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Deerhof - Garage, London, 12/10/2005

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 27 / 11 / 2005

Deerhof - Garage, London, 12/10/2005


A recent All Tomorrow's Parties package tour featured experimental rockers Deerhof, the Drones and Alexander Tucker. Dominic Simpson watches them all three acts play to a sweltering London Garage with decidedly mixed results

Jesus, it’s hot in here. Exactly what the Garage is doing about their air conditioning is a moot point, but judging from tonight they need to do something big. And judging from the queue that stretches down the block tonight, All Tomorrow’s Parties recordings are on to something big too. None of the names on tonight’s bill are particularly ‘big’ acts – though Deerhoof come close in indie circles – but it’s not stopped a large queue stretching down the road from the Garage in the pouring rain. All Tomorrow’s Parties are the promoter of the moment, their festivals at Camber Sands in Essex gaining stature every time, while their London gigs always feature some of the most original and cutting edge talent. Not content with just that, however, they’ve also launched a record label, the inspiration for tonight’s gig in which all the acts are on the label, alongside other notables such as Jackie O-Motherfucker, Bardo Pond and Fursaxa. Inside it’s oppressively packed and hot, with sweat dripping off the venue’s low roof. Alexander Tucker is onstage omitting various fantastic drones and squeals from his instruments, which seem to include several of the reed instrument type. Imagine Spiritualized’s ‘The Individual’, off ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’, refracted endlessly. A fog of noise through the blue lights onstage overtakes a somnambulant audience, reaching a narcoleptic crescendo. Tucker in fact turns out to have decidedly more emphasis on the drone element than the next act, one that have decided to actually name their moniker after this musical style. Melbourne’s the Drones are not droney in the sense that most were expecting – the repetition of Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, Suicide etc., La Monte Young-style minimalism – but instead bring to mind the likes of the Cramps, Jon Spencer, and the Birthday Party, with a gothic sound that still manages to pull you in it’s orbit and keep you captivated. The last time this reviewer saw them, it was in the rather more comfortable surroundings of the Barbican, supporting fellow Australians the Dirty 3, and with a top-notch sound. Tonight proves a tougher challenge for them, with a far more hostile crowd and a murkier sound as opposed to the crystal clear acoustics of the Barbican. They manage to ride it, though, with an atmospheric, dark sound that mines the rich Australian tradition of blues noir. With singer, Gareth Liddiard, hollering lyrics about trouble in small towns and “a stranger lying on a bar room floor”, this is edgy, evocative stuff, reminiscent of dark tales in the Outback, but with a stirring, defiant edge. Unfortunately this isn’t enough for sections of the audience, who seem resolutely unimpressed. Deerhoof, of course, are nothing like the the Drones; nor are they like much else around at the moment. Originating in 1994, this San Francisco based art-rock outfit have explored various combinations of melody with weirdness, prog jazz, strange time signatures and all-out noise over the following 11 years, released on the Kill Rock Stars label. Fronted by the Japanese-born singer Satomi Matsuzaki, together with drummer Greg Saunier and guitarists John Dieterich and Chris Cohen, their sound has explored various strands of dissonance and sonic limits through albums like ‘Apple O’’, ‘The Runners Four’, and ‘Milk Man’, always characterised by the strange juxtaposition between singer Matsuzaki’s high-pitched childlike voice and the heavy, harsh and often chaotic music. With an arsenal of weird instruments and strange effects exploring all directions over her singing, it makes for a jarring listen, like hearing Snow White being recited over a soundtrack of the Jesus Lizard. Tonight, they initially struggle against the sheer heat and expectation of the crowd, though Matsuzaki makes a great frontwoman, climbing to the edge of the stage and remaining a fascinating figure to watch with her inscrutable hand movements and idiosyncrasies. The temperature may be one reason for the sluggish feel of the opening group of songs, and it doesn’t help too that some of their set is composed of the quieter, more oblique numbers, which don’t sit quite well with the audience. As the set progresses, however, they hit their stride, airing the best of their last three albums, with the biggest cheer greeting the title track of the ‘Milk Man’ album, and the more accessible tracks on 'The Runners Four' such as ‘Twin Killers’. They leave the stage on a consoling high after a difficult start. Maybe next time the surroundings won’t make such a distraction on enjoying the music. A shame, as I return to another packed gig at the venue weeks later, only to find the heat drastically reduced.

Picture Gallery:-
Deerhof - Garage, London, 12/10/2005

Deerhof - Garage, London, 12/10/2005

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Interview (2006)
Deerhof - Interview
Experimental San Francisco art rockers Deerhoof recently played a show in an European tour at the London Scala. Jamie Rowland chats to drummer and founder Greg Saunier about the band's origins and new long player 'The Runners Four'

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