@joeysantiago: “Played golf in Dublin with rugby great Brian O’Driscoll and witnessed his first hole in one.”
And David Lovering doing magic in the International Bar.
And David Lovering doing magic in the International Bar.
The Ambience Affair are a two-piece from Meath and Dublin who craft layered but snappy indie rock out of an acoustic guitar and a human voice fed through a guitar loop pedal, complemented by drums and completed by an emotive and evocative lead voice. Their debut EP ran through two homemade, hand-painted editions and it’s gone now, but you can still get it digitally from Indiecater. Marc Gallagher plays drums and Jamie Clarke, who took the questions, is responsible for the guitar and singing.
The Ambience Affair – Fragile Things
Q 0.5 How are you?
I’m good thanks.
- David Thomas (Pere Ubu), quoted in Simon Reynolds, Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews (London: Faber and Faber, 2009) p. 65
Wait, what? A lo-fi guitar pop band with a repeating, unnecessary consonant in their name? That concept is completely new to me! My mind is blown.
But seriously, if there’s a market research demographic for “person who will probably end up at anything Foggy or Skinny Wolves put on featuring a lo-fi guitar pop band with a repeating, unnecessary consonant in their name”, I’m in it. I’m a stereotype. So be it. Some are better than others. At some stage I will stay away. But the added draw of a post-Tony Higgins era So Cow show made this particular one attractive enough to attend.
BATS are a science-core band from Dublin, and part of the Richter Collective. Science-core is a convenient term to use because it references more than one aspect of their music: their post-hardcore influence is filtered through a precise, mathy screen before emerging as a measured whole. They’re also (see what I’m about to do here) experimental. And their songs are about science. Their ethos is about science. At HWCH last year they solicited a round of applause for the work the good people at CERN were doing with the Large Hadron Collider. It’s not a gimmick. BATS have just released their first album, Red In Tooth and Claw, and their next Dublin headliner is in the Lower Deck in Portobello on October 8th, though you might see them supporting Jesus Lizard or Zu before then.
BATS – Credulous! Credulous! from Red In Tooth and Claw
BATS – These Ones Lay Eggs from 2007′s Cruel Sea Scientist EP
Q 0.5 How are you?
Fine thanks. A little head melted after being on the road with Blakfish.
I was at this gig, but decided not to write about it because I don’t want to be saying the same thing too often about a great Dublin band.
However, Cáit was there too, and took some pictures that capture it better than my bullshit could.
Foggy Notions has its screwed on right anyway. On Friday night in Dublin city centre, for only two euro more than it would have cost you to arrive after its conclusion to dance to Eton Rifles on the cement-clad Whelans playlist, Times New Viking arrived back in Dublin with Lovvers in tow as support.
Slacker punk 09. There was still a lot of empty space around the venue by 9 o’clock, which was mildly disappointing, but barely audible fuzz-drenched blown-out no-fi art school punk is understandably not everyone’s favourite genre of music. The venue filled up to somewhere around half-capacity, I’d say, but the only negative effect of this was on Lovvers’ stage energy.
Last time Lovvers were around, they were downstairs in the Boom Boom Room at hearing loss volumes, 50% of the band playing, Wounds-like, from the floor and the singer turning the act of singing barely above the swell of noise into a tactile, audience-bothering affair. They weren’t that loud this time, and they stayed on the stage. Doesn’t mean they’re not great though.
Channelling not-arsed US punk from the 1980s through a haze of mist, with ultra-melodic lead guitar lines popping up from time to time, they proved that they can be a very fun live band without literally having to dance into the front row every thirty seconds. Which is probably an advantage in certain scenarios.
No Romantics is still their catchiest, most exuberant and best song, even though the follow-up to Think, OCD Go Go Go Girls, is plenty melodic and exuberant. Lovvers can tend to fall below my radar, essentially because they’re English, but the gig was more than enough to make me search out the old promo CDs that first made me scratch my head and wonder if I liked them.
Times New Viking also once made me scratch my head and wonder aloud, “why don’t they just do it without the blanket of fuzz”. Those were famous last words before I noticed that Rip It Off was as good as it is regardless (or because of) the semantics of it. It married US slacker punk, Kiwi lo-fi and the sound of plugging a lead into the amp before the guitar. It’s carved out of pure, unadulterate punk noise like an impressionist painting, or more likely, a Jackson Pollock stinking equally of paint and piss.
