Le Mini Who? Utrecht, Saturday, 30/11/13

So imagine me drawing a shiny sun and a green field getting ploughed up by a bloody great big tank with “heavy metal groove” written on the side. Katadreuffe were that good. Savvy?

 

Saturday dawned bright and fair and what finer pleasure could a man, in the prime of his life and full of figure, wish for than to saunter down the Voorstraat; seeking out gigs amongst all the ponce shops, all the while scowling at Utreg's well groomed, preening, self-congratulatory youth? First stop was the lovely Moira where comrades in words Kicking the Habit were hosting an afternoon of fun with Belmont Bookings. Noisy thrashy No Joy had rescheduled their show from ACU to here, so we were expectant. Moira is a lovely space, antiquated but able to impart a great sense of charm and gentle welcome to all who enter.  Seeing No Joy here would be fun, if less frenetic than a show at ACU; the sun shone through the windows in the gallery, and a number of dozy types mulled around sipping tea. We could have been in a library. Any latent studiousness was instantly smashed up by the band, however, who launched into their set with a determination borne of a desire to make amends for the cock up of the previous night. No Joy have this buzzing, moody and cocksure racket that seems to work best when they harness the waves of guitar noise to the tough beat. Lots of people will dig the patterns and shapes thrown by the guitars, and there are hooks and sonic gestures aplenty to string yourself out on, but for me their secret lies in the way they allow the tough, rich rhythm section to dictate the pace. Another good thing is the way they ally their brooding sound to a whole load of actual brooding. Hair was in the way of face, pedals and amps clearly more interesting than audience.  It's all reminiscent of that wave of US bands round 1989, all the stuff Blast First put out, or Babes in Toyland, or the sound of early Mercury Rev; lots of snarling riveted to walls of noise that, as if by a psychic counter reaction, would shudder and shake and spit out a whole fresh batch of attitude. No Joy ended on a couple of blasting, ever so slightly Dinger-esque burn ups, and laconically pissed off, the drummer dismantling his cymbals almost before the last song finished. Hot dang! A good way to start the reviewing day.

(hahaha)

So, invigorated, agreeable deafened, Incendiary popped over to take on Apneu in ACU. As ever, Subroutine had commandeered ACU for their Le Mini Who? showcase. It suits both parties; the two organisations have a slightly malcontent, self-destructive streak that is nevertheless fun and colourful in this often agreeable and slightly “relaxed” Dutch scene.  We also greatly enjoyed their cheek in ripping off a rip off of a design for their poster (see top). Yeah man, plagiarise, plagiarise, even if it hurts your eyes... On to the gigs. Apneu, boasting members from Narrominded stalwarts Boutros Bubba and Katadreuffe are a scuzzy, Lemonheadsy, Camper Van style pop band. A pop band, a beat band, remember this.  Closer to Jeff Lewis’s hare-brained strums than Litter or the Count Five. So, despite the word “garage” presently being thrown around like confetti at a wedding, they are not a garage band. Guitars and songs about popular girls do not a garage band make, got that? Anyway... this was the first time I'd seen them, and on this evidence I can report that they are, by turns, engaging; gauche; sparky; and ever so slightly irritating; but irritating in a "good way". Just as they'd settle down to a pedestrian groove (they do have an issue with pace - too many tracks were of a certain mid tempo) and just as you thought, yup, they've shot their bolt, they'd turn it around with a couple of sparkling and giddy pop songs that contained some very witty observations. One track, Three Cool Chicks, nabbed the riff from the Troggs’ With a Girl Like You and spun it out as a frustrated, unconsummated drawl. They are all great musicians too, something that lends an air of sang froid to their music; and bassman Joeri still plays far too many notes than is necessary (in a good way of course) whilst doing his funny/menacing tripod walk. All fun stuff and any band that does "a birthday song for Dick, who's just left the room" is alright by me. 

