Woah! SHINING (the Norwegian BlackJazz Munke(b)ys) have got some balls. While Rock and Metal fans are often the most obsessive and loyal of supporters, woe betide a band who undergoes a misplaced style change; when heroes embark in a new direction that isn’t just left at the traffic lights but involves a radical transformation, it’s not unknown for a band to split and lose an audience, sometimes irretrievably. Make no mistake, Animal (Spinefarm) is one such move. Continue reading →
Shining’s striking breakthrough album Blackjazz was routinely namechecked by people who know about these sorts of things as one of the records of 2010. Its follow up, the more industrial soaked inventiveness of One by One (both Indie), suggested a band with a considerable musical aesthetic and the talent to pull off its panoply of rich and varied textures. This, their seventh record overall, on first listen, gives an (ultimately false) impression of taking the best bit of the last two records, stitching together a composite of unrelenting shape creation. That it stands as a distinct and satisfying record in its own right, with a resonance and intelligence, both in terms of its influence and execution, is testimony to the band’s blistering collective talent.
International Black Jazz Society (Spinefarm) is both wilfully difficult yet, paradoxically, the most approachable record that Shining have created. Much of this is down to an approach to song-writing that lets the songs breathe and get under your skin like fresh tattoos. This is important because the music here is intense, often challenging, but the band’s genius in letting the obtuse sounds and textures envelop the listener is respectful and welcome.
There is a focus to International Black Jazz Society that is admirable. Rather like the proverbial Olympic athlete, there is not an ounce of fat on this record; there is no padding and no superfluousness: it is nine tracks of determined aural assault and is all the better for it. The industrial rock of ‘Last Day’ is probably the most immediate of the songs here but listen intently to the unhinged ‘Thousand Eyes’ which has a rock sensibility nailed into its DNA for a song of equal, if not better, quality. The free jazz madness of ‘House of Warship’ will not be to the average listener’s taste but one suspects that this isn’t the constituency that Shining are aiming for; it’s a creative step forward and a successful one at that. Sat in the tracklisting next to its contrasting cousin, the dark and brooding House of Control is clearly deliberate and, as a showcase of the band’s diversity and talent it’s a formidable ten minutes. Elsewhere, the striking coda of ‘Need’ with its intense, end of the world is nigh sensibility gives the record an exhilarating, energetic sign off.
International Black Jazz Society will give you no silver bullet in your search for what blackjazz actually means but that might be part of the fun that Jørgen Munkeby is having with us and his band. The brilliance of Shining’s music is that, within a highly architectured approach to music composition, there is often a sense of being utterly unhinged; a sense of the wild within a formal structure. Songs veer, dive bomb and u-turn at will, giving a dynamism and energy: organised musical chaos, if you will. This is thrilling stuff, particularly when band leader Munkeby brings his signature alto saxophone into play.
International Black Jazz Society works for three reasons: it’s thrilling entertainment, it has the ability to merge free jazz and headbanging metal and challenge you to see the join and, above all, it creates a world that, however mad and maddening, you can’t help but want to be a part of.
We’re five days into Incubate Festivaland still shivering from the impressive performances of The Melvins, Girl Band and Shining. Ready to watch some more of our favorite bands and discover another handful of new ones, we once again throw ourselves into the lively heart of the city of Tilburg.
Lumerians, photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
Lumerians opens our Friday night in one of the smaller rooms of the immense theatre of Tilburg. The audience has taken a comfortable seat on the wooden tribune that opposes the stage while the band plays a hypnotizing, spacey post-punk with a light 60’s sound to it. They are dressed up as monks in robes of a shimmering, glittery material and behind them play such fantastic psychedelic visuals that we’re too mesmerized to even think about dancing along.
Grave Pleasures, photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
One big bonus point that comes with having a festival bang in city center is the abundance of good food. Overpriced hamburgers and soggy fries don’t make it on to our menu during Incubate. On our way to Hall of Fame to see Grave Pleasures, we find out that, what previously had been an abandoned industrial park crossed by rusty old train tracks, suddenly houses an atmospherically lit and freely accessible food truck festival. Dinner this weekend: sorted.
