Why they agreed that wearing silver costumes on stage that look utterly off their heads was a good idea - in an “extended” Cosmic Joker/ your mates dressed as Earth Wind and Fire at a New Year’s Eve Party / acid head hospital patients kinda way – is beyond me.
Another Knollen en Citroenen night in Leiden; as the name suggests, it was another collision of strange and sometimes unsympathetic sounds – albeit held in a place that was more amenable to the concept; good old SUB071 and Multiplex. QBus, whilst a perfectly serviceable venue, is that bit light, quiet, open and well… clean. For these sorts of sonic collisions I think it helps if the atmosphere is as musty as possible. A personal thing, I hope you understand. Anyway… Incendiary rolled up in time to see Spoelstra (known to his mum as Jeroen Warntjes) in action in the gloaming of SUB. Always a joy to watch live, Spoelstra’s new set (drawn from his magnificently obtuse new record Sports and Finance) is slowly revealing itself to be a bit of a pop beast underneath all those strange tempo and chord changes. Spoelstra’s work always thrives on these rough edges, the areas in sound where one passage has just run its course and another is yet to fully begin. This exploration of weird and often atonal hinterlands does make his music a bit of a bitch to take on; especially if you’re not used to it. But tonight, Jeroen Warntjes had stripped down his usual racket a bit, and we saw more of the structures underlying his music; things pealed and chimed; there was more space to bask in, a fuzzy messy warmth entered his music and added a sort of gentle, nodding patience to the gig. And people nodded on; there was all the time in the world to suck this racket up. As usual he ended on yelling into his mic, sounding like some station announcer after 5 pints of Best. Fabbo.
Now for something more groovy; Apneu. Now, Apneu are not the sort of band that plays SUB normally, and it was interesting to see the muted reaction to some of the songs from the audience. But for me this was their best show. No longer in their comfort zone, the band had to attack and take risks; and this decision was a great thing. For, despite a smattering of people who knew their stuff the room was pretty sullen, and almost waiting for cock ups. Hell’s teef; there’s freeform jazz and math rock on the programme, why should any self-respecting Leiden Head listen into fey pop? Given all of that, Apneu adapted to the rough and ready SUB sound; presenting looser, more raucous, cockier takes on tracks like Three Cool Chicks and Battery Island. In fact their gig was blasted out at a pace and with a determination that I didn’t think them capable of. Maybe cutting to the quick in this manner was old rope for the three who have played here in different, tougher acts (Boutros Bubba and Katadreuffe) but singer Erik had to work like hell; as the usual quips and gestures so beloved of the more mainstream end of this Dutch pop underground we hear so much about wouldn’t work here. Oh no. Erik screamed and groaned and whined through his parts, the camping up he sometimes indulges in had a more desperate, urgent edge to it. And it worked! Great gig, and even if it wasn’t the best received on the night it was a great show. After this, we got Karoushi who were a mellow take on early American Music Club. Unassuming and somewhat inward looking in manner, the band laid down some very pleasing chord progressions (which got a little bit math in places) and reflective “post-rockisms” in the melody line that sometimes started to chime in a really great manner. I couldn’t really get more from it than that; (and a nice clanging guitar sound) but Incendiary will be keeping an eye on them, as we feel there’s something worth exploring in their sound and attitude.
Upstairs to catch Austria’s NI who were another proposition altogether. This apartness had a lot to do - initially - in the way they looked. Why they agreed that wearing silver costumes on stage that look utterly off their heads was a good idea - in an “extended” Cosmic Joker/ your mates dressed as Earth Wind and Fire at a New Year’s Eve Party / acid head hospital patients kinda way – is beyond me. Secondly, we wallflowers had to negotiate the sound. Facing each other in a circle, these crazies started to create an elemental racket that drew heavily on a lot of stop start rhythmical conceits; you know the kind of thing, stumbling, faux-untutored beats that suddenly morph into more aggressive and concentrated passages of pure noise. Or giddy daftness. Or a sort of hyper tense all-out math-rock attack not too far from Dÿse (it was the metallic clang of the guitars that made me think of Dÿse). Ach; it was actually a lot better than I’m making it sound; it was a good show; slapstick for sure and sometimes totally self-indulgent but musically always pretty absorbing. After this we all piled downstairs to take in Albatre; psychedelic jazz merchants from Rotterdam. Where does Wot Nxt find these fellas? We will never know. Anyway; Incendiary sort of dug the rumbustious, meaty jazz that this earnest trio made. It suited the increasingly fuggy SUB atmosphere too, just as it suited fellow psychonaughts Dead Neanderthals when they played here a few years back; a bric à brac of shapes and fills that cut their way through the gloaming, adding sharp sonic counterpoints to the steamy atmosphere. Albatre’s broiling, thick, bubbling stew of texture and counter rhythms sounded more soulful than Zappa-esque. No, they like melodies, however deeply hidden they may be; and they like to explore rhythms in a fairly poppy manner. If anything they had a feel of Can at their most steamy and abstract (imagine whacked out, deconstructed takes on mid 70s tracks like Unfinished and you may get an inkling of their sound). There was a lot of John Coltrane’s restless spirit in their music too, which is never a bad thing, though the prompting went through sax and bass equally; some tremendous bass runs propping up and leavening out any indulgence. Great stuff, and a fair way to end the night. After in the passage (which also doubles as a laundry drying room and smoking area) we talked of kittens and vegan Austrian dumplings. Perfect. If bewildering. But isn’t that the way of SUB?