See, WOLVON are not anaemic, or academic; they’re a powerful band with muscle and determination. You can have just as much fun as them in going nuts to Future Truths - the highlight on this particular night with its relentless pounding.
OT301 is a nice venue, a nice place to hang out. It’s the sort of place that attracts a lot of chic urban tourists, who simper around and eat the vegan fare, pretending they’re down with the revolutionaries. Viewing the café crowd from the bar I was glad I was here to see that most unreconstructed, unpretentious good time band known as WOLVON. They were here to rock, not to do lifestyle stuff; and to celebrate the release of their remarkably good LP, folds, with their big pals and label mates, Space Siren, Vox Von Braun and Nouveau Vélo, who had been designate deejay duties.
I’m sure some will be getting increasingly sick of me reviewing these bands over and over again. And yes I appreciate I AM sounding like a broken record. But the simple fact is that these bands and a couple of others are where it’s at. And to deny the brilliance of Space Siren, say, by writing nothing because you feel you’ve already said it is, frankly, acting like a bit of a prick.
Going to these Subroutine gigs is as much social as critical nowadays. Over at the bar, by the merch table, Corno Zwetsloot from Space Siren explained that his home brewing endeavours were paying off handsomely. Ike from WOLVON tried to coordinate some facts about the UK tour they were going to embark on. Ben from Vox told me about his quitting smoking. The sort of stuff that’s more friend chat than band chat. Nevertheless roles were resumed for Vox: who opened the night at a very early hour.
Vox Von Braun seemed baffled at starting so early, at a loss for what to do, if I’m being honest and it did feel as if the first couple of numbers were more exercises in thawing out and testing the sound than the opening songs of a gig. Never mind, there’s always a flipside with this band, they could make a pig’s ear out of a few songs and then come back and catch you out when you least expect it: in this case the kick off point was Ibiza Style, which fizzed and bubbled, revving around like some giant shiny die cast toy in an oversized playroom. Their live sound has got darker, more brooding too; Ben took the opportunity to sneak in some Hawkwind style guitar licks at some points and Jan and Maike have recently built up a strong, unforgiving rhythmical backdrop that almost feels hot. You could shut your eyes and smell the rubber burning.
This is a sound of impassive, nihilistic gestures and crashing rock and roll built on the thickest of wheels. A sort of artsy, heavy psych rock, with Wymer’s deadpan vox as the magnetic centre. The analogy of a truck isn’t a bad one, when they hit their stride as in Jezebel or A.R.T.I.S.T.S., or Pitch Black Heart the sound threatens to run you over. This latter song, as usual, was the point where the audience and band really locked; its tremendous tick-tick rhythm laying down the law, equal parts Negativland and Vicious, flirty and suggesting abandon, but nevertheless infused with the spirit of Peter Cook intoning Bedazzled…
(You drive me wild
You drive me wild)
You fill me with inertia.”
A pause, the usual delay at the bar and the usual confusion as to which OT301 toilet facility caters for the male sex, then time for Space Siren who have been playing blinders of late. Fresh from their UK gigs with Zea, they seem to have become the all-conquering force that their material always suggested: they seem to be at ease with the material, able to fully utilise their music. Looking back it’s maybe the reason it took me so long to feel fully comfortable in thinking they’re a great band. Their material was so ambitious, so full of the sort of acerbic grandeur that bands like Sonic Youth had that it all seemed too much, too improbable. But it’s been creeping up slowly, this revelation that – even if the world, or for that matter the rest of Holland won’t listen, this is one of the truly great live bands. The last year has seen them – when circumstances allow - grow into their set, go beyond the tracks themselves, allow the personalities to step out from behind the wall of sound.
As ever their brilliance in playing gives them the edge. On this night, like teachers who can make a dull subject worth learning, they utilised their skill to present new angles; stealthily laying the prize in front of the OT crowd with a slight of hand or an easy gesture. Tracks like Who Makes Me Try or Boyfriends… were transformed, their groove was overpowering, the nooks and crannies in the songs were revealed to be things that make the overall structure tick. The latter came on like some supercharged Cocteau Twins track, incredible stuff. And there’s this killer new song they have that just bounces on like a Neu! track, a sort of Super! with a groove; finely enmeshing the listener in a net of thin, wire-sharp, buzzing guitar lines, and a beat that relentlessly pounded away at the senses… There was a realisation in the room that this lot could take on all comers and given that, there’s no reason to feel uptight, or superior. Raincoats were laid down, mild grooving ensued.
Then it’s time for the main event, WOLVON. The lads as ever just jumped up on stage and set things up with the minimum of fuss: though it wouldn’t be a WOLVON gig if something didn’t break. This time Bram did something to himself with a cymbal; I’m not sure what but no matter, things started to clatter along in a very pleasing manner.
WOLVON’s great strength is to make a noise that is both disorienting and fun. There are complex rhythms and ideas behind it all, for sure, (yes there are, despite the good time guys moniker that the band attract), but unlike a lot of American bands who plough the same furrow, there’s no sense that the band want to impress you. Or that the whole thing will fall apart if you don’t dig the concept. See, WOLVON are not anaemic, or academic; they’re a powerful band with muscle and determination. You can have just as much fun as them in going nuts to Future Truths - the highlight on this particular night with its relentless pounding.
As well as Future Truths, Sorry For the Delay was a tremendous blast, the song spinning dizzily on its choirboy/rock god axis. And let’s not forget Unicorny, their broadsword, “slash and burn” take on all that pre-assembled preppy, water-sipping, Brian Wilson loving Math Rock from Brooklyn. Yeuch. Who’d want to listen to that limp kack when you have Unicorny, surely a song as epic as The Battle of Maldon? Anyway, you can fling yourself around to WOLVON, and many duly did; Ike and Ruben leading the festivities with shape cutting of their own: Ike especially, acting like the veritable cat on a hot tin roof. All this had a good effect: encores were given, and then later in the bar records* were sold. A good night all round.
There. See? I’m sure you can manage to read just a few more articles.
* (An aside - you really should get the vinyl of the WOLVON LP, as it is a thing of true beauty).