29 August 2012

Live Review: Monoganon, Konx-om-Pax and Remember Remember, Stereo 25/08/2012

My trips to Glasgow nearly always manage to neatly miss significant events in the city's live music calendar. There's almost always something happening just days after I leave which I'm blissfully ignorant of until it's too late. This time I'd accidentally managed to end up here during the fairly local Doune The Rabbit Hole festival which was picking off the cream of the local talent, along with a good chunk of it's natural audience. However, I'd spotted tonight's show at Stereo a little while ago – a bit of an oasis in a rather dry weekend musically. A chance to catch up with some old favourites, and to discover new ones perhaps?

Firstly, it's always good to see Monoganon again – a band who seem to grow in confidence and musical stature each time. John B McKenna's quiet and unassuming frontman role extends to a little banter at the outset of this home-town show, before the band strike up a pensive and chilling take on “Anatomy” from “Songs to Swim To”.  On record a rather fragile and brittle construction, tonight it's a churn of sound, which sometimes collapses under the weight of swirling psychedelic guitars. A new – or at least unfamiliar to me – song follows as McKenna's yelps recall David Bowie but here he meets 60s garage rock head on. "To Glass in The Blast" begins with bright acoustic guitars cutting through the swirls of sound, whilst McKenna poses the eerie question "when we're all dead again/will the animals come in?". The quiet brooding storm of "Eternal See You Soon" sets urgent, skittering, almost punk rock rhythms alongside pretty folk melodies. Finally “Devils Finger” arrives - from its subdued opening, through the heart stopping off-rhythm drum interlude to the power-chording, thunderous finale this is a complex and untamed beast of a song. Monoganon tonight once again displayed their ability to be both edgy and disturbing alongside a sort of eerie prettiness and attention to tiny details. A new album seems to be in the works, and it can't come too soon for me.

My relationship with electronic music is a confused and unstable one at the best of times – but Konx-om-Pax really seemed to split the population of Stereo tonight. Named with a nod to the received angelic visions of Aleister Crowley, and apparently translated as “light extended” which is a more than suitable tag for the sonic and visual manipulations of Tom Scholefield. He sits hunched behind a Macbook on anotherwise empty stage, the faint glow of the screen the only clue to a human presence. Meanwhile, monochrome projections begin. They are strange but compelling – buildings and indistinct landscapes crumble, and strange half-mechanical half-organic creatures shudder and writhe. These images weave and pulse along with a sonic accompaniment which at first sounds like some strange, illegitimate child born of a coupling between The Dead C and The KLF. Warbling, thundering, sometimes urgent and beat heavy and sometimes ambient and overpowering sounds echo around the venue. The audience is divided almost from the start – a significant part are spellbound and captive in the collages of sound and light, the rest are bewildered and uncomfortable – but all are quite unable to ignore what's going with it's massive sensory load. Splashes of lurid colour enter the visuals, and liquid forms reshape and ooze across the stage, which works strangely to emphasise the sweet tang of dry ice on the air. Now and then, a dark distorted voice intones portents in the vein of Godspeed You Black Emperor. Shards of sound and light echo around the dim basement, and when the undertow of bass arrives I feel my kidneys vibrating in puddles of possibly ill-advised beer. Towards the end of the set, which has been conducted without comment, pause or other human intervention, eight bit video game tunes bleep and twitter like the menacing jingles from the Protect and Survive public information films back in the 1980s. Thunderous, thrash metal drums make an appearance and the audience find this more comfortable, head-bobbing territory. Scholefield leaves the stage as inconspicuously as he arrived, some new converts signed-up, and some left equally confused it seems.

Finally, and to a fair amount of audience acclaim, the massed ranks of Remember Remember fill the stage. Their most recent, second record “The Quickening” – a headphone-friendly mixture ofcuriously prog-like jams and epic national anthems for the stateless – has quite a challenge in the translation to this cavernous but well filled room. They pitch this almost perfectly, partly by emphasising the electronic edge to their tunes early in the set. Like strangely modernised Gerry Anderson TV theme tunes peppered with ringing glockenspiel hits and shivers of glassy guitar, their sound expands to fill the space but loses none of its intricacies. Accompanied by brutalist architectural visuals, "Unclean Powers" shimmers into being, its weird syncopations and meandering themes at odds but finally melting into each other. A saxophone adds a low, moody note to proceedings further adding to the complexity and miraculous coherence of what's happening on stage. This is live music and its meant to be all ragged and rough-edged right? Certainly this Remember Remember are far from either. At various points on his skittish progress around the stage playing virtually every instrument – and indeed non-instrument – he can find, Graeme Ronald points a recorder into a curious box of effects or summons up Pokemon samples which are then intriguingly delivered via a mobile phone laid against a guitar pick up. At others he is crouched over effect pedals, conducting the band with a raised hand behind his back. If this all sounds very strange, it's because frankly it is. A new track “Galaxy Ripple” begins in tribal fashion, with calypso sounds crashing into woodblock percussion before a thunder of bass enters the fray. There are elements of Stereolab's coldly neurotic euro-drone buried here in the jagged bass lines and spiralling guitars too. The set ends in a distant tumult of noise, with most of the band leaving the stage while Ronald remains to manipulate the roar of feedback and Joanne Murtagh's glockenspiel still echoes serenely through the chaos and storm, leaving the audience in rapture. It had been quite a night for Remember Remember.

In some ways this was a night of contrasts, with Monoganon's sprawling pyschadelic folk a world away from Remember Remember's glacial, slow-burning epics. However all of tonight's acts share an outsider spirit of experimentalism and a sense of being on the margins of their chosen field. To get them all together on the same bill should perhaps not have worked on paper at all, but happily it certainly did tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment