Aaron Dilloway, Nate Young, Mutant Ape, Ashtray Navigations
The Common Place, Leeds. Thursday, April 9th 2009
Underwood’s in town and wants to meet up in The Duncan but since the smoking ban The Duncan now exudes the kinds of air that makes you think the whole place is an undercover experiment into how long people are willing to endure the smell of putrid body odors and stale beer. Besides that, your elbows stick to the tables and the stuffing from the long saddle beneath your arse sprouts like mushrooms creating some surreal scene of Blue Meanie proportions. It’s not exactly the most welcoming tavern in town. There is also the fact that at 7.30 on a Thursday evening the tables will be covered in sticky beer residue and damp beer mats. It will also be dead seeing as how the majority of its clientele get all their drinking done between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm. So it’s to The Duck and Drake - one small step from the Common Place and the sight of Timothy Taylors pumps and wooden floors. The smell isn’t quite as keen but the jukebox is worth it for the bizarre mix of wartime sing-a-longs, hip-hop and David Bowie.
Across the road and down a cobbled street lies The Common Place; a non profit, smash the state collective run by volunteers who flip tops off Sam Smiths bottles for a reasonable price and have a projector suspended from the ceiling, cradled in a plastic supermarket bread basket. The floor is cracked tile and stone, the PA is pretty good and everybody disappears outside for a smoke in-between sets. There are no scenesters, people are there for the music and a goodly few have turned out rather than go to Brid for their Easter holidays.
It’s a night of table top gadgetry noise, drone and psychedelic guitar fuzz with local heroes Ashtray Navigations turning in a fine psych fuzz performance. The Toddmeisters guitar is the spring from which sprouts many a psychedelic note, all of them designed to fizz into your skull and explode in a sun like fashion. Abetted tonight by the Melster who plays a purple toy trumpet through what must be some kind of effect, they layer masses of head drench onto a buried thump that towers into Timothy Leary territory. That explains the smell of skunk coming through the door. Beats the smell of piss in the Duncan I suppose. Mutant Ape appears to have matured since I last saw him kick his toys out of the cot on a TNB bill. There’s some high end ear popping that sounds like a zillion Chinese New Year crackers coming at you but the lack of an all out noise assault makes for once makes a refreshing change.
Nate Young has some initial trouble with his equipment which isn't surprising seeing as it all looks like it was made in 1971. His tapes are swelling apparently but once he finds one that isn’t he works it into some dense loops which judging by the sparse vocals could be called songs. Dilloway’s tape loops spill everywhere and one loop box has a transparent section so you can see them wriggle. He finds a groove, builds on it to deafening levels and then brings it down. He finds a frequency from somewhere thats of such painful dimensions that one punter who has already got his ears stuffed with ear plugs finds himself having to push his fingers in on top of them. Mid set he sticks a contact mic in his gob and really pushes for it, this only makes things worse/better depending on your bent and with an 8-track augmenting things it always leaves me wondering how they get all that gear over the pond and through customs. The only lap top in sight is someone checking their emails. Lets keep it that way. The sight of analogue equipment getting an airing lifts the soul. Once upon a time it looked as if lap tops and email checking performances would become the norm, with people like Young and Dilloway to the fore there’s no need of them.
I missed the first set but arrive just in time to catch the next - an outfit unfamiliar to me. Three huddled over a table full of gadgets, bits of metal that get scraped, little boxes that get talked into, snippets of shortwave radio, all very austere and reminding me of the Bohman set from last years Colour Out of Space fest and even though it doesn't travel any further than its original boundaries it’s meditative enough to warrant a few silent nods of approval during its course.