Subbacultcha! Presents: Spilt Milk, Mike Koldin, Treehouse - De Nieuwe Anita, Amsterdam 25/08/12

More worryingly who’s next in line for the Beau Monde to gush over, Colonel Abrahams? The Reynolds Sisters?

Ah the delights of the Nieuwe Anita, a nice enough place once the sneering presence of  haughty Rietveld types is desiccated by the effects of booze. To prevent too much fraternisation, we’d decided to hang out in a punk bar up the road before braving the venue, but found that once inside, plenty of friendly faces were to be seen. A possible reason for this influx of “salt of the earth” types, (examples being Viktor Hachmang, New YX, WOLVON, Subroutine and respected journalists like Peter Bruyn) was the fact that the affable members of Spilt Milk – whose 10” EP was being released on the night - have always had a foot firmly in the camps of both the (metropolitan) Blessed and the (provincial) Unwashed of the Dutch scene.

Before Spilt Milk took the stage we had two acts to consider. First up was a gauche lad - going under the moniker of  Treehouse - who used cut ups of old 80s hits to compliment an ethereal wash of guitar and vocal effects. The set was either a brilliant pastiche of the music one would imagine populates yoga DVDs or a bold – not to say foolhardy - attempt on transforming the base metal of 80s chart-bound sounds into a newly refracted, post-post-ironic pop gold. While we witnessed this alchemic attempt a live drawing session, depicting scenes of rural repose and charm was projected on the backdrop, which was actually quite a nice touch. You could place the whole conceit as a chamber-pop take on John Maus’s romantic ebullience. But there was a tipping point at which the illusion of something interesting being forged was irrevocably shattered for me. Hearing the strains of Limahl’s Never Ending Story (something that my memory will forever link with bus trips into school when I was 14) had me wrestling with my conscience. I’d endured the aural slop of the toothsome Limahl at the time, and thought his sugar-coated gush would be well and truly buried by now. And here was this young shaver trying manfully to give it some kind of reappraisal.  I’m happy for things to be discovered and used as inspiration, of course, where would Rubens be without Titian, or Eliot without Dante? But for one who lived through the eighties, it does get a bit worrying to see that decade’s musical entrails constantly dug up and re-examined without any notion of the context of the time. Or the pain they often caused. Maybe I shouldn’t be so “uptight” but there you go. More worryingly who’s next in line for the Beau Monde to gush over, Colonel Abrahams? The Reynolds Sisters?

Following we had Mike Koldin, who were an earnest duo creating soundscapes. As is the case with many of these acts the two lads were hunched over a table overflowing with a plethora of pedals and electronic gadgets and keyboards. And as usual with these kinds of acts the audience had to drink a deep draught from the well of patience to get into it: you certainly can’t allow yourself the luxury of a two minute gaze. But given patience this revealed itself to be a good gig; a rewarding experience on the night. It was at times pretty exhilarating stuff, and again given a big boost by the choice of films projected on the backdrop - clips of ships braving mid Atlantic storms somehow  complimented the rich, undulating electronic pulse that was emanating from the cluttered table. Not much changed in terms of tempo but the combination of the resonant sounds, the elemental, subliminal vibe and the quiet determination of Mike Koldin saw things end satisfactorily.

By the time Spilt Milk were ready, the place was heaving, with people packed on the stairs and gazing down from the mezzanine to the basement stage where the band were preparing to kick off.  It’s extraordinary; from being a ragamuffin act, content to shoot the breeze in the murky untergangs of places like SUB071 they’ve suddenly sharpened their attack, and consequently become the focus for a sort of crowd looking for an intelligent, no-nonsense, sharper take on all that bleary, winsome roots music coming out of the States. Their simple unfussy vibe has hit a chord in underground Holland; and they could be on the verge of being acclaimed outside of their usual haunts. Tonight it seemed as if the band knew they were on a different plane than previous: Marc was noticeably shaken up as to the size of the crowd and Brenda was visibly chomping at the bit to get the gig underway, doing little kicks of frustration as Marc dropped his guitar mic yet again..

Spilt Milk lines up in a classic rock and roll manner, with rhythm elements at the back and Marc and Brenda leading the melodic attack at the front. Their music is classic too: psyched out semi acoustic rock and roll with folksy elements. They can get into their groove very easily as they did with the brilliant And The Grass Grows, And The Wind Blows, or Rendevous by Rolling Rhone. They can really kick out a strong rhythm if need be. They strike a great balance between all the faux-Sweet Virginia stuff and the sort of dry slightly academic drones found on Cale’s early solo records.  Despite all the American poems and Marc’s attempt to be the Hunter Thompson of Noordwijk, they are a very European act in that they cut to the chase with all the utopian crap; they add a bit of salt to the stew with tracks like The Cytherean Glade, which has enough Mittel European hauteur to be on a Witthuesser & Westrupp LP. The most effective moments were when Brenda added an extra timbre and solidity to the sound with her warm voice effectively presenting Marc a platform to goof about on. During Our Despised Decay or their great take on Dylan’s All The Wild Horses, Marc found repose in rolling around on the floor and looking up at the crowd like some bug-eyed pup who’s nicked a ball from the neighbours’ garden.

So a success. They’re turning into a real force we think.