Rosewater, Spray paint and stencils on canvas, 2014
EP REVIEW: Qúetzal Snåkes – Lovely Sort of Death
Qúetzal Snåkes crawl out shame-faced and delirious, pained and contorted, from shadows elongated by the teasing Marseilles sun. They are flying through the mud on their smarting bellies, like feathered serpents punished for tempting the innocent into a life of hedonistic truth-finding. These fearless reverb surfers catch the fading remnants of autumnal waves, as they crash at the feet of feral children, out on their evening prowl along the coast.
The ‘Lovely Sort of Death EP’ came out in late June of this year, as a collaborative production between Retard Records and Howlin’ Banana Records, two independent French labels. The eponymous opening track, unfurls with chortling riffs and sets the tone for the rest of the experimental player. This French five-piece do not steer far from the dark and moody model first pioneered by the Black Angels, almost ten years ago, but they’re piloting their own vehicle. Tense and weighty walls of sound conspire to commit evil deeds between your ears. The melodies are elusive. The atmosphere, gaseous.
Unlike their neo-psychedelic forefathers, however, Qúetzal Snåkes avoid politics. Instead, they favour a minimal approach to lyrical dressing. ‘Oh Lord of Deafstruction’ offers jaundiced clues, sparsely dotting a mystic ocean, like lifebuoys for the weak and hopeless. These guys entrust their audience to sink deep into bitter-sweet hallucinations, which bark and bite at optical nerve endings, seducing the listener into a milky sleep, soused in feedback sweat spurned on by ecstasy nightmares.
The bass line on ‘I Trip Through Love’, drives the song forward like a newly-stolen hotrod, with quaint little flames painted on the side. The dirty, filtered vocals are reminiscent of parallel treatments by other contemporaries, such as Cosmonauts, Night Beats and Christian Bland and the Revelators, but this band’s ability to write a catchy tune should not be overlooked. The closing track, ‘W. E. T.’, is a motorcycle ride through a winding, slippery mountain pass at dusk. It is full of meandering curves and dangerous blind spots. Although the open road is a harsh mistress, it feels as if the journey should go on forever. The song, lost on the highway, threatens to spin dangerously out of control and burst into flames like Peter Fonda’s hog at the end of Easy Rider. Unfortunately, the track fades out, but it seems that it is an ideal tune to close their live set with. Catch them, if you can, supporting the Wands at the Embobineuse Theatre De Fortune, Marseilles in late November.
It is very easy to keep rolling out the same dough, over and over until the pastiche becomes stale and boring. It is equally distressing to see kids pick up axes and attempt to make something which resembles psychedelic music. Psychedelic music has a long and rich history. It is conceptually loaded and very difficult to do well. There is more to this sub-genre of blues-based-eastern-inspired rock than just questions of sound. Luckily, scratching at the surface of the French underground is a burgeoning garage-psych scene, emblazoned with continental spirit, raw guts and wealthy talent, rearing to start a heavy opal revolution.
Qúetzal Snåkes may not be the avant-garde in this fair battle against mediocre art forms, but they are very good marksmen indeed. Better yet, they understand this and tackle the issue with wry humour, as is evident by the typographic anomaly in their name. Qúetzal Snåkes will only admit to creating ‘deafstruction’ – an attempt to subvert our complacent tendency to compartmentalize everything we do not quite understand – and you can subscribe to their ethereal contention by purchasing this six track EP for a mere €666 directly from their Bandcamp page. Go on, make them a little fortune.
In Verse Review: Supernormal Festival
Out in the old Malevich masterpiece, shivering raincoats drink tea on pre-school furniture. Poems form from pure momentous resonance. The alien landing pad beckons, but the centre stage is dead. No matter. Olive fabrics spawn in the imagination of a saintly smile. Three litres later, morning rears its head again.
Playing children guide many bleary eyes towards the coffee van and showers. There is time to read before the noise erupts, or draw, or sing, or watch cartoons in the multicoloured Palace Tent. The sun regained its confidence and basked our soaking wrecks in formidable warmth throughout the day. With the contents of our heaving sacks safely laid out to slowly evaporate their woes, we picked up strength to watch some bands.
Formed in this field, a year ago today, Charismatic Megafauna are three grrrls with sticks who beat drums like mad-folk. Their boiler suits are adorned with slogans. Their lipstick laughter is warm, like a brandy invitation on a cold winter walk. Shared vocal tremors, evocative ofThe Slits, illustrate songs about boys in spandex and sexual harassment statistics. Flamingods (above) run a parallel ship on the Shed Stage, but tighter. Well rehearsed. Vicious shorthand. Afghan headdress. Colour loops. Exploding pancakes. Children chasing kites and butter. Sounds switch places, drowning slowly in a straw hat reverb ocean. Sliver handshakes leading cults. Warm reception from the crowd. Five bright talents kickstart the wagon and set out towards a brave horizon.
Aggressive dog band on the Nest Stage soundtrack a flurry of afternoon dreams. Rex Nemo, the Gaffer King, holds a dusk procession. With his band of masked musicians, he picks up the willing and naïve and takes them deep into the woods. Enchanting bells groan in circles. Mysterious rituals are performed. And then we are led out again. “Nothing is no thing. Everything is all.” The highlight of the early evening are Sculpture's acetate fingers, which animate, in real time, geographic moodstorms and phosphorescent rhythms on a modified turntable. But these 21st Century Victorian amusements are best enjoyed when fully immersed. In a derelict East London warehouse, perhaps.
Concurrently, Sly & The Family Drone (pictured below) hold a semi-secret show in the centre field. The band’s in round, the crowd surrounds. Melancholic murmurs attack keen followers with envious lights. Not long after, Teeth Of The Sea profess mighty waves of reformed feedback. Epic trumpet solos whine. Fists, too pleased with themselves to care about past grievances, punch the skies repeatedly to the sounds of their master’s creation.
Mapping movements across pale and trodden pastures are Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides. The hoof tracks in the dust belong to them. The moonless Barn reeks with horror. One hundred years. Drumming soldiers lie hidden underneath a mud-skin frost. Knocking. Calling. Chanting spells. Hoping someone will remember.
Chimp clash on Saturday night. Bass Clef trumps noise veterans with his forthcoming charisma. The audience is slow on the uptake, but soon realise the special nature of this faithless moment. Magic springs fall out of boxes, perforated with rubber buttons of spectral length. A girl with a Pink Flamingos trailer hat provides the floor with visual stimulus. Many avid dancers, high beyond repair, make it their mission to never stop. Glitches, whistles and a long brass bone collude to transform the ecstatic blackened air into a regretful dawn.
For those eager to forget the morning rains (for they have come again), Taman Shud are more than happy to provide a gentle aural sting; reanimating fettered, languid bodies. Floods destroyed the Nest Stage and the schedule rearranged itself.
With a voice like the death throes of a flayed and jaded nag, Richard Dawson straddles his guitar with detuned heartstrings. Poor old horse. His ruby fists pedal steel wheels, his fingers twitching arabesques. The songs are burdened with sadness, sagging deep, like a decommissioned suspension bridge. Resuscitated folk traditions satisfy a yearning for the blues in a contemporary context. Richard’s wretched tonsils tear apart song-fabric like a surgical blade, slowly making its way home through a canine tendon.
Ancient tar-filled watering hole. The giraffes are shaking sweats, but cannot turn away from the bitter nectar of Phil Minton’s Feral Choir. Twin rows of howling monkeys, commanded by a magician performing nimble contortions, chant Tibetan Om. Punch and Judy rejoice at every last primal expatriation escaping from the prophet’s rusty gullet. Distorted desert folk songs caught in steam engine paralysis. The revolution will not be transmuted through smoke signals.
Corpse collective caught on stilts. Footage of drone test flights and low budget Nigerian exorcism films flicker timidly atop an opened suitcase, packed with dangerous modulation toys. Hacker Farm create an atmosphere which is difficult to bear. Surrender. Four page static; empty tower blocks; samples taken from interviews with renowned nutritionists and a supermarket basket overflowing with noise make for jubilant concrete floor contemplations.
Foot in mouth Glaswegian boys pass the Buckfast back and forth. One quick jam to test the levels, cheeky cover: child of mine. Soon the licensed hands collide and time is pressing on their tails. Cosmic Dead are off to a good start. Flirtatious hair spins. Men of essence flail and bob till beards come off. Bleaching clangour, tortured Moog, nervous sound guy biting nails. After pickled, wooly solos flows the ultimate decree: “Jazz is rubbish!” - spread like starfish, one fucked singer screams at me. Bass like steroid-crazy husband, punches faces in front row. Stage dive surfing. Boots on collars. It is cold, but we want more. Moving like it’s somehow legal: moshing, thrusting, groping sore. Onto Scottish independence – they are eager to be free. Show concludes with Auld Lang Syne, sung drunk and merry. Closing time.
Review by Ilia Rogatchevski – felinevomitus.com
Photography by Julie R. Kane - fstopqueen.com
Festival Preview: Supernormal
Supernormal is a not-for-profit, volunteer run festival put together by artists and musicians of the DIY persuasion. This modest 1,000-capacity affair is sandwiched between Reading and Oxford and grew out of the Braziers International Artists Workshop - come August, it will be celebrating its fifth year. The principal aim of Supernormal is to provide a genuine alternative to the lager-endorsed package holiday we have all come to associate festival season with. This venture is, at its heart, an exercise in goodwill and cooperation, but you’ll be hard pushed to find any Summer of Love rhetoric emanating from their eco-friendly outhouses. This here is noise country.
The band which is doing summersaults off everybody’s lips this year are Part Chimp. These London-based noiseniks came to prominence in the early noughties with a pocket full of releases on Mogwai’s Rock Action label. The last couple of years have seen the group descend into a mystic, sombre silence. So for many this will be a welcome return. But that’s not the only thing happening. One can also expect a blast of motorik brutalism from the Glasgow-bred Cosmic Dead; Teeth of the Sea will be showering us with their sardonic sonic explorations; there is also Gnod’s electro-psychedelic acrobatics to look forward to; and everyone’s favourite wooden bag of words, Richard Dawson, will be there to smelt the hearts of all the boys in the audience (the girls were sold long ago). As for the rest, if you are unsure of the band’s underground stature, it is advisable to go by the names alone. Who can say no to groups called Sly & the Family Drone, Flamingods or Shitwife? You are bound to make a pleasant discovery somewhere along your journey.
There will also be plenty of activities to fill up your hungover mornings with, including life drawing, workshops and games. You can prepare yourself for comprehensive arts listings too: Death Shanties will be channelling their hedonistic rhythms into the souls of the uninitiated; Rachel House is going to smash the patriarchy once and for all with her mysterious feminist seminar; and new paintings by Sarah Sparkes will attempt to deal with the past by mining for “fragmentary facts”. A new addition to the programme this year will be the Shed Sound Space. This “micro venue and migratory project” will play host to a number of experimental sound art pieces. Perhaps as an antithesis to all the cacophony, there will also be a number of artists’ films screened at the People’s Palace Cinema.
One thing has to be said of this festival: it is all-inclusive. Not only are art and music given equal attention, but the boundary between artists and audience only becomes evident if one troubles to differentiate between the wristband colours. Everyone here is encouraged to participate, if not in performance - and by the way, spontaneous eruptions of acoustic eccentricities are readily encouraged - then at least in the running of the event itself. Adult tickets are going for only eighty pounds, but you can always bag yourself free entry by volunteering for a few hours each day. The organisers try their best to allocate jobs according to your interests. The rest of the time is yours to draw, dance and explore… or simply get shit-faced.
Supernormal Festival will be taking place 8-10 August 2014 at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire. For tickets and more information, please visit: supernormalfestival.co.uk
Preview by Ilia Rogatchevski
Photography by Julie R. Kane: fstopqueen.com
Dream Logic private view at Tina, We Salute You, Thursday 3 July 2014.
William Burroughs 100 - Nova Convention
Hidden behind the bruised face of the long-defunct Foundry bar sits the Red Gallery. Until Sunday 13 July, this former industrial space will house a selection of photographs by James Hamilton. Anyone vaguely familiar with the work of William S. Burroughs could be forgiven for expecting a wealth of images containing the same lurid pornography that is prevalent in his prose. This is Shoreditch, after all. Instead, we are treated to a modest collection of candid snapshots documenting the proceedings of the Nova Convention.
