses to new highs then Warp stalwarts Plaid supply a carefully-managed comedown. Musically it’s the right end to the day, especially after that Chimp-Gazelle suckerpunch, but it’s also the music least suited to the seatless, blackened backroom of the Bully … Laptops Onstage ain’t a spectacle to stand and watch for an hour, and it’s one of a couple of times where the Tavern’s warm muso-room friendliness is much missed.

But Audioscope 2015 delivered the goods again, and there’s no doubt about who stole it – red hair, blue tracksuit, faceless: Gazelle Twin, the interloper who came, conquered and vanished into the night. Now tell me: just where do you go from there?

See Audioscope reviews for 2014 and 2013, and Audioscope’s Music for a Good Home 3 CD





Zero familiarity with any of this year’s line-up except New York’s junk electronic freakonauts Silver Apples means that Audioscope 2014 looks set to be a non-stop tale of the unexpected. Saturdays don’t get much better than this, and at 3.10 we see The Doomed Bird of Providence.

Let’s just repeat that name one more time: THE DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE.

Magnificent. Sounds like a bunch of Wheatsheaf-stained mantra-rock hairies, but they’re actually a septet of Oz/London (nick)cave-dwellers with a ramshackle line in Celt stomp and shanty swing. Take the hey-ho from Saint Nick’s Supernaturally, add a bit of Murder by Death and you might be somewhere near.

Earthling Society: with guitar trebled and wah-wahed to the max over blues-ish rhythm and cosmicspacerock keyboards, the Society open with their version of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda and pitch themselves as a quintessential Audioscope band. Better when they ditch the vocals and just rock out, you can see why they supported Julian Cope circa Dark Orgasm – there’s more than a whiff of the Archdrude’s back-then penchant for guitar excess, not to mention Brain Donor’s chasmic numbskullery.

After a swift pint down at the Bookbinders, we get ready for Wrangler.




Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire.

Shit, really??? Seminal name #1 of Audioscope 2014 then, and Wrangler do NOT disappoint. Retro-futurist industrial beats, dirty synths and near-dalek vocals make for a seedy brand of heavy electronica that’s got the Cabaret creep but with added rock-band thrust. Loud and ballsy, we like this lot. We like this lot A LOT. Audioscope 2014 is most definitely hotting up.

You Are Wolf cool the mood, but that’s a compliment … we are, quite simply, powerless to resist. Nothing like the ‘Bjork-does-folk’ tag in the programme, singer Kerry Andrew cuts a quietly captivating presence and compels everyone to listen – as in, really listen. With her storyteller’s charm and made-on-the-spot loops, and the band’s sparse yet experimental folk backdrop, you enter a world in every song. For the last track, she persuades everyone to join in (‘You’ve got to sing or it’ll be rubbish!’) while the loops build and build. You Are Wolf: biggest surprise of the day.

Telescopes up next. Big contrast and, once the initial thrill of high volume passes, big boredom. Telescopes are definitely louder and less tuneful than imagined, but all that early promise gets pissed away in their interminable search for a magic moment. Probably because they went up their own arse to look for it.

But no matter, that’s the fun of the fair, right? Some you get, some you don’t. Now it’s past 8pm and seminal name #2 is in the room:



But Jonny Greenwood IS here, such is Silver Apples’ revered status as electronic rock pioneers from way out left. And while no-one would dispute the timeless legacy of SA’s junk-lab space throb, tonight’s show is, in truth, a tribute to a once mighty force. Reduced volume robs the music of its disorienting power and carousel madness, and the sight of a slight (but sprightly) Simeon – born in 1938, go work it out – at the helm is nearly as weird as the music he makes. Still, the always-awesome Oscillation burns a killer earworm back into the head, and the man Simeon appears in fine fettle. Cheers to that, to long life, and to the very existence of their otherworldly oddness.

After the good-natured but muted Silver Apples, and the endless-aimless Telescopes, we’re in need of an action shot.

Matt Elliott, of Third Eye Foundation, is … not the guy to do it. Sorry. Just too slow, quiet and acoustic for this hour of the day, and we’re in danger of flagging. The yawning starts. Need a sit down. Back aches a bit. Only three things can save us: a blinder from Public Service Broadcasting (I’m not confident), a mini mince pie from the merchandise stand, and a massive bag of chips.

Pie (mince) and chips (loads) duly scoffed, we are upright and awake. Can the headliners deliver? For some people, PBS are THE reason for coming to Audioscope 2014. For others – me included – Silver Apples are/were the no-brainer attraction, and the fact that the room has emptied somewhat since Simeon/The Simeon departed kinda proves the point.

Jonny Greenwood has vanished.

