Wild Eye chats shit re: music, aka a sorta review of a gig featuring Gallops, Adam Betts and Parachute For Gordo

Bollocks – if only I’d seen them before my post of February 21st 2017 I could have stuck ’em on the list and called them Parashit For Gordo.  That’s a compliment by the way.

Some old bollocks what I wroted

Anyway, The Boileroom, Guildford, 17th May 2017.  Three bands.  Scratch that, two bands and a one man band.  I am not gonna review it, I’m gonna chat shit, though some element of review might slip through.

Post-rock, that’s kinda what I was expecting from PFG and Gallops.  I had no idea what to expect from Adam Betts.  I’m not a big fan of post-rock to put it mildly, so I wasn’t massively hopeful about the music.  So why did I go?  PFG sounded pretty good from what I heard online, and any band that is willing to make such a massive effort in terms of being more than a band – I’m referring to their latest album (Possibility Of Not out on Rose Coloured) and its accompanying videos – deserves the benefit of the doubt, no doubt.

Parachute for Gordo – Anemone to Manatee

But there’s another reason I wanted to go.  I was expecting to see at least one guitar band who combine samples, looping and other electronic shit.

I like some techno a lot.  I like all sorts of electronic music.  I like “abstract guitars” and lots of effects.  I am fascinated by the combining of electronic elements – and dance beats even – into a band setting – it often surprises me how few bands do it, though it does seem to be becoming more and more common, and maybe I gravitate towards the genres which tend to be more “all-live” (doom, stoner, sludge, punk, noise-rock) than those genres who mix in loops, samples etc.  My music-making schemes and dreams will almost certainly, if I ever get off my arse, stop watching Scorpion (spoiler alert – Paige and Walter, together, at last!) and actually do something constructive with my spare time, involve programmed drums and abstract guitars.

I kinda should – on paper – like post-rock.  Effects-laden guitars.  Experimental.  but I’m really not sure I do.

PFG came on first.  I’m not sure they are post-rock.  To my ears they’re a funky post-punk rhythm section complemented by abstract guitars.  They are playful, surprising and have got a groove going on.  I liked the set.  Not really my thing – I prefer noisier bands – but I’ll be listening to them more.  I love music for the mind, but let’s be fair, music should really make you wanna rock out or dance, even if you’re too old, tired or cynical to actually do it.  I liked the variety to the guitar that went with da funk.  Post-rock is probably not a million miles from the truth, but if they are post-rock then they’re the acceptable face of the genre.

Adam Betts drums and loops and triggers samples (I think this is about right).  I really didn’t enjoy the visual aspect at all.  If you’re doing that much electronically then I kinda think, “why not just ditch all live instruments and do this in a club environment?”  A couple of tracks I really didn’t like, but a couple were absolutely superb, upbeat techno.  Took me back to my 90s clubbing days, even though I haven’t ever heard anything quite like Betts.  The other thing is the reservation I talk about in the second paragraph down from here – it is a big one for me, and it applies to Betts a lot, Gallops a fair bit.  And even PFG a bit, though to be fair to them they don’t use a lot of tech as far as I can see – and not all of it worked – one song they had to abandon as a result of the PC not obeying Laura (guitar).

Tangent – I really don’t mind bands that are unprofessional – long delays between songs, failing technology, falling apart half-way through a song and having to start again.  No problem with any of it, this is rock n roll not some choreographed classical bore-fest [I refuse to tolerate classical music for so many different reasons, though robably the main ones are political – wowzers – my tangent has a tangent].  To be clear, PFGs lack of professionalism was one small bit of failing technology, not the whole spread of chaos and fuck-ups that I would have happily tolerated.

Gallops.  Nah.  Not my thing.  Drums, guitar and guitar / keys / electronic percussion.  Didn’t like the guitar sounds or soundscapes the sound created.  Didn’t like much really.

I still haven’t really seen a lot of bands where I like the mixture of guitars and electronics.  I think it’s mainly cos I don’t like sounds such bands choose to use, not because it’s an inherently bad idea.  That and because I can’t help thinking about what they’re doing from a technical point of view.  This is partly because I’m interested in different set-ups, but partly because I want to know what’s going on.  What am I seeing?  Part of the joy of seeing a live band is the honesty of it compared to listening to a record.  When you introduce technology you add levels of uncertainty and even distrust.

Tangent – Nova Twins – put on by Jasta11 a few months back at the Star – combined technology and guitars (mainly bass actually) and live drums and it REALLY worked.  I think that was down to the fact that the sound they were going for really matched the technology and instrumentation being used – they are a band who want to make you wanna rock out AND dance.

I think they’re three factors to consider –

(1)  It is inevitable that many people – most even – will look at you differently compared to all live.  Many will not trust you.  Many will think of you as less authentic (read ‘Faking It’ if you wanna understand the issues surrounding authenticity in popular music – superb read).  You can say fuck ’em, but if you want an audience then taking on board their thoughts makes a lot of sense.

(2)  One way of building trust is to tell the audience what you are doing.  Literally announce at the start of the set.  eg “We’re Brainflab.  We are a live bass, drums guitar three-piece, but we do use sequenced drums and synthesized strings to augment our sound, plus the guitarist does looping on the fly on several songs.”  Maybe I am bonkers but I honestly think I would have enjoyed Betts and Gallops more if they’d both made such announcements at the start of their set, or maybe after the first track.  Betts aluded to his technology, but didn’t give me the clarity I would have liked.

(3)  A second way of building trust is to use technology for one or two, maybe three distinct = and clearly artificial – elements, and then layer guitars that actually sound like guitars on top.  Make it relatively easy for the audience to identify what you’re doing, what is “real” and what is not… whereas if your electronics is samples of live instruments untreated, and your guitars sound heavily treated it becomes that much harder to identify what is being done live and what isn’t.

Ends.

Does anyone out there get what I mean, or I am mad – should I just try to put these things out of my mind and just enjoy (or not) what’s in front of me?

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