Advance buzz about #34 suggests it could be one of the best yet. There are 5 bands on the bill at The Edge this Friday night 10-11-06. I've arrived early, but there are already plenty of people inside. The fans appear to be split along fashion/tribal lines. I can't get my usual seat, near the door, so am ensconced on the plush sofa just left of the dancefloor. Not such a good choice as I'm obscured by crowds as Bereavement finish sound-checking. I'm wondering who is going to be the MC tonight. Yan's band Hard Candy is supposed to be playing at The Fringe. Will they start late so she can finish off here first? The B. is asent tonight and Manek is busy doing other things.
Opening act is Kissing On The Dance Floor, a quartet who play a quirky strain of poppy indie-rock. The vocals are down in the mix, but seem to get louder mid-set after some exhortations from Alex, the guitarist/singer. The opening song has a Pulpish feel, overlaid by some stretchy wah wah guitar. The second tne combines elements of the Kinks meets The Magnetic Fields with some sparkly 'tronix scattered like fairy dust amid the mix. Later songs mine a harder Gothic edge. A Bunnymen-like long intro cascades with chiming guitar reminiscent of vintage House Of Love while the next song whirls and swooshes like a demented dervish spacing out to Hawkwind. Tony, the bassist, and drummer Lung mesh well, providing the basic groove while JT soars above on lead guitar. The crowd must be over 200 by now and the vibes are excellent. Yan is being a most capable MC tonight.
Bereavement are a Gothic quartet who describe their music as Doom Metal. Songs are given room to breathe and grow and the pacing is more stoner-dub than thrash metal. There's a touch of the Teutonic in the gruntvox while the guitars are dark Spaghetti Western meets Philip Glass minimalism. Even when they speed up in places, it still sounds spacy, slow and chilled out. Sort of like expecting "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly and getting "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" by Pink Floyd. The second long tune is the closest I've heard to vintage UFO with its pulsing, echo guitars soaring to infinity and beyond. This a view shared by Steve and Mark - two Lamma acquantances who are here on a works outing with their students. The final track recalls the wiry intensity and hypnotic/Hendrixian groove of mid-80's UK band Dr, Phibes, who crashed and burned after one excellent CD. Bereavement are the first band to really capture my attention since the local psych/prog/metal band Orthon. Hope to see you guys again soon.
Willem is here as usual, hopping around like a man on a mission impossible to get every possible shot of everything happening tonight (and not failing by much) Meanwhile, a small screen has been erected and Snoblind get ready to take us into the Twilight Zone where all is possible and nothing forbidden. I think they are the first laptop band to play this event. They plough a slightly more funkrock path than say the ambient electronica of FourTet or the mashed-up dance grooves of Kid 666 or the acid-dubtronix of Sandoz. The films are sped-up jerky journeys on tram and car around Hong Kong and add a pleasing hint of HK paranoia to the mix. One mid section sounds rather like the breakdown in Pink Floyd's "Bike" (with Syd on lead vox) and there are hints of the stoner dub riffs employed by Bereavement in the 4th tune. Another tune marries surly synthwhispers to film footage of the Nevada A-bomb tests in the 50's (the same film is also used in the remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes") The samples and beats recall mad Swedish Moogsters EHIF jamming with The Flaming Lips as (over) recorded by Phil Spector. There's also a nod to Frank Zappa's "Jazz From Hell". Regina and Vincent are two former "cubicle jockeys" who bonded over the limitless possibilities of the laptop and have been wowing audiences around Asia since 2002. The future's looking bright for them Qiu Hong are making their debut. You know the story. Won Battle of the Bands 2005, played Rock-It twice, were featured on a film soundtrack and generally make a fine fucking racket. The big oil drum is present which Janvox bangs on with uninhibited glee. The sound is crisp hardrock with shades of metal and they still use a megaphone on some numbers. Very effective piece of agitprop musical theatre. The crowd are going bonkers up front and Jan and Hala, the bass player, indulge in some nifty crowdsurfing. They get about 5 feet from the stage. I'm thinking that if I were Michael Schenker (who's making his HK debut on 23-11-06) I would consider Bereavement as UFO and Qiu Hong as The Scorpions. They don't do too badly when they play a couple of canto-ballads either coming over like Pat Benatar meets Rammstein via Blue Oyster Cult. Another winning performance as the crowd reaches 300 or so and the police arrive for a safety check. They depart, ignored by almost everyone except Clifton who's on the door and is heard asking later if "anyone saw the police?"
Last but not least it's Elf Fatima. This enigmatic and exotic quintet have been following their own postrock/noisenik muse for nigh on ten years. They appear to be the My Bloody Valentine group of the night with a stoner-jazz approach to freestyle jamming. In a way, it's a bit more Can and (restrained) Gong rather than the full-on weird shit of Faust or Einstadzhe Neubaten. Frontwoman Elf is easy on the eye while commanding my full attention. My increasingly garbled notes babble of unhinged Sonic Youth versus a postpsychedelic Gong. There's hints a-plenty of The Dirty Three (who played an inspired show here last October 28th) in the construction of the tunes. At one point the bassist seems to go into "Interstellar Overdrive, while the guitars go all Frippertronic. Later Elf uses an E-bow on her guitar, invoking the vision of Jimmy Page in his heyday. The rest of the band mash-up bits of The Banshees with Frank Black and then morphs into what sounds like The Velvet Underground doing "Black Angel's Death Song" Spooky-intense and I like it, although a good third of the audience has voted with its feet and muttered comments of disdain are overheard. Perhaps they are a bit ponderous in places, but take the time to listen and the tunes unfold like budding blooms. Overall, an entertaining and challenging evening and probably the most financially successful to date. The next gig is on 8-12-06. Catch you there.
Review by Nick The Bookman