Oh, Handjob Films has you covered again, by the way:
The time I reviewed Rip It Off for the unwieldly annual review project, my customary arguing-receptacle Dan claimed that “the three Vikings are complete chancers, and make both shallow pop and shallow noise music. And two shallows don’t make a deep end.” When Dan says things like that, it pains me 50% more than statements I disagree with normally pain me, because he always coats it so well in varnish, but nine months on, I still could not disagree more.
They’re not a power-trio because they’re not tight enough to be called a power-trio (even though they’re getting tighter each time), but there’s definitely too much sincerity and abandon about Times New Viking live to ever call them shallow. They just get drunk and play loud music. They don’t really bother with singing in tune because that would compromise the loudness and authenticity of their singing. Or something.
Their new album is, and it always hurts to say this but it’s sometimes necessary, NOT AS GOOD as the last one. But to be fair, it comes off much more immediate live than it does over fifteen recorded tracks. The energy in the room never dropped because they were playing a new song.
But guess what the highlights were. Yeah, you’re right. My Head. Faces on Fire. And the ultimate parting shot, the things-fall-apart communal noisy shout-fest that is End of All Things. When you actually have a song that refers to it being the end, it’s tough to follow it with an encore, and it’s even tougher when you’re battling an inevitable zombie-like swathe of weekend Shirts in Whelans, so there was no encore (much to the chagrin of certain booing gentlemen). But it didn’t matter.
One posi-fuzz-punk-fi band for twelve euro would be the going rate. Two feels like profit. More of this sort of bill, Foggy Notions.
This is obligatory [via Brooklyn Vegan]:
According to reliable sources, it’s finally happening in 2010! There will be multiple, possibly four, nights of shows at NYC’s Central Park Summerstage in September of that year. That could be part of a tour. That could be the end of a tour, the middle of a tour, or even the beginning of a tour, but it seems reasonable to speculate that they might make their official comeback at Coachella in April
Relevant quotes from an interview from last year:
“I would just wanna play songs that people liked. And maybe in the encore throw in some obscurities. But if you’re really gonna do that, I say pull all the plugs out. Because you’re going to be playing at some festival with today’s chart-topper, or somebody with at least four hits. So you might as well go up against them playing big songs that people are gonna like, instead of mucking around with the B-sides. I just wouldn’t be indulgent if I was going to do something like that, or too indulgent.”
“I don’t really see it happening for Pavement any time soon. There’s gotta be somebody who doesn’t do it. Besides us, and The Smiths.”
Things change, maybe. If this is true, start doing some thinking, Morrissey. Holy fuck though, I’m excited. Even though this might never get to Europe.
This is a feature I did on M83 for Analogue. It came from a very short and tired-sounding phone interview I did in my boxers one morning instead of going to college, but someone said they liked it once, so here it is.
Nostalgia is a more potent drug than novelty. It doesn’t matter how good, how exciting, how different a new album is, it will never take you by the shoulders and bring a tear to your eye, as it projects grainy old camcorder videos of the mind onto your bedroom wall. Everything is a little hazy, a little more perfect than it was in reality. But that’s the whole idea. You don’t love those teenage records because they really were that good (for the most part). You love them for the memories, for that feeling. For Anthony Gonzalez, also known as M83, his own very specific experience of being a teenager in the 1980s became the main influence for his most recent album, Saturdays=Youth.
“I think that 80s music is such a brilliant period for music history. It was the occasion for me to do a tribute to this 80s music, but also a tribute to my teenage years. Because the main theme of the album is being a teenager, and being a teenager means a lot to me.” A passing listen to Saturdays=Youth will reveal the heavy influence of bands such as Tears For Fears, Ultravox and Cocteau Twins. The areas Gonzalez mines aren’t what would be conventionally thought of as cool, even in as revisionist a decade as ours. But that’s not the point. This is pure liquid memories. “I had… no, I still have a lot of good memories of me being a teenager. The album was just a way to do a tribute to this period of my life that was so important to me.”
Beneath the surface, the central influence is the work of filmmaker John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink). It’s not unheard of for bands to cite filmmakers as influences, but not so many manage to recreate the feeling of those films musically. Gonzalez, it has to be said, gets it to a tee. “My music is very cinematographic”, he says, responding to a question about the shape-shifting quality to his music that helps it defy categorisation. “Because one of the big influences for me is movies and cinema. And I like to change directions each time. I like to make my music evolve and to experiment with new sounds. I like to propose something different to people each time.”