The Nova Convention was held in the winter of 1978 at multiple venues in New York City. The three-day multimedia retrospective celebrated the work of Burroughs, who had recently returned to the United States after a spell away in Tangiers and London. It was organised by Columbia professor Sylvère Lotringer, poet John Giorno and Burroughs’ secretary James Grauerholz. The event boasted an impressive roster of appearances from the city’s cultural luminaries and included Patti Smith, John Cage, Frank Zappa (filling in for Keith Richards at the last moment) and Timothy Leary, as well as performances by Suicide and the B-52s. Thurston Moore, who co-curated this exhibition with publisher Eva Prinz, was also in attendance:
"Photographer James Hamilton was where I could only wish to be. I sat in the audience of the Entermedia Theater for the Nova Convention of 1978 excited to see and hear Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, and the honouree William S. Burroughs as a 19-year-old CBGB denizen. I lived a few blocks away on 13th Street between Avenues A and B. James Hamilton was backstage with a photo-pass courtesy of the Village Voice. It was another assignment on his schedule as a noted news staff photographer. On any given day he would attend at least three or four events in the New York City milieu of civics, arts and beyond."
Recordings of talks and conversations from the convention hang framed on the gallery wall, directly opposite Hamilton’s photographs, but the musings embedded within their grooves are sadly mute. These recordings do exist online, but it seems a mistake not to have included them in the show, especially considering how this exhibition uses the Burroughs centenary as an excuse to explore the writer’s affiliation with popular music. It is genuinely interesting, however, to see many of the boys and girls responsible for disseminating progressive ideas in their lyrics and compositions rubbing shoulders with the seminal writer of the Beat Generation. There is a portrait shot of Phillip Glass playing a solitary organ; eyes closed in organised ecstasy. Another shot shows Frank Zappa, solarised by the stage lights, taking a beguiling pause during his reading from Naked Lunch. John Cage looks astounded at an unknown companion in one photograph, while Patti Smith pulls a goofy face from behind her guitar in another. Merce Cunningham’s swan-like posture - caught mid-way through a performance - is probably the most beautiful image here, as it can be easily appreciated on its compositional merits alone.
The presentation of the show highlights Moore’s continuing propagation of the DIY aesthetic. Poetry zines, sticky ephemera and a limited edition catalogue published by the Ecstatic Peace Library are available to purchase directly from the gallery. It is advisable to look through some of this material, if time permits, as it will help to put Hamilton’s intimate images into context. One note of caution however: if one is after grotesque descriptions of quotidian filth projected through a poetic prism stained with flaking junk, it is best skip along down to Cargo after viewing. Lots of messy things going on there.
Photograph by James Hamilton. William Burroughs 100 - Nova Convention: runs from Tuesday 1 July until Sunday 13 July. Open Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm. Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DT. Free entry. For more information visit redgallerylondon.com
The Winter Rose Motel, Emulsion paint and masking tape on plaster wall, 2014
First solo show. Come. Bring flowers. Here’s the Facebook event page.
Quite chuffed to be taking part in the Hackney Flea Market Arts Fair in August. There will be zines, outsider comix and visual jazz on sale. Feline Vomitus will be sharing a stall with Indestructible Energy. Come one, come all and buy us some lunch!
Spectrum / Tripwires – Electrowerkz, London - 04/06/2014
Twin white dwarves comb the beach, imprisoned in eternal dance.
A song works sixteen hour shifts, inside the struggling coltan pits.
Time, still born, stands crooked in the centre of the sands.
Blank waves, tumultuous and strong, hover idle by the shore.
They are met by despondent valentines dressed in black,
Who dig and strive and long for love.
Like homeless men who taunt the law with fuzzy bones and naked threats,
The tall thin boys with naught to prove and only innocence to lose,
Embark on final slow-dive-ride, headfirst into the water wall.
Their battle cries enrage cascade, which gladly swipes our friends away,
And buries them beneath the surf.
Errant cells celebrate the crucifixion.
Scarecrows in the monastery garden discuss botany under the silver rays of the moon.
Trojan horse galloping on silver wheels.
Peter Kember shakes his fists at monoliths, like a fallen soldier.
Red-shirt meme drives the drone along.
Greasy fingers ladle up mud, and spread the viscous honey onto burnt sustenance.
Purple mutations keep in time with vice.
A frail old man crowns a plastic chair, patiently waiting for his appointment to be cancelled.
Stone castles are no match for sonic winds.
Thousands of insects fornicate wildly atop a blind, colourless beast. Setting the record.
Little fires document beguiled inexperience.
Quiet start and slow beginnings, but songs are bricks which build monuments.
Embers pirouette in the eyes of attentive guests.
Satisfaction. Revolution. Suicide. It’s all there, if you care to look past the anxiety.
Phantom birdcall closes the continental symphony.