When we manage to tear ourselves away from the smell of freshly ground coffee and char-grilled hamburgers, Grave Pleasures, risen from the ashes of Beastmilk, give us a theatrical and captivating performance. Their sound is edgier than before but still has that recognizable apocalyptic feel to it. For a complete change of sound, we head off to Little Devil, where Belgian Associality shows us the fun side of punk with songs about punk granddads and a man who only drinks Jupiler beer.
Converge, photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
We’re still singing along to the chorus of the beer song when we arrive at the biggest name of the day: Converge. In a relentlessly loud performance, the hardcore punk legends live up to their name and put down one of the best shows of the week. A few hundred people are stage-diving and dancing in the pit as if their punk credentials depend on it. Frontman Jacob Bannon radiates a contagious energy as he belts out hit after hit. Sweaty and exhausted, we call it a night.
Saturday brings about a problem of an entirely different caliber. With so many different venues with each their own selection of beers on tap, we have a bit of a heavy head on our way to the first name on our list. Finnish K-X-P’s melodic, electronic sound with a definite hint of krautrock wouldn’t feel misplaced in the vaults of an abandoned Berlin power plant. However, the wooden beams, high ceilings and stained glass windows in Dudok, create a beautiful contrast to the industrial noises and ghostly sounds of the band. They put on a captivating show that calms our heads and prepares us well for the rest of the night.
Extase’s small stage and low ceiling sets the perfect vibe for a loud, no nonsense punk band and this is exactly what we get from Priests. Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer has an incredible stage presence. She parades on stage, screaming, singing and roaring in a skintight, giraffe-patterned suit and manages to give the audience a permanent death stare that would make Courtney Love green with envy. Priests gives us precisely what we go to Incubate for: seeing a relatively unknown act for the first time, who absolutely blows the patches off our jackets.
On the final day of the festival we finally have a sunny day and immediately take advantage of it to watch a show in the Muzentuin, a courtyard of the town’s art academy. We watch Surfer Blood play alternative rock with a lovely summer feel to it, before we decide it’s time to dive back into the loudness and head to Hall of Fame where the hardcore punkers from Jesus Police are tearing the stage to shreds. With so many bands playing at the same time, it’s sometimes tough to decide which ones to go and see and we may have been slightly favorable towards Jesus Police because of their name (it was a tough decision to skip Cocaine Piss later on).
Black Heart Rebellion, photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
Melodic post-rockers The Black Heart Rebellion whip us up into a Seventies progressive rock infused dream as they close the night in a ram packed Little Devil. With the imprint of the happy, sweaty faces of the crowd still in the back of our minds, we dash back to Midi to catch the second half of Wire, who have called upon about twenty guitarists from other bands at the festival to join them on stage. In a haze of perfectly orchestrated noise, they temporarily form The Pink Flag Orchestra and perform their 1977 debut album song ‘Pink Flag’ in a playful and legendary conclusion of the festival.
We cool off outside, still a little high from Wire’s brilliant performance, and convince ourselves that, yes, we still have enough spirit and adrenaline to make it to the after party in Extase. Chief Developer of Incubate Joost Heijthuijsen is one of the DJ’s, so within an hour of arrival we are part of a long conga line and attempt to dance to German schlager music. What a way to end a festival! The next day we hear that Neneh Cherry, who closed the festival in the Muzentuin on Sunday, was apparently part of that conga line and had a great time at the after party. She’s 51 years old and we had to agree she definitely beat us all at being the coolest person at the festival that night.
The first rainy, windy days of September blow in independent music festival Incubate. But you won’t catch us trotting through muddy fields while drinking beer from plastic cups, because this art, music and theatre festival takes place in the lively heart of Tilburg city. Notoriously home to Roadburn Festival, Tilburg proves there’s more to it than just its large music venue 013. Amongst the venues used during Incubate are a church, an old cinema, a theatre and a skate park, alongside a range of bars scattered throughout the town. Each of the bars stick to their own theme; for instance Paradox has mainly jazz and avant-garde artists while Extase is the place to be for rock and psychedelic. Our home base for the week was Little Devil, the infamous metal and punk den of Tilburg.
