Subroutine Connects: O’Ceallaigh’s & Kult, Groningen 15/01/10

Accadians make inspiring music. Actually (if it were possible), they sound better than last year.


Space Siren, courtesy of Anna Hiep


I’m sat in a bar, eating stew and drinking Guinness. All is well with the world. It’ll be even better when Subroutine’s Connect festival starts up its second night, as I’m expecting great things. Last year was a lot of fun, (as apparently was the previous night), the venue is the same Irish bar, though this year more bands mean headliners and night owls play the subterranean Bohemia that is Kult.

First up are AC Berkheimer, their glacial, somewhat folksy fuzz work-outs are pitched somewhere between the throbbing drone-punk of Amon Düül 2 and the softer side of MBV. They are a great proposition live, lots of frowns, blank stares into mid-space, choppy rhythms and clattering beats. I hear a couple of new tracks, as well as stuff like For He’s Not There, (from LP In a Series of Long Days) which is glorious. Most of the gig is spent standing in front of a precariously placed mic stand, acting as a human shield against the increasing crowd. It’s packed, but that doesn’t impinge on the fun…

Time for a pint; and time to procure a new vantage point upstairs, in time for The Secret Love Parade, a female duo. The girls make melancholic, keyboard-based girl-pop, with enough rough edges to make their whole quirky muse palatable. Actually that’s a bit unfair; the audience is soon caught up in these fragile tales of love and loss, and responds readily to the duo’s undoubted presence and charm. Some hip young things shuffle dreamily along to the beat too. And there is true magic when an instrument change mid song goes slightly awry. They have something special that is for sure.


Secret Love Parade - pic courtesy of Richard Sottong

Downstairs again, this time to see Vox Von Braun, who are all smiles, and have Maike back on bass duties. Vox are a formidable proposition in a pub, not that for one second I would ever class them as pub rock, rather it’s the surroundings fit their tap-room poet muse so well. The new songs get an airing, including one majestic slower number which has “epic” stitched into its very fibre. Tracks from Something Ain’t Wrong are happily received, after all, the band is on home soil, and the new found confidence that they seems to have radiate through their set.

A lot of the next part of the evening is (inexplicably) spent carrying Vox Von Braun’s manager and booker Brenda up and down the pub stairs. Especially during the I Am Oak gig, which I somehow miss… (We will catch up with him later in the week so fear not gentle reader). I am, however, firmly in place for Space Siren, which is a band made up of AC Berkheimer’s Gwendolien, Cereal’s Aico, Skipper’s incredible drummer Ineke and Corno Zwetsloot. I notice an air of expectancy in the audience… Space Siren have a clattering sound; the choppy rhythms that Gwendolien favours in AC Berkheimer make another appearance here, backed by some thumping loud lead guitar and fabulously precise drumming from Ineke. How on earth does the girl do it? The sound is droney, hard, and metallic; it seems a fair bit of the music is in D. A bit of light and shade, indeed a bit of whimsy would be nice. But they are pretty tremendous and Gwendolien’s five mile stare will freeze any dissent.

A quick half, then we’re off, round the corner to the smoky atmosphere of Kult, where joy of joys, Vedett is served. We are here to see three bands, first of which is the magnificent Accadians. Last year Frank Hiep’s lot succeeded in bringing a level of carnage to the Subroutine festival that could only be described as legendary. This year unveils a further surprise: the band will play with no guitars, relying on samples and keys and a drum kit last seen around 1982. Seeing it’s Accadians, the idea seems perfectly natural. And of course they pull it off quite magnificently, as their brooding, gnomic presence can seemingly rise to any challenge. There’s no uncertainty in the performance, or lack of timbre to the music either. Sometimes the synth growls, grumbles blurts and squeals come together in a that is far more than the sum of its parts. Accadians make inspiring music. Actually (if it were possible), they sound better than last year. Frank, alternating persona between wise old monk and manic substance-fuelled rock pixie, brings majesty to the proceedings simply by putting so much into it. Triumphant; and I suggest you go and watch them, whatever instruments they play.


Next are Ilken, who take an age in setting up and then proceed to knock out a set that is short on tone, texture and bite. I’m pretty saddened, as Ilken are the latest incarnation of the dudes who were part of legendary Groningen bands Eklin and Adept. No matter, the sub-Cocteau Garlands–style haze isn’t doing it at all for me.

After Ilken, my spirits revive somewhat in time for The Bent Moustache, in yet another incarnation (in this and other respects they remind me of Manchester stalwarts, Calvin Party). It makes no difference, as Ajay’s lot brings a fabulous vibe to any gig. A set full of urgency and strength ensues. It’s late but the band are up for it, Maike from Vox is on guitar and they sound bloody good, less poppy than last time, but there’s more nous and attack. Single Counter Insurgency Lifestyle Junkies is played and the gig ends on a choppy, giddy wave of guitar squall and stentorian shouting.

Top stuff. See you all next year?