The Roadhouse – a no-nonsense grimy gritty-shitty juke-joint that dishes up its rock like a hot greasy fry-up. Its name always makes me think of that late 1980s film of the same title (‘Roadhouse’, obviously) with block-of-wood-faced petite hard-man Patrick Swayze in it. The one where he fights drunken redneck bullies and beats them up with his flashing fists and sprightly dancing moves. No such action tonight though (fortunately, for I felt a little tired after being at work all day and didn’t really fancy close-quarter combat), just a small, damp and gratifyingly nerdy-looking audience (who wouldn’t have been out of place on ‘Robot Wars’) gathered together in bookish unison to have their minds warped by insane electronica. They got their wish.
Ore were up first. Two big-bearded black-t-shirted-doom-type tuba players seated on chairs and a percussionist who didn’t really have to do much until the climax (so he stood there and looked out like a tall owl). We are talking long and very low tuba notes oscillating ominously around the room, eventually building into a hypnotic sense of (for me anyway) an alternative Yorkshire where local brass band members wear Melvins and Earth t shirts and smoke Moroccan black in their pipes instead of Old Holborn. I loudly uttered the occasional ‘Ow do?’ and ‘Aye lad’ in order to check the continued effectiveness of the Yorkshire-fication of their doom tuba-drone, and partly to make my wife laugh.
I doubt the players in Ore intended this allusion to our most broad-acred county in their music, but for me it was an ever-present (and inner-mirth-inducing) concept that I couldn’t escape. I had myriad visions of sweeping green Pennine hills, of stern-faced cloth-capped owd men gathered for a pint of bitter with their fine whippets by their legs, of straight-laced God-fearing families sitting down on a Sunday to gorge on bloated puddings filled with meat and veg. All of this set to the music of Ore. In a sense, these lot were the most psychedelic act of the night. And as an additional note, it is good to hear music that isn’t the well-worn formula of stringed instruments and drums and vocals, however truly great that formula is. Experimentation is brave, and by the end of their continuous-piece set, those who had been patient listeners were rewarded by a rather meditative progression the like of which I had personally not experienced since the hallowed drone of Sunn0))) last year.
Gnod, who have recently featured in a more prominent position in the music media (justifiably so, they are modern-day psychedelicists of eminent note), surprised me a little by playing an entirely electronic set using little console things with knobs on and with huge ravels of leads emanating from them (what the fuck do you call them?), like clunky Dr Who technology from the seventies. The various members of this ever-revolving collective huddled and leant over them, twiddling, fiddling , turning and sweating on said knobs, dials and switches with mind-altering affect. What a treasure it is to have Gnod on our North Western doorsteps too, holed up in their Islington Mill art commune like it’s Munich in 1971, making limitless music that defies genre but is uniformly interesting at its weakest to absolutely cortex-fuckingly brilliant at its greatest (check the ‘Science & Industry’ album for Gnod at their quasi-metal-talismanic-tribal best). At first I was conscious of the feeling that I wanted the Gnodsters to get ugly and heavy and use noisy six string guitars and real bass guitars and real solid drums like they did when I saw ‘em last year (twice – both blisteringly intense shows) but as the minutes passed by I saw the good sense in this kind-of retro-set (harking back to the 1990s for me and the proliferation of ecstasy and dance beats everywhere in England) that reminded me of what Hawkwind (I had to mention them didn’t I? soz) used to do post-eighties by flitting between heavy cosmic mantra-rock and electronic bass generated pseudo-rave for fuck-heads in fields in Somerset. Yep, it worked a beauty, particularly as Author & Punisher continued this weltering orgy of electronica. Continuity you see. Makes stuff neat and satisfying.
Tristan Shone of San Diego (aka Author & Punisher) looked a bit like Tom Hanks when he had his DIY mouth-piece-cum-grill-mic in front of his gob (modulating gob-grill?), and this made me laugh inside. However, there is nothing laughable about this super-scary uber-doomfuckery from a hellish Cronenberg-inspired future in a parallel dimension where Orwell’s vision of modernist entrapment is reality. The bass-warped waves of horror that shuddered through the audience, racking their poor blighted bodies, were so extreme in their undulating precision that no-one in their sane mind could ignore this crazy man and his death-swoop sounds of circuit-fried violence. Like the semi-Davros of torture porn, bodily caged in his own sordid designs of beat and scream generating home-made equipment, and playing plenty of stuff off the sublime and crackers ‘Ursus Americanus’ album, A&P wrenched out the soulless soul of industrial metal that is the creative obsession of Justin Broadrick and subjected his desolate concept to stark absolutes of both sinister creeping ambience and horrific earth-quake rhythm. Utter and unrelenting malignance coupled with blackest soul-wrenching despair are just two ways to try to describe A&P’s aural nightmare, like the imaginary soundtrack to what is going on inside the fear-fucked head of a person who has just awoken to find himself chained to a filthy radiator in an empty subterranean room under one sickly bare light bulb, a captive hostage of vicious politico-religious fanatics, who is soon to be facing slow beheading whilst held down in a pool of piss and shit. It’s certainly that kinda vibe.
Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards