Having graced the stage of the inaugural Offset Festival back in 2008, the organisers decided it was probably time they invited Chrome Hoof back, this time to the main stage. Yesterday saw the 22 legged disco-prog space travellers set down their cosmic spacecraft in the woodlands of Hainault to show each and every other band how to really put on a show. Ripping through tracks off their latest and greatest album Crush Depth, including a storming “Crystalline” and an inhumanly heavy “Third Sun Descendant”, they inspired many people down the front to throw some frankly bizarre shapes while people at the back were hypnotised by the shapes being thrown by shamanic front woman Lola. Ending with the always stunning “Tonyte”, on Sunday the hipsters of Hainault had no idea what just hit them.
In which our guest blogger, Little Annie, regales us with tales from her unpublished biography. In this chapter, the little lady from New York travels far far away across the ocean to take up residence with a gang of British anarchist hippie punks called Crass. They call her “Annie Anxiety”.
TEETERING DOWN the single file country ‘road’ that snaked its way to Crass’ Epping Forest home in my faux Frederick’s of Hollywood stilettos and dragging my equally glitzy chi-chi drag behind me, I may not have been the quintessential ugly American, but I was definitely the quintessential inappropriately dressed one. As the country lane turned into a path through a mud-slicked cow yard, I couldn’t help but wonder where this incredibly hip-and-happening second English Explosion Jammy Wonderland that all the knuckleheads back in New York were always yapping about was. Just as I was figuring that I was the butt of a very expensive and complicated episode of Candid Camera, the smoky-eyed, Jean Seberg-cropped Crass vocalist, Eve Libertine, drove up and rescued my quintessential daft ass. As we pulled up to the sixteenth-century former labourer’s cottage in Eve’s old blue Mini, its soft beauty knocked me out. Some members of Crass had found this once uninhabitable wreck many years ago, seen its potential and rented it from the farmer, who thought they were crazy, hence the ridiculously affordable rent. Hard work had turned this crumbling structure into a House and Garden – worthy Zen dream, and one that was more or less obscured by beautiful lush vegetation. Inside was equally impressive, immaculately clean and lovingly handcrafted. It was paradise, except for one little thing – it was in the country.
I had believed from the conversations with Steve (Ignorant) I had back in New York that they all lived in some sort of English version of the projects. In one of his letters, he had spoken of everyone sitting around in the garden. I just assumed he had meant a vacant lot or basketball court. I mean this was rural with a capital W, and I’m just not down with the country groove. It scares the hell outta me. Country life is all about the natural order: the cyclical process of growth and decay, sowing and harvest, waxing and waning. Children raised in rural areas grow with a firm comprehension of birth and death. City children have no such acceptance. We beat death by aspiring toward immortality by becoming drug addicts, boxers and movie stars. Continue reading →
Recorded in August 2007 at Southern Studios, engineered by Harvey Birrell. Limited pressing of 1000 hand-numbered, rubber stamped CDs and 1000 vinyl (700 black, 300 white).
Gang Gang Dance define the ultimate ‘world music’ for the now, and possibly for an unknown tomorrow. Utilizing avant garde sensibilities and cut-and-paste assemblies, they approach music as pure sound. Lizzie Bougatsos’ vocals are often non-verbal communications – words as sound rather than any immediate apparent linear meaning or message.
As interest grows in the indigenous music of many cultures of the Far and Middle East, especially in hybridized fusions of the familiar Western forms with local historical folk forms, so Gang Gang Dance are the logical product of an outward looking NYC in the global age: Middle Eastern percussion and keyboard stabs collide with Far Eastern instrumentation, and elements of Western pop and dance. The inclusion of grime and dubstep elements are of particular interest here since Gang Gang Dance are approaching these genres, familiar to anyone in the UK, from the position of outsiders, and thus treating these genres as indigenous folk music, as exotic as gamelan or throat singing to anyone who has not heard them. The polyrhythms and vocal styling of these British urban genres stands here as another part of Gang Gang Dance’s vision of music in the 21st century, combining the musical idioms of the world we inhabit to create music that suggests a world we have yet to discover.
