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Saturday, 23 November 2019

EARTH/ THE WOODENTOPS/ 10,000 RUSSOS (GIG-GOING ADVENTURES)

EARTH
The Old Market, Hove, Sat 17th Nov


Earth aren’t a band to do things in a hurry. Five years since their last album and seven since they last showed up round here they’re finally back. In the intervening time they’ve reduced in size, removing the cello and shedding something of the Country influence.

And if this is a back-to-basics, reset moment then Earth are primarily known as a heavy band. But, though the music does at times resemble slowed-down Black Sabbath, the sound isn’t thick or ominous. Firstly there’s a melodic element, sometimes partnered with the riffs, some times combined with them. (We may need some new portmanteau term like ‘rimoldy’.)

And there’s a great sense of spaciousness to it, particularly in the slo-mo drum shuffles of Adrienne Davies. It’s as if the beats are no more important than the spaces between them, her natural pose arms poised and aloft. Though Carlson is the only constant member of the band, Davies has been on board since the band reformed in 2001. And she’s as prominent as him on both the gig poster and cover to the new CD, ’Full Upon Her Burning Lips. (The album was recorded as a duo with Carlson filling in the bass parts, though they’ve added a bassist here.)

The CD quotes George Santayana, “the earth has music for those who listen”, and I’d guess the title alluded to some kind of love affair with our home planet. Which may well be putting it better than I can. In today’s bid for Pseud’s Corner, let’s say the band can channel that music and make it audible to the rest of us. Tracks become something akin to landscapes, places to hang out. You don’t want them to come to a close just so you can linger longer. A friend told me he’d listen to the album on train trips to London, as the Downs rolled past the window.

In short this is a heaviness with a measuredness to it, less of a sonic assault and more like protective arms wrapped around you. It certainly has a more calming quality than all that New Age crap, which just sounds like a tap dribbling. They’re clearly a band who need to take their time about things, but hopefully they’ll be back sooner next time round.

From London, where they seem to have found a venue also called Earth…



THE WOODENTOPS
The Con Club, Lewes, Sun 10th Nov


The Woodentops were last sighted, at least by me, four years back. And last seen before that some thirty years ago, as the band dropped out of my orbit and all the good music made in the early years of indie got buried under a deluge of excruciating tweeness.

I hoped to enjoy this gig more than the last, which had focused on the album ’Giant’, which wasn’t a personal favourite, and where they hadn’t played ‘Well Well Well’, which was. Whereas this tour is named after that very track. As things turned out, I enjoyed that gig more than I expected, and found this an oddly uneven affair. At times it would stray towards ramshackle, then at others become intently focused, firing on more cylinders than they seemed to possess.

The juxtaposition was encapsulated by the encore. After audience requests, they agreed to play ’Plenty’. But it didn’t really come together and they decided, seemingly on the hoof, a better finale was required. And served up the most blistering track! I wondered how I could have possibly have forgotten this sparkling gem, and later discover it’s a new number, ‘Stay Out of the Light’. (Well five years old, that counts as new for me.)

Several tracks started out in stripped down fashion, so much so they made James Brown sound rococo. ‘Well Well Well’ itself began with frontman Rolo reciting the words. They’d then assemble themselves mid-flight before taking off for orbit. Rather than cut loose they did the very opposite, grew more and more intense and driven. And a large part of their appeal always was their ability to straddle both poptimistic exuberance and Velvets-level savagery, a band for every occasion.

At the time I wondered if the quality variation might be down to numbers being taken out the oven too early. This was apparently only the second gig of the tour, and as Rolo cheerily informed us the last night they’d had to do without a sound check. (Yes the tour poster makes it the third, don’t ask me!) Then I read my earlier review where I enthused over that being the first night of the tour, with everything served fresh and piping! Some things may be meant to stay a mystery…

Are you ready now for ’Why Why Why’, from Glasgow..? (A different track to ’Well Well Well’, they must just have a thing for triplicate.)



10,000 RUSSOS
The Hope, Brighton, Sat 9th Nov


Hailing from Porto,10,000 Russos cite as influences Neu! and Suicide. Which is a fine pedigree, but probably underestimates the degree to which they’re rooted in noise. To misquote Alan Bennett, they are not a smooth but a hairy band. There are vocals, but distorted and relatively low in the mix, clearly not the point of the thing.

In these high-tech days pedals can transform a guitar sound, something the band have clearly embraced. The guitarist seems to spend as much time stamping on pedals as strumming strings, indeed at times he squats down and pedals become his primary instrument. But those effects are never used as bells and whistles, instead they’re incorporated into the overall sound.

The guitar sometimes acts as a sonic drag, an immovable object cutting against the irresistible force of the rhythm section. Then, just when you’ve got used to that, flipping over to unite with them in a sonic Blitzkrieg. Noise, space and garage rock, all in one pulsing package.

This was another Drone Rock records showcase, like the Carlton Melton gig from around eighteen months ago. And like last time they crammed in five bands, of which I managed to catch the main four. I think I may have liked Psychic Lemon more this time than last, perhaps something to do with their newfound My Bloody Valentine influence. They may even be aligned with the Cosmic Dead as a band so good they only consider it fair to saddle themselves with a bad name.

Gnob also impressed me more than last time, and I was also taken by new (to me) outfit Yeti. Drone Rock records look to the at the centre of a thriving scene.

From Manchester, a couple of nights later…

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