When M83 first appeared on the scene in 2003 with Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts it was their shoegaze aesthetic that gained attention. Tracks like ‘Run Into Flowers’ (“Give me pills and chemicals/I wanna run into…”) combined the blissful joy of drug experiences with the trick of building everything up until it all just came together into one mesh of volume washing out of the speakers. But as time went by, M83 left MBV behind to an extent, changing from album to album, with 2007’s Digital Shades, Vol 1 providing quiet, ambient sounds. Genre-hopping is the order of the day for Gonzalez. I wonder if it’s as pre-meditated as could seem to the casual listener. “Not really. What I usually do is I first compose a lot of songs, maybe twenty or thirty songs. I just pick the ones which I think can be very close in terms of atmosphere and ambience. Really, I just create songs, and then after, I pick the songs I love for the album.”
Being an electronic artist from France, you would think Gonzalez would be more involved in the scenes that appear and recede periodically from the main cities, particularly Paris. He seems to prefer working in isolation however, in his own studio in his home-town of Antibes on the Mediterranean coast. “I just tried five years ago to move to Paris for two years and I didn’t like it. It was very difficult for me to create music in Paris. When I came back to the south, it was directly easier to do music. I don’t know, maybe it’s the atmosphere of the city, and I like to feel that the sea is close to me. I like the sun, and I like when it’s shining, I like the landscapes in the south of France, and I feel confident enough to create music here. It’s a strange thing to say, but that’s my place to make music.”
“It’s not a problem if you’re living in a small city, as long as you do what you want to do, and as long as you are honest with yourself and with your music I think it can work.” Stifling himself musically is not something that Gonzalez is likely to do any time soon. With skills capable of turning everything from My Bloody Valentine to Ultravox into immediate, compelling and profound music, it’s a given that M83 aren’t going to stop experimenting with sounds any time soon. Here’s wondering what colour the chameleon will turn next time.
Some bands you just listen to because you like the sound of their music. Some bands, however, are a little more than that. They make you feel like you want them to get into a war so you can fight for them. They make you understand why scene kids get tattoos of lyrics in curly typefaces.
There are bands that you’re loyal to because it felt like they were loyal to you. Or that’s what it feels like with Sunset Rubdown anyway. Nearly five years ago, Snake’s Got A Leg was there summing up a particular black-hole type feeling. Random Spirit Lover walked me across Liffey bridges more times than I remember, and I probably listened to the Mending of the Gown more times in my first year of college than I actually talked to anyone. And this year, Dragonslayer happened to appear at the perfect time to attach to a particular, tumultuous state of mind too.
A sad fact and widely known, however, is that the most impassionate sound to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown. Nonetheless, Sunset Rubdown have stuck with me, and going to see them live has a little bit more attached to it than, say, Deerhunter or even Deerhoof. So I arrived in close to nine and stuck up the edge to the front to catch a glimpse.
The song that ended the last Sunset Rubdown gig in Crawdaddy, The Empty Threats of Little Lord, opened tonight. Intentional or not, it added an element of continuity and seemed to almost invite you to notice that, such is the quality of Dragonslayer start to finish, songs that were encores in 08 are right at the beginning in 09. And then, before Spencer was even finished denouncing the snake, Idiot Heart, Dragonslayer’s approximation of a danceable indie hit, began clacking sinisterly.
Nearly all of Dragonslayer made an appearance, though notably no Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh. From the back catalogue: Winged Wicked Things, glowing in poetry. The Taming of the Hands That Came Back To Life, upped in tempo slightly and bacchanalian in temperament. Mending of the Gown, through the live mill and still recalling the mad preacher at the pulpit. Trumpet Trumpet Toot Toot was manic too, as usual.
But the best song was a new one, and for me the best Sunset Rubdown song full stop, putting it into “favourite songs in general” in my loose mental filing cabinet as well. You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II). I spent yesterday before the gig tweeting Krug lyrics, but you’d find it tough to top “I’d like to watch the white flash of your heels as they take turns breaking the desert heat, and beckon me in languages I never learned” no matter where you looked. Close to six minutes, it takes turns round corners and through tunnels and off cliffs, but it’s about the peak of Spencer’s five year genius streak.
I always find it hard to write about bands that I’ve written about before at length, but in the end of year review where I vastly underestimated Random Spirit Lover a few years ago I said “Random Spirit Lover sees Spencer Krug split his time between being the demon ringmaster of some sort of keyboard-led musical circus noir and being the hilltop poet of both doom and everyday wisdom.” I stand behind that description still, two years on, now that it’s clearer than Random Spirit Lover is 100 times the record I thought it was, and that Sunset Rubdown have cemented themselves in lifetime pass territory as a Favourite Band
This might be gig of the year.