In many ways this recording, tracked prior to the release of the ‘St. Dymphna’ album bridges the gap between the rawer, almost cut-up approach to their earlier albums and their more polished and highly-evolved present sound.
In September 2009, the prolific duo made their way to Southern Studios to record their spontaneous session for our Latitudes series. The result was Sky Burial, two lengthy slabs of crushing yet ethereal instrumental material. Limited to 1000 vinyl and 1000 hand-numbered, rubber stamped CDs.
Having been an enormous fan of Nadja for the past couple of years, when I was given the chance to approach an artist for the Latitudes series, they were a complete no-brainer. Their highly unique strain of doom-infused shoegaze sends shivers throughout my body whenever I’ve seen them live, and this was a perfect chance to be able to capture that magic in the legendary Southern Studios.
After first approaching them in February 2009, we finally managed to make it happen the following September, and I’ve never experienced a smoother and simpler sessions than this. Crafting two lengthy slabs of crushing yet ethereal instrumental material, Aidan and Leah have once again upped my expectations of them. Seeing them play live the following night, where they gave one of these tracks an airing, was an inspiring experience in itself and the article you hold here is about as close as you’re going to get to the all-encompassing and trance-like beauty of seeing them play in front of you. If this is anything to go by, then there is plenty more special music to come from this talented duo and it has been a pleasure to have them be a part of the Latitudes series.
We are happy to welcome the divine Little Annie on board at our blog. She has be regaling us with pages torn from her diary during her recent European tour-ette. As in mini-tour, not syndrome.
I’ve done most of my travelling alone. I was fearless, too dumb and too broke to afford trepidation of any kind. My wanderlust outweighed my common sense. Many a time I returned home, where ever that be at the time, with 4 cents in my pocket (once even devoid of shoes). I just didn’t worry about much as I had a basic belief it would all work out. Somehow. God protects fools and precocious little girls, most of the time anyway.
Ignorance is bliss til it isn’t bliss no more and you’re forced to wise up, which as always is a sliver of paradise lost. These days, though I don’t travel as emotionally light as I once did, I still believe that seeing as much as possible of this amazing creation that God made for us to live in is not a luxury but a basic human right. Or rather it should be. Since the age of 14 my only schooling has been experience and if I had not (thanks to Greyhound buses and the onset of cheap airfares due to the visionary that was the late Sir Freddy Laker) wandered some of this planet, I’d be most certainly as dumb as a bag of hair. There is an innocent joy in motion – that funnily enough is only matched by my desire to be a hermit in my apartment. Go figure.
I was shocked the first time that I travelled with another person. Though it was enjoyable enough I didn’t meet anyone as I didn’t have too. So though I have memories of the place, I do not have memories of being there, and if there’s no interchange, no taking part, then one becomes a voyeur. When I travelled alone I devoured the places I went. And they in turn devoured me. Of late my journeys are primarily for work, so thankfully there is no shortage of interchange. Even though flying becomes increasingly a pain in the carry-on, I still relish the blessing. Nothing beats barrelling off into the night.
Maybe it’s the vulnerability that one needs to be open to the adventure, that also makes us so damn over-sensitive. It’s hard to have a thick skin when you forgot to pack it.
This week, I was travelling from Torino to meet Paul in Basel where we had a gig at The Satisfactory. Bue took me to the station where we had a coffee and cigarette together before he put me on a train to Milan, where I would then catch another to Switzerland. We said our goodbyes on the platform. I boarded and pulled out my Diane Arbus biography, which was appropriate as some big guy right out of one of her photos of came to life a few seats away from me. No one had warned me it was a pop-up book.
