Posts Tagged ‘funk’

PERE UBU / VARIETY LIGHTS – Liverpool, Eric’s, 24/04/2013

June 4, 2013

Those eyes. Tiny black holes. Stare into ‘em too long and you start to feel yourself ebbing away, drifting into zen-like surrender to the magic of the sound. Then David Baker blinks suddenly, as if emerging from a trance, and you realise Variety Lights are performing subtle spells that leave you utterly bound to their dark magic. On record, their warped electronic rattle is disorientating, but transposed to a live set it’s earth-shattering. There’s a borderline gothic edge to their compellingly odd psychedelia, making it both grandiose and eerie; it’s the product of an imagination acceding to its fondest ideals. Songs like ‘Starlit’ and the majestic ‘Feeling All Alone’ reverberate with skronking synth and an unnerving sense of wonder, while guitarist Adam Franklin (yup, he of Swervedriver) drives ‘Establishment’ into a dizzy wall of vertiginous twang – like a Chris Isaak song left on a radiator. Variety Lights are something very special indeed.

It’s a tough act to follow, but then again, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas has never been one to care what other folks might think. Decked out in beret and braces, he explains that we are merely spectres inhabiting his dream world – you can’t really argue with that, so let’s go along with it. The landscape mapped out by his singular psyche is freakishly, irresistibly colourful; the taut funk of ‘Love Love Love’ is punctured by irascible sheets of robotic noise, while the four-note cycle of ‘Mandy’ finds itself repeatedly pounded into glistening new shapes over the course of seven minutes. 35-year-old classic ‘The Modern Dance’ appears almost nonchalantly in the middle of the set, igniting the dancefloor and reminding us that Thomas’ vision has always been uniquely focused. This is art that’s beautifully dense and overpoweringly complex, but still gives your tail-feather a darn good shake. Incredible.

(Originally published by The Fly, 01/05/2013)

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IL SOGNO DEL MARINAIO – Liverpool, Eric’s, 05/03/2013

June 4, 2013

Things were different last time Mike Watt came to Liverpool, in support of his fourth solo album Hyphenated-Man. A collection of herky-jerky spasms in the vein of the Minutemen, his legendary 80s outfit that expanded the horizons of hardcore, the record was a simultaneous rediscovery and affirmation of the idiomatic singularity that defined his early career. With new ‘uns captivatingly despatched, we were then treated to an encore of fan favourites from his former band’s catalogue – a punk-funk dance party with nostalgia as the icing, not the cake.

This time, Watt may be the draw, but whatever it says on the poster, he ain’t the whole of the act. Il Sogno del Marinaio’s Stefano Pilia originally approached San Pedro’s favourite son about the prospect of recording and touring Italy together way back in 2009, and it’s only now that we’re seeing the fruits of their endeavours. But that’s enough context – what does it do? Well, quite simply, as much as it possibly can. This is incredible music, lurching from dissonant post-punk racket to funked-out groove to free jazz-inspired dexterity and more. ‘Zoom’ rolls by on a gently loping bassline, while Pilia uses a bow to tease freakish atonality from his guitar, and Andrea Belfi skips subtly across the kit with elastic-limbed rapidity. ‘Partisan Song’ just plain rocks, sounding like a riff Tim Kinsella and Sam Zurick might have dreamed up for one of their mathletic Joan of Arc spin-offs. Every song gives voice to a collective imagination set free and doing what the hell it wants.

The effect is wonderful. Il Sogno del Marinaio project movies onto the canvas of my mind: one minute I’m in a scuzzy backstreet bar straight out of dystopian cyberpunk anime. Next I’m wandering the desert of a western as directed by Jim Jarmusch; poignant in its monochrome starkness. Suddenly I’m lying in a field, gazing at dark clouds overhanging the cold earth, feeling the rain tapping softy against my face. I’m Roberto Benigni singing sweet inanities behind bars. I’m Robert de Niro driving the diseased streets of New York. I’m everyone and everywhere, lost to the illustrative flow of the sound. See, this music is cinematic and visual, not just noise but allegorical narrative, as emotive and viscerally beautiful as any words or physical action. I am so fucking in love with this band.

They round things off with a blistering cover of The Stooges’ ‘Fun House’, which closes with the frontman holding his bass aloft to yell, “Start your own band!” You can practically hear hearts being crossed as everyone present mentally promises to do so, whilst also suspecting that it couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as what we’ve witnessed tonight. If Mike Watt wants to play songs from his formidable back catalogue, I’ll be there. But man, if he and his equally-impressive bandmates want to make new music as richly powerful as this, I’d almost be happy to never hear a note off Double Nickels On The Dime again. Il Sogno del Marinaio rule.

(Originally published by Get Into This, 10/03/2013)