But all caution is unfounded because Public Service Broadcasting deliver exactly the right kind of energy with tight guitar/banjo licks running over danceable moto beats and, of course, their public service films whizzing past in the background. For most of the set, I watch the band – all two of them – and let the films pass by without too much attention. For the last track, I watch the film – about people climbing Everest – and find that the music scores the drama spot-on. Is this true of every track? I should watch again.

Whether their film-nerd shtick has longevity is another matter, but tonight, Public Service Broadcasting put smiles on faces and prove themselves well worthy of top billing. Nice one.

And so ends another eclectic Audioscope: brilliant, again. Raising good money for Shelter, again. Now excuse me while I go play Wrangler’s LA Spark CD. Again.


Audioscope reviews of 2013 and 2015 here, and Audioscope’s Music for a Good Home 3 CD



AUDIOSCOPE – Music for a Good Home 3

When you go to the Audioscope all-dayer and your eyes wander across the posters advertising Audioscope’s past, they soon snap into sharp focus at the names who’ve taken the closing slot over the years – names like:

Califone, Damo Suzuki (twice), Karma to Burn, Wire, Don Cabarello, Clinic, Deerhoof, Four Tet, Six By Seven.

Impressive, no? And that’s before you scan down to the other bands on those bills such as Arbouretum, Explosions in the Sky, Grumbling Fur, Nought and so on and on and on.

So while you marvel at that rock procession, you kick yourself for what you might have missed over the years. My big miss was NOT seeing Damo Suzuki in 2012, opting instead for an Oxford gig of ‘avant metal and free jazz, Black Sabbath meets Sun Ra’.

It wasn’t though. It was fucking earache. Attended by about 9 people. Worst of all, we couldn’t even leave because the venue was too small for a discreet exit: we were trapped. Trapped by metallic free jazz. By the set’s end, even the drummer sensed our escapist longing and rejected the band’s suggestion of an encore. SENSE PREVAILED. But he was overruled … and the band played on.

But let’s get back to the beauty of Audioscope. Once you get rid of the flashbacks and look around the event – now tucked upstairs at the Jericho Tavern – you again try and square it with the names on those posters.

How can an event that’s this unassuming, this low key, manage to bag bands of that stature year after year?

And yet, somehow, it does. That’s the magic. Punching well above its weight, Audioscope is surely the Bruce Lee of one-day festivals.

Now we have the latest Audioscope album, Music for a Good Home 3, and it’s an even bigger version of those live line-ups. A website link is on its way but first, check this for an opening one-two from the album:

Amon Tobin. John Parish.

Shit me, is that alone worth the price of entry or what??? Tobin’s cooling, gothic downbeats Twin-Peaking into Parish’s sliding Americana is as sublime a start as you could want, and it all ends 29 tracks later – yep, 31 tracks for a bargain 7 quid – with a ragged, 18-minute grope towards lo-fi salvation by Magik Markers, the spirit of Crazy Horse and Brain Donor infusing their tech-free reps.

Elsewhere on the record there’s a stack of goodness to digest. Grumbling Fur, Arbouretum’s David Heumann, Wolf People and Six by Seven count among the higher-profile bands, yet the pleasure of this expansive comp is unearthing the stuff you don’t know or haven’t heard. Karhide’s explosive chase/attack, Dirty Beaches’ beat-less drones and Barn Owl’s intense immersive swell are just a few new discoveries, for me at least, but that’s just the beginning. What about Danny Paul Grody’s timeless acoustic fingerpickings? Or Chrome Hoof’s eccentric precision metal?

Time to send you on your way, methinks – get the full listing for Audioscope: Music for a Good Home 3 right here and download the album. You’ll enrich your life and do your bit to help others too, because Audioscope’s proceeds go towards Shelter.

Then spread the word and tell your friends to buy it, ‘coz compilations this good really shouldn’t go unheard.

See Audioscope reviews for 2013, 2014 and 2015

LISTING SHIPS – The Hayling Island Sessions

You wanna bit of instrumental rock action? Tight AND fluid, amped by post-punk sparks and propulsive bass? Then clamber up on Oxford’s Listing Ships.

Having had the privilege of seeing these guys live – one of those supercharged support slots where a band you’ve never heard before just blows your head for half an hour – I can say that, despite the sombre motions their name infers, they’re not afraid to let it fly. Proficient and ambitious yet in no way ramming 10-ton egos in yerface, it’s no surprise they’ve become a bit of a fixture at Audioscope in recent years.

Describing themselves as ‘nautically-inspired post-krautrock’, your first thought on listening to the Hayling Island Sessions is … where’s the latter? Watery themes abound, there’s no doubting that – track titles include American Steam Company, The 100 Gun Ship, Baychimo and Then Venice Sank so you get the idea – but even the barest of classic Neu! grooves on endless repeat ain’t here, nor is the loose-limbed fringe funk a la Can. Maybe it emerges more blatantly on subsequent records or maybe the post tag renders all references void but this much is true: there’s zero scope for trancing out and drifting off here. First, the tracks aren’t long enough. Second, they’re just too restless to lock onto a single repetitive hook.