Art work at Incubate Festival. Photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
Being a seven-day-long marathon of a festival, Incubate offers an impressive program. Every day you can pick from an incredible range of things to do: you can participate in the music quiz, watch a theatre performance, visit an art exhibition, see a film, do a beer brewing masterclass and hopefully you’ll still have time to watch your favorite bands perform. During the week, the music program doesn’t start until six so there’s plenty of time to explore the town and the entire culture Incubate brings with it.
The Melvins, by Susanne A. Mathuis
But in the end, music is what we came here for and we didn’t have to wait long for the first excitement to creep in. Punk legends The Melvins played two exclusive shows this week, the first one rolling in on Tuesday. Big Business members Jared Warren and Coady Willis once more joined Dale Crover and King Buzzo for a loud and mesmerizing show at Midi, a former cinema where the comfy red seats are still visible stacked up behind the bar. We wish we could’ve been floating over the stage just so we could constantly watch the drummers captivatingly mirroring each other on a fused double drum set. As Jared Warren leaves the room after ending the last song with a hypnotizing “So long, we’ll never see you again”, Dale Crover pipes up to the microphone, singing “Until tomorrow, tomorrow, there’s another show, tomorrow, it’s only a day-,” Yeah, we were all guilty of singing along.
Trying to ignore the lingering realization it is a Tuesday, we pay a late night visit to Dudok and stumble right into Irish post-punk/noise act Girl Band. On the top floor of a former Catholic school, holy figures watch down on us from the stained glass windows as we try to catch a glimpse of singer Dara Kiely through the haze of legs kicking through the air. He’s suffering from a torn ligament and is determined to make up for his lack of running around, which means we mostly has view of an erratically shaking head of blond hair. Despite the religious feel to the location, Girl Band brings about an almost demonic amount of noise. Had it been up to Kiely, he would’ve crowd-surfed right with us in his wheelchair.
The best things at Incubate always happen when you get sidetracked from your plans because you accidentally run into something else. On our way into town to see Dead Neanderthals, we pass the Hall of Fame. This venue is set in a large old building next to abandoned train tracks, which nowadays houses the town’s indoor skate park. After dragging ourselves away from watching the skaters go on with their day as if Incubate is a film playing in the background, we end up in a backroom where Belgian hardcore punkers Daggers are creating the musical equivalent of a Molotov cocktail. In an explosion of noise and distortion, they took our after-dinner apathy and kicked it right up our ass.
Still experiencing aftershocks from the deafening volume in the Hall of Fame, we ended up at the old cinema again, where Dead Neanderthals were tasked with curating the Thursday. They had invited UK noise rockers Three Trapped Tigers to open the night and Norwegian blackjazzers (is that even a word?) Shining to end with a bang. Their own show is nothing less than a wall of sound. Just layer over layer of noise. We hear dark jazz, some metal, some industrial, and all of it blends neatly into a ball of pure awesomeness. When their set is finished, we overhear a guy saying: “Wow, now there’s noise and there is noise.” Sums it up, really.
Shining, by Susanne A. Mathuis
Shining shows us exactly how sexy metal can be. Frontman Jørgen Munkeby almost makes you forget there’s an entire band behind him. The rawness in Shining is by now far gone and their music is so rhythmic it’s nearly impossible to stand still and look cool. From the hairstyles and matching black outfits to the technical precision with which all the instruments collide, everything is razor sharp and ever so slick. They put up a theatrical and energetic performance in which Munkeby and his saxophone often take the spotlight. Loud and in your face but, man, so super, super smooth.