Arbus Guy said something in Italian. I didn’t say anything as I couldn’t imagine he was talking to me, but as he got louder and angrier sounding I couldn’t help but look up. He was round and red with rage, and wore an expensive and very ugly looking denim shell suit kind thing. Something that Elvis might have worn if he had lived. Again he repeated whatever it was, so I replied in Italian that I don’t speak Italian. He then said fuck you in Italian which I absolutely understood. I buried my face in my book even deeper. He spent the next 20 minutes screaming over and over again
In my mind it synced with the whisper of the wheels on the rail. A madman’s mantra. The insane Buddha. His lullaby from hell was peppered with a bunch of words I didn’t understand (and was probably better off). A middle aged man caught my eye and gave me the international sign for sorry I’m not getting involved’. It would have been nothing in NYC , but with such a little grasp on the language I had no cultural context. Much less know what was making him so angry and what would happen next. He got off the stop before Milan, and I made some motions to clown the whole thing away, after all I couldn’t let a car of strangers who not only would I ever see again, but who had one set balls between them think I was pussy.
It was all a big nothing – still, I pulled down my Garbo glasses over my eyes and felt very alone, so raw raw with insomnia that I feared I might cry. When in that half-lit state, every sadness that ever touched your life since that first sense-memory of that wrenching awareness of self becomes one big timeless ball of Vague Hurt. It was not the actions of some (most likely) lone nut-case on the grassy knoll of ugly irritations that bugged me as much as the looks I drew from my fellow passengers. The Look. There is something about a person travelling alone that brings out the provincial lynch mob in the locals. And that is not just an Italian thing, it’s an everywhere thing. It’s universal. If you climbed the ragged and treacherous mountains way up into the clouds to learn the meaning of life in a remote monastery, I’ll put even money that on the path enlightenment there be some shady monks with a ‘who the fuck are you’ smirk on their otherwise holy faces.
My lovely pal Joel Diamond, a genius composer and fellow refugee from Yonkers told me about a year ago, how he had lived in Jersey for a little while and didn’t meet one soul the whole time there. He is single and doesn’t drive – which in the Weird Outsider Scale puts you pretty high up there on the lock-your- doors-there-goes-the-neighborhood kinda way. (Something akin to the way a head injury, childhood abuse and torturing small animals are markers for FBI in establishing a profile for a serial killer.) But Joel, who is most definitely not a serial killer, terminally ignored by the natives of the Garden State, he took pictures of himself daily and posted them on the internet as proof to himself that he in fact existed.
I remember that as I sat in this car full of strangers three thousand miles away. I put Ms. Arbus’s depression away in my carry-on and concentrated on my own. I didn’t have much time nor cause to brood, as while climbing aboard the Swiss bound train I was quickly surrounded by a wonderful Muslim family from Malaysia who insisted carrying my bags and spent the next four hours restoring my faith in humanity. God had given me compassionate traveling companions in order to lift my spirit out of its persecution complex. By the time we parted company, me on to showbiz and they onto Paris, I wanted them to adopt me. Gosh we are all just scarred bumbling children, traveling this planet confused as to which zone we are meant to be in.
A few hours later, the whole journey felt like a lifetime ago. Was met at the station by a gorgeous woman named Miriam. When she would turn her face to a certain angle she looked like some art house movie star from the 50’s. I needed a light and asked this insanely good looking Dane who obliged me. Within 30 seconds we were talking about the semantics of the word God. So he was stunning and smart. As a matter of fact I cant think of one un-stunning person I met in the 48 hours I was in Basel.
Miriam took me to the club where we were given an apartment to use during our stay. Showered and soothed, drinking organic vodka (what will they think of next!) and eating a wonderfully rugged bread soaked in home made olive oil made somewhere just south of heaven and brought to Basel by Marco, who is an expat from Torino (actually there were two Marcos from Torino who worked at the venue we played at, one did lights, one did sound and both were delightful). Paul turned up as the hot sun was setting over the courtyard that was part of this arts center. A gorgeous breeze caressing us, there were by now at least 10 of people sat around a huge wooden table, a miniature United Nations. It takes so little to ruin a day and so little to restore it. It’s bizarre when you think about it, how many thousands upon thousands of miles we rake up in order to sing for and hour and 15 minutes. That hokey old cliche is it’s the journey, not the destination that counts, or something like that, but you get my drift..Hokey but true.
I left Paul deep in conversation with yet another attractive Swiss couple. The conversation was something about the morality of economics. My brain was grinding to a halt.