Opening track Alba Adriatica builds from Explosions in the Sky delicacy to climactic fuzz-out and it’s a hard-rocking start but really, it’s when you get to American Steam Company that these Sessions REALLY kick off.

Fugazi must be an influence, or at least an inspiration. Voluminous, rolling basslines wooze while guitars surge and break with the same roomy dynamism as the Dischord giants, deftly shifting from impending turbulence in the first half to sheltered calm in the second. Then Venice Sank flits between paranoid twitchfunk skitter and wind-tunnel oomph – massive, a proper highlight. Equus Ager takes you from melodic promise to Pumpkins-esque overload without you even noticing.

So while the Hayling Island Sessions isn’t an epic in duration terms – 7 tracks proper plus the dialogue/drone skit Nutcracker Six and two remixes (the Rackham mix and the Karhide Bass Bass mix) – there are more than enough ideas jammed into these taut, multi-part pieces to keep it fresh after a stack of listens. Definitely a worthy intro to a band who WILL be on a stage near you soon.

AUDIOSCOPE 13: a partial review

12 bands in 12 hours from 12pm til 12am. That’s Audioscope 13, the annual Oxford all-day gig that raises money for Shelter by coaxing music fans out on a cold November night. How? With some shit-hot knowns, unknowns and soon-to-be knowns, that’s how. In its 13-event history, the late-night closing spot has been grabbed by the likes of Wire, Six by Seven, Damo Suzuki and Karma to Burn while countless bands have done the day shifts.

Unfortunately, the day shifts are beyond my grasp this year so let’s dive in unfashionably late to the Jericho Tavern and see what happens. All bands are new to me, in sound if not in name.

First, the news. Turns out that Thought Forms had to cancel due to illness. Now I’ve never heard them but their flyer bio (‘… Sonic Youth playing doom’) is the best of the lot and would surely win a prize if i) there was one ii) they turned up. Neither was the case but even if that bio is only half right, Thought Forms sound compulsory. Then again, you can’t believe all you read in promo bios – see Pet Moon later.

Eat Lights Become Lights are rhythmic nirvana for kosmiche heads. Two drummers – one sitting, one standing – hammer a relentless loco-motion that’s ultra repetitive, very Neu! and very nearly trancelike, shot through with bass, samples, drones and no vocals. At their best when Neil Rudd’s circular melodies build up to spacerock wah wah blowouts, this stuff really works live. Rave music for rock fans? Very possibly.

After the unpretentious, anonymous potency of ELBL, Pet Moon are an immediate contrast. Synth-heavy hook-heavy pop with R&B vox and fringe distractions (hair, not music) mean this band look way out of place on this bill at this hour. The dark-ish electro/Numan current is enough to divert at first but those currents fade fast when we’re hit with a mawkish pile of BALLS. Followed by another one. All benefits of the doubt evaporate and everything starts to irritate – the skinny jeans, the rolled-up t-shirt sleeves, the fringes, the Pop Idol frontman, the white vest …. no. Just. No. I leave them to it.

After the pretentious impotency of Pet Moon, Esben and the Witch are a total volte-face whose gothic tales transmogrify into huge post-rock walls of sound. I don’t know their albums and I don’t doubt their songs are more nuanced on record, but right now the Witch is a beast. ‘nuffsaid.

Closing the day and the event are Califone, the evening’s veterans. They’re late. Turns out that a guitar has gone missing – lost or stolen, we’re not sure yet – and that means ‘… it’s gonna be hard to play some of the songs. Has anyone seen a guitar?’ the singer asks.

‘It’s in a soft cover with Fender on it. The guitar is red-’

‘Is that it?’

A lone voice from the crowd. He points to a spot 5 feet behind the bassist. In that spot is a soft guitar case, solid in form, propped against some hardware. Bassist picks it up. Turns it, slowly – the word Fender appears. Opens the bag.

Yes. It is.

Califone then put their collective doofus to one side and turn in a 45-minute set that flits from piercing noise shards to dusty Americana, slide grooves, low-key acoustics and timeless classic rock with not even a bat of an eye’s lid. They cover a tonne of ground in their shortened stint but, sadly, not enough to make use of the red Fender. It stays in the corner, untouched.

And that’s the end of Audioscope 13 at the Tavern – a brilliant night of reps, vests and guitar thefts where a three-piece Witch nabs top plaudits.

See Audioscope reviews for 2014 and 2015, and Audioscope’s Music for a Good Home 3 CD