Tomorrow’s music today. This issue: Esben and the Witch Those of a fragile disposition are advised to look away now. Brighton horror-folk sorcerers Esben and the Witch – Daniel (axe, electronics), Rachel (lungs, bass), Thomas (axe, synth) – are rapidly advancing. They’re coming to get you, Glasgow
You have a fourth member, yes? An owl? (OK, it’s porcelain).
‘I’m sure we’ll have the owl with us on tour. We’ve always felt that it’s important to adorn the stage with various artefacts and lights, to make the live show more engaging.’ You describe your music as ‘nightmare-pop’. What tunes keep you awake at night?
‘Inland Empire frightened two of our number recently, and Scott Walker has created some terrifying yet beautiful music. Much of Jandek’s work is pretty disconcerting, too.’
Your songs are ensconced in nature and geography. Are there any features in our Scottish environment that might infiltrate your work? ‘A good friend of ours spent some time in Perthshire, and he took some photos of the Munros. The landscape they depict is wonderful and it certainly captures our imagination.’
It’s a glorious day here – is it sunny with you?
‘Looking up at the sky indicates that it’s beautiful. But our window’s on the bottom floor. The light doesn’t filter down this far.’ (Nicola Meighan) ■ Garage, Glasgow (with The Big Pink), Sun 9 May; Stag & Dagger, Glasgow, Sat 22 May.
REVIEW NOISE ROCK HEALTH Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, Tue 20 Apr ●●●●● REVIEW PSYCH ROCK WOODEN SHJIPS Stereo, Glasgow, Sat 17 Apr ●●●●●
REVIEW EXPERIMENTAL MUSCLES OF JOY Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Apr ●●●●● REVIEW FOLK POP LAURA MARLING Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Apr ●●●●●
In such a tightly-packed venue with such a low stage, it’s impossible to see anything that’s going on up the front. Only bassist BJ Miller’s wildly flailing long dark hair is visible, and a wedge of people, slowly but determinedly butting their heads along in time. So all most of the rest of the crowd
is left with is the sound, and that’s enough. Los Angelino noise quartet Health howl into life, grinding out jagged guitar riffs and dense, distorted rhythms. It’s loud like metal, but not quite; there are delicately composed parts going on beneath the squalling aural violence, and in that respect this band somehow resemble My Bloody Valentine. And then, brilliantly, they go and turn everything on its head by bringing the electronics out to play. From the unnerving industrial meets grunge racket of ‘Triceratops’ and ‘Die Slow’, they veer towards the sparse and melodic (relatively so, you understand, in comparison to what’s gone before) synthesised sound of ‘USA Boys’, the floating, overamplified vocals again somehow reminding of Kevin Shields’ My Bloody Valentine production. It’s oddly comforting, but it shouldn’t be. (David Pollock)
‘The three Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition’. Wooden Shjips may not sound anything like The Fall, but they’ve taken the words of that curmudgeonly visionary Mark E Smith to heart. When Ripley Johnson’s hairy band of travellers strike up a riff they stick to it. Fundamentally, this is 60s garage-psych: all two-chord riffs and vaguely sinister organ, but the Shjips take it up a notch with motorik rhythms and heady cosmic vibes. A sea of nodding heads attests to the hypnotic power of their sound. Picking out highlights is almost
beside the point. There are some nice variations on the basic formula – ‘Fallin’’ sounds like Roxy Music’s ‘Virginia Plain’ given a Krautrock makeover, while the spaghetti western atmospherics of ‘For So Long’ suggest a bong-addled Calexico – but ultimately it all comes down to that spacey groove. But for all the psychedelic trappings, it never really takes off. Johnson’s other outfit, Moon Duo, derange the senses by sounding like rogue cyborgs channeling Japanese underground rock. Wooden Shjips are altogether more comforting, but where’s the fun in that? (Stewart Smith)
This is, let’s be clear, no ordinary girl band. An all-female collaboration from Glasgow-based artists Anne-Marie Copestake, Ariki Porteous, Charlotte Prodger, Jenny O’Boyle, Katy Dove, Leigh Ferguson, Sophie Macpherson and Victoria Morton, Muscles of Joy found their original sound in improvisation, yet the audio experiments performed have since been clearly rigorously rehearsed. Many songs build from simple,
repeating notes and phrases, as on ‘Water Break-Its-Neck’; shimmering like the Welsh waterfall it is named after, through a delicate collision of shakers and percussive devices. Yet the pretty, distinctive noises seem to carry a certain feminist implication. The announcement of ‘Our Room of My Own’ leads a male to ask if it’s a reference to Virginia Woolf (albeit paraphrased). ‘Yes,’ comes the reply, ‘it’s exactly like Virginia Woolf.’ It’s certainly hard to see a male musician executing something in the stunning a cappella of notes and words which later give this mesmerising show its high point. (David Pollock) ■ An exhibition by Victoria Morton/ Anne Marie Copestake runs until Sun 2 May, Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
Everyone knows by now that Laura Marling (lest we forget, a 90s baby) is something of a prodigy, but even so, only a doting mother could think that the girl wonder had written ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ (Neil Young’s song about heroin addiction) herself. The story of Mother Marling’s mistake is just one of a few charming anecdotes Laura drops into her set, all indicative of a growth in confidence and ease since earlier performances.
But we don’t need stage banter to tell us that. It’s in the way she stands, the way she sings, and the music itself. It almost feels like she’s caught up with that incredible, rich, mature voice that she’s always had.
Marling is a gifted storyteller,
inhabiting her roles completely: now sweet courting maiden, now wronged wife, now prophesising wise woman; in fact, the Neil Young cover is the only moment when the words don’t ring true. She’s still not without a certain stiff
awkwardness, and in truth there’s little in tonight’s gig that radically varies from listening to her (utterly brilliant) albums, but nevertheless, she is a totally beguiling performer. Tell Laura we love her. (Laura Ennor)
Y O J F O S E L C S U M
/ T T B S E N P .
L L A H S N E E U Q E H T
29 Apr–13 May 2010 THE LIST 61