Shining, by Susanne A. Mathuis
In a haze of sweat and with our hearts still beating in Shining tunes, we stumble outside, only to land in the middle of a gathering. An unplanned gathering, that is. It happens a lot at Incubate. In front of every venue, people meet in the streets. Not only is the entire Tilburg music scene present at the festival, so are a lot of people who only see each other every year at Incubate (and maybe Roadburn). Meeting new people is easy, as “wow, what a show” seems to elicit reactions from pretty much everyone present outside, regardless of the show. It’s hard to think it’s only Thursday and the main part of the festival hasn’t even begun yet. But sleep is for the weak, and the Little Devil doesn’t plan on closing at midnight.
There aren’t many tours that are revealed that I get giddy with excitement for immediately after they are announced. After hearing The Dillinger Escape Plan were playing Boston, however, it became one of my most highly anticipated shows of the year, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. They are one of those bands who, from the times I have seen them, put on some of the most intense shows I have ever seen.
So, when I reached the sold out Brighton Music Hall and saw the crowd building up when doors opened, I knew Boston was going to be in for a hell of a show. The night started off with the band Shining. No, not the black metal band from Sweden, but the experimental metal act from Norway. Fronted by guitarist, vocalist, and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, Shining blends the intricacy of progressive metal with the sound of jazz and black metal in order to craft very interesting pieces of music, which can be heard on their releases Blackjazz and One One One (Indie Recordings). Opening with the track ‘I Won’t Forget’, it was obvious that some of the crowd did not know what to expect after they began to play. The band played with a lot of energy and had a very strong stage presence throughout their set. By the end, most of the crowd was into their performance, even some of the people who were talking about why they were on the bill. They ended their set with a cover of ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ by King Crimson, and having the whole crowd sing along was a perfect way to close their set.
Following Shining were glitchy hardcore noisemakers Retox, whose mathy approach must have been a tad too offbeat for a crowd awaiting Trash Talk. With a more straightforward and urban approach to hardcore, it lends itself more to the mosh, essentially. Busting out oldies like a souped-up version of ‘F.Y.R.A.’ and the title track from their fastcore favourite, ‘Walking Disease’ and evenly dotting in some of their darker, heavier material from Eyes & Nines and 119 paved the way for stage-dive and crowd surf central. With vocalist Lee Spielman keeping the crowd hype in order to give them their money’s worth in next day bruises, there was no shortage of circle pits, rafter hanging (guitarist Spencer included), and of course, good old fashioned mosh ignorance. Those near the stage during the seasonably doom-laden ‘Hash Wednesday” would also be able to smell a certain sweet leaf making the rounds. Surprisingly, no hospitalizations, but definitely a lot of damaged shoes.
To pile mayhem on mayhem came The Dillinger Escape Plan, who, unlike Retox, have the history and long-standing reputation for hosting shows where the trend generally is rafter hanging, pit violence, more rafter hanging, impassioned singalongs, and maybe more rafter hanging, but this time instigated by guitarist extraordinaire Ben Weinman. Of course, you can guess that this set followed the formula of a normal Dillinger set, but is that ever a bad thing?
Aside from vocalist Greg Puciato telling all couples to make sweet love for the sake of procreation during the swank, ear-friendly intro to the title track of their Sumerian Records debut, One Of Us Is The Killer, you can guess what happened, short of the venue walls collapsing under the weight of ‘43% Burnt’, or the glorious pile-on/stage invasion during ‘Sunshine The Werewolf’, a fitting closer. Whoever programs their light show should get an academy award for the headache inducing task of syncing up anti-epilepsy death rays with the mind-bending time signatures that they bust out as easily as a grade schooler can beat-box. When even ‘Panasonic Youth’ is a comparatively ‘easy’ song to tap your foot to, you know you’re in for the musical equivalent of a plane crash. In the best way, of course. Be sure to pick up the wreckage that was your brain on the way out of the venue.
Despite all odds, the Brighton Music Hall still stands, and so we may tell the tale of the night it survived Trash Talk And The Dillinger Escape Plan back to back. Honestly, I’m still puzzled, but some things are best not to think too hard about and just accept. Life is kind of like stage-diving, if you think about it that way.