Now it was time to head over to Kargadoor, but we heard on the grapevine that Wooden Horse Toy wasn't playing, which is a shame as they're really cool, so we pottered over to Cafe Stathe where Geertruida had set up camp. Treasure of Grundo were on, playing their superb synth noir to a shamefully thin crowd. This band have made one of Holland's best underground records of 2013 in Dýsantzú, but they're so damned difficult to see on a night when things go well; technical hitches always seem to dog them, and I think that in turn affects their demeanour on stage. But nevertheless they seemed in good form, lit by a moody urban backdrop, Joy Div style. They are a band that can really hold attention through slower tracks; their music has this sense of grandeur about it which is damned difficult to pull off, as it is so easy to sound pompous or bloated doing this “urban decay” music, utilising all those big, cold synth rinses and grisly guitar runs. Just ask Midge Ure…  But they are fragile and self-doubting enough to avoid any smugness, and because of it they are making music that is genuinely interesting and questioning. Then it was time to pop over to Moira to take in ZZZ’s who were very enjoyable too, and occasionally blistering, despite being miscast as PINS on the guide; (a number of people were wondering about how this  musical version of pyschicke sheet metal bashing could be called post punk). ZZZ’s are very, very Japanese in the sense that everything is recast as an elemental expression of music; they don’t play the tracks, rather they present an idea and basically go all the way and don’t back off. Poppier and lighter than stuff like Boris, they reminded me of Buffalo Daughter, in that there was a delicacy in the way they balanced beat and noise. Good refreshing stuff, no doubt.  Twin Shades were on in the beautiful Citroen garage but we’d seen them in WW in Leiden on Popronde. They’re okay, and make a pretty enough fist of that Elevators sound, but I’m just not sure what they add. Outside of being in the mode. And being groomed for the production line of ersatz sounds that will be a Dutch take on “something else” that can make money and bring “prestige”. Which is why there was a queue full of the Gook squad dying to get in. It’s all a bit depressing really…. QED. Fashion, turn to the left, turn to the right… 

Off to ACU then, to take in Katadreuffe. Katadreuffe aren’t trendy, they don’t look right and have no real friends.  This is a good thing as it’s meant they’ve developed their own worldview and somehow got to a point where everything they do is a natural expression of this, their own mental space. A quality reserved for great bands. We’ve seen them a few times and always enjoyed their gnomic madness, but they’re on the point of releasing a record that is unbelievably good. Truly. And their opening track here, False Alarms, was SO powerful, SUCH a shiny beast, and played with such aplomb, you could see that the audience were stunned, breathless.  Listening to (well, squirming and hoping my ears were okay in the presence of) tracks like Out of Character and Mutatis Mutandis was like stepping into a wind chamber, the sound crunched over you like a tank, singer Maarten at the controls, deftly spinning through his parts, almost cruelly composed. They just battered everyone with a sort of iron racket that had, by way of a brilliant twist, a ridiculously good pop sensibility (imagine late Numan; those big crunching riffs and clattering beats). I mean, ridiculously good. What they’ve done is adopt this groove, they stroll through their loud music, it’s heavy metal of a sort, but one that you can shake some rug to – a vamped up, wired, King Crimson, heavy emo/math that’s actually good, and something you can snog girls to.  

Think of that.

Actually, think of something else.

There’s this old BBC “comedy” programme from the late 90s called Hippies in which 1960s alternative London is gently lampooned. In it, there’s a reviewer character who – because words are “meaningless, man” - does a review of a Pink Floyd LP by way of drawing a green field with a shiny sun. I mean that’s what my memory tells me and no I’m NOT going to look it up on YouTube to see if I’m “right”.  But that’s pretty much how I feel about this gig, words won’t get it, they were epic. So imagine me drawing a shiny sun and a green field getting ploughed up by a bloody great big tank with “heavy metal groove” written on the side. Katadreuffe were that good. Savvy?

One more thing.

I tell you if this band were Japanese people would be ALL OVER THEM, but cos they’re Dutch on two labels (Narrominded & Subroutine) who are perceived as, ahem, “difficile” they’ll get bloody nowhere in their  homeland.  I desperately hope I’m proved wrong as the music they make is as good and as mind expanding as anyone else around; people here go mad for stuff off Sacred Bones and DFA, and sit through a fair number of fakers peddling similar difficult music, so why not Katadreuffe? Why not? Is this a form of cultural cringe, Nederstyle? Enlighten me.

After this we couldn’t face another bloody guitar such was the elemental power of Katradreuffe so we headed to RASA to be soothed with some African balm and whacked out keys. But more of that somewhere else. Mini Who, I do love you, even if you host gigs in galleries ;)