King Ayisoba, Blue Crime, Spoelstra – AA NIght, Gebr de Nobel Leiden 26/6/15

Somehow things ended and a room full of people with a second wind ran around wondering what on earth to do next. Some night!

Somehow things ended and a room full of people with a second wind ran around wondering what on earth to do next. Some night!

How naughty is it to write up a review based round a night you booked, promoted and deejayed at? Very. It’s very, very naughty; and consequently, this review comes with an “unspoken” disclaimer (of sorts). But who gives?

A quick introduction. AA Nights is something me and partner in Smikkelbaard/AA crime Marcel van Schooten launched back in January, in the shiny new pop venue Gebr. de Nobel in Leiden. De Nobel is the successor to the dank, dingy and much loved LVC. As a new venue it is still finding its way, and there are a few minds from the traditional Leiden gig-going public that seem to need persuading to pay a fiver for our nights. Consequently we’ve hosted a bunch of great gigs that could do with a bit more, ahem, “footfall”. But they’ve all been nuts. And a couple, including this one, have been very special.

Gigs in summer do something to people’s brains. They seem to warp space, alter expectations. And there was a loose, maybe bacchanalian atmosphere hanging over the shiny de Nobel on the night. Normal preparations had been thrown a curve ball earlier in the evening when King Ayisoba, resplendent in a pair of massive, painted clogs had clumped up to the backroom staff and demanded a bowl of hot water “for food”. (And as Ayisoba IS a king, there’s no arguing the toss). Whatever went into that bowl remained a mystery, but its pungent aroma permeated the atmosphere backstage.

Musically this was as wide a clash as AA had mananged to assemble. Glitchcore, new wave and Ghanaian rhythms.

First up was Spoelstra (aka Jeroen Warntjes); Leiden’s glitchcore hero, with an array of pedals and other devilry laid out on a table, as is his wont. Spoelstra’s music is something else. Its core strangeness baffles many. And on the night, many of those here for Blue Crime and Ayisoba decided to take advantage of the long summer evening and stand outside after the opening barrage. Man, those circuit bending beats and weird squeaks, grunts and bleeps started to play on people’s nerves… Yet Jeroen makes the most interesting structures from this seemingly impenetrable aural spaghetti. His music is incredibly inventive and a sort of midpoint between an intellectual, and very physical, deconstruction of melody. Akin to some mad weed-crazed mechanic in Sub Saharan Africa, Warntjes builds up his creations with incredible inventiveness, gives them a few revs for good luck and lets them go strong and streaming into the night, sometimes with added green vapour clouds. Yowsa. Some bits were new; a very funny interlude with a squeaky dog toy morphed into a mini-symphony, imagine a bedroom glitchcore Conny Schnitzler (circa Zug) camping out on a few Hank Williams riffs and you are on your way. Ace.

Then a change of scene ENTIRELY with Blue Crime. We’d seen them on the Nacht van Kunst en Wetenschap in Groningen (albeit in the basement of a hipster-ponce burger bar)and were struck by their elegant (and probably unwitting) live take on a whole heap of 70s underground things, such as Amon Duul II’s more hippy releases, (Carnival in Babylon, Wolf City), Marianne Faithful, Patti Smith and a wee bit of Kid Strange. Their (doubtless unwitting) Star Wars stealing La Dusseldorf’s white clothing gambit certainly made more sense on AA’s high stage, they were out to make a statement. One thing is immediately noticeable; they can play in a way that many Dutch bands don’t; they have this (maybe nascent) grandeur about their music. They like space in their tracks, demand you listen, and don’t seem to want to apologise for their presence. They hold their instruments as if they Know They Are In A Band. I really like that; a mix of Quo’s ponytailed menace and the Sun King’s chamber orchestra on a quiet, post-Baroque bender. The only thing needed was a bit of pace, some sharper, grittier, scraping textures and, well, dirt in the middle of the set. They’ve got to be careful of making every melody line a nuanced, or clever one; especially if they pile one mid-paced track on top of the other. The last track – when they rocked out and blasted everyone with a white hot canister of noise – was brilliant. If that kind of noise was propelling, or at least counterbalancing the whole set and not just acting out a role as a concluding crash, they’d be on a launchpad to somewhere very interesting indeed.

Then the main act: King Ayisoba and band. The place was full of ethno/world music heads, people looking for a dance cos African music’s dancey innit, punks turned onto Ayisoba by the Ex, and the idly curious. Deciding that a floor show was the thing, the King and his band started to kick off their gig without any monitors, precious little from the mics, and a whole vat of intuition and high magic. The room felt at one incredibly tense and utterly spaced out; an incredibly suggestive atmosphere that steadily got looser and dustier as the set shook itself out. I swear I could see the joints between time and space by the end.  

And this was some set; almost 90 minutes of unremitting (unremitting, let’s say that again for emphasis) sandy, dust-stomping village funk, kologo and folk. We got the “hits” Modern Ghanaians and Wicked Leaders; two groovy shuffles with a souped up motor that both boiled over into the most righteous runaway adventures. We also got the hypnotic Mbhee; a ridiculous call-and-answer track that could be a surrogate parent to most of Kanye West’s slick pop fodder; albeit a call-and-answer track that was there to put you in a trance. And some totally spaced out work-outs that just kept going. 90 minutes… Man what had the King put in that bowl of hot water? And fuck, what had happened to most people in the room; some stood in shock, others attempted to snap into a rhythm but span out of the groove; as if they were being thrown off a merry-go-round. Meanwhile, the King’s eternal rumble carried on. The pace was furious; unremitting (yes, again) and not brooking any argument.

Somehow things ended and a room full of people with a second wind ran around wondering what on earth to do next. Some night!