we head off to see the intriguingly named My Cat is an Alien, who hail from Italy and apparently do unspeakable things to guitars
State X New Forms Festival – Paard van Troje 15&16/12/06
Good grief what an evening the 15th of December turned out to be. Its not often you get to see Danielson, Sonic Youth, Julie Mittens and Mono in the same building. In fact you'd be churlish to turn down such an opportunity if it was presented to you.
Lots of other people thought so, as for the first time in a while, the Paard van Troje was packed to the rafters. To be fair they were mostly hear to see the mighty 'Youth, but what the heck? First up was Danielson, who's LP Ships had been very favourably reviewed by Incendiary last May. For those not in the know, Danielson has a very, very squeaky voice, which he puts to good effect. His songs are a mix stylistically; it is fair to say that eclectic left-field folk-rock is a good description. If I told you that he has worked closely with Sufjan Stevens you should have another inkling to his sound. The audience were bemused but interested as his whimsical rock was at first hard to take (maybe it's the shock of that voice) but how can you get annoyed by a band dressed as camp sherrifs? All in all a great gig, a shame it was on too early.
Off we shoot to catch the Julie Mittens. Introduced by a very pissed and shambolic Raumschmere as "a band I don't know but they tell me they're the loudest band in Leiden" the Mittens start quietly, stumbling around the lower reaches of their epic sound for a good 10 minutes. Aart Jan's guitar effects are restrained, beautiful, compelling. Suddenly bassist Michel decides that he's had enough beauty and ethereal sounds for one evening and launches into a rumbling discordant noise. Art Jaan and the drums have no choice but to follow, creating a screeching, angular wall of sound that puts me in mind of 18th century Japanese Samurai prints. No, don't ask me why; suffice to say the combination was very beautiful thank you. After 30 minutes of this, the audience has perceptibly thinned, but no matter, those left were happy and triumphant.
Time for the main event, Sonic Youth. Now there's nothing worse as trying to fight your way through a sweating pushy crowd anxious to relive their grunge-y youth. After what felt like 100 years the band come on; Kim Gorgon a vision still and Thurston Moore Shaggy-from-Scooby Doo made flesh. The set is a straight forward re-working of their last (and fab) LP Rather Ripped. It's a hell of a gig too... akin to going to the Rijksmuseum and seeing Rembrandt or Hals, here you are in the presence of masters of the genre. Gordon does her indie goddess part to perfection and Moore is still the gangling thrashy counterpart to that symbol of female cool. And Lee Renaldo is still the most beautiful guitarist to watch, every gesture and lick informs the music with the minimum of effort. Of course the crowd go bonkers and at 90 minutes it's a hell of a set for a festival.
After that we pause to get our breath back and head off to the Basement to see the intriguingly named My Cat is an Alien, who hail from Italy and apparently do unspeakable things to guitars. Two scruffy figures, not too dissimilar to Gruff Rhys and Badly Drawn Boy take the stage and proceed to make a fabulous racket using kids plastic light sabres and numerous pedals. The guitars are placed on tables, inert, shorn of all their phallic pomp rock majesty and plucked, hit with sabres and generally abused. The duo then start to dance around, quite groggily it has to be said, whilst waving the plastic toys at their disposal triumphantly in the air. Later a cymbal is used to do something or other. Musically speaking, their sound is not a million miles away from early Cluster. Yours truly is enchanted and wishes to know more about this band. After this we go home, being sure that nothing can top My Cat is an Alien.
my cat, doin' their thang...
The second night saw us arrive in time to take on the set from DJ Jimmy Edgar. Not one for DJ sets in big halls, especially when they are as sparsely populated as this, I have to say that Edgar was quite brilliant, as befits a Detroit DJ. Techno was brilliantly mixed with trip hop and funk in a remarkably upbeat sequence. I even found my pointy toe tapping along (alright I got down and cut some rug, we all did). The most pleasant surprise of the weekend, no doubt.
Off we ran to the Kleine Zaal to take in the Magic Markers, who were just two, and took an awful long time in getting started, maybe it's just cool, I dunno, I'm too old for slacking around.
Still the Markers were absolutely sensational. Elisa Ambrogio is officially a Rock Goddess, and to be honest I've not seen a guitar wielded like that for many a moon. Brazen, feminine, No Wave avant garde noise rock and no hang ups. Fabulous, I'm off to buy all their records. Following that assault we stuck around in the Kleine Zaal to catch Finland's Circle who were even more bonkers than we thought they'd be. Looking like they'd just robbed a train, Circle ploughed straight into some bruising one chord grooves and didn't let up at all. Not once. Frankly they were fabulous, and if intense High/Scando-European space grooves are your thing then get them checked out.
Our night of gay abandon didn't stop there, oh no. We ran off to the Cafe to catch both Daan D-struct and de Nieuwe Vrolijkheid. Daan D-struct was great actually and we weren't expecting them to be good at all. Dancey, compelling, charming stuff, and highly recommended. Unfortunately de Nieuwe Vrolijkheuid had been told to put a sock in it sound-wise, which they didn't, but they were obviously pissed off about the whole thing, and played what was a very bad tempered set (albeit a set which didn't hold back) Drums were kicked about and words were exchanged. To be honest I couldn't expect anything less from them. Perverse and fabulous as always.
dnv get angry
After that we slouched around the backstage before heading off home. Tell you what though, if the Paard keeps pulling off nights like this more often, then they are onto something.
Words: Richard Foster.