Call me Russ L

GDFAF #9: Pram/Modified Toy Orchestra/Shady Bard (15/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 16 October, 2007

Monday the fifteenth saw me at Birmingham Town Hall for third time in Goodfaff fortnight, for Capsule’s night.

There was an interesting post by P’Ashton in the run-up this. While I can’t say that I feel the “identifying with the fact that these bands are playing” part of it myself, I do think that it’s great that these bands got the chance to play in a big hall and in front of the big audience that was at least partly attracted by the fact that this gig was part of the Town Hall re-opening foofaraw. It is also a Very Good Thing that the Powers That Be have decided to get people who know what they’re talking about to sort out this sort of gig, rather than attempting to do it themselves.

I didn’t like Shady Bard when I saw them as part of Goodfaff 2006, and so skirted around them at this year’s Supersonic. I forget if there was bad sound or what, but they sounded like a fairly dreary folksy indie band. At this gig, dreary was the absolute last thing they sounded. They came across as a sort of Walker Brothers-come-Nick Cave-come-Tindersticks gone post-rock. Beautifully arranged melancholic songs with lots of different sounds going on, building up to big stonking crescendos. The singerer’s nervous between-song-banter was endearing, too. Colour me completely won over. I definitely want to see them again.

Theatre-style ice-cream vendors made an appearance between bands. I didn’t buy one, but I do approve of this.

Modified Toy Orchestra, as any fule kno, are one of my favourite bands. Their music is made by means of electronic toys that have been doctored by means of the arcane art of circuit bending. Your man opens it up, makes connections between bits of the circuitry until it makes a reaction he likes, then solders it together thusly. Genius. This gig made me wonder (although not for the first time) why MTO weren’t playing at Artsfest. If there are two local bands that combine ‘substance and actual worth’ with ‘the ability to appeal to lots of different walks of life’, they’re The Destroyers and The Modified Toy Orchestra. I’m sure it’s no co-incidence that both of them ended up playing as part of this Town Hall opening fortnight.

MTO just manage to work on so many different levels, and keep revealing more. There’s the novelty aspect (toyz~!) of course, but you have to add the philosophical side to it (finding potential in the gaps of modern life. I’ve linked this interview a couple of times before, but it’s well worth a read), and the fact that they have bloody ace songs that will appeal equally as much to your 10 year on sugar, your 20 year old on pills, your thirty year old on lager and your 40 year old on chin stroking. This time there were various people bursting into laughter at certain sounds they weren’t expecting (a sudden moo of a cow, for example), which I hadn’t really encountered in any of the previous five times I’d seen them but is a perfectly reasonably response and yet another way to enjoy them.

Pram always sound less electronic-y than I expect them to be. How they manage to do this every single time I hear them without me changing my expectations is a question you’ll just have to ponder. Apart from sounding pretty darn jazzy in places this time (certainly more so than the last time I saw them), the thing that always stands out about their multi-instrumental sound adventures is the dreamlike quality (and the occasional hint at a nightmarish quality too). They’re always very beautifully textured (that’ll be all the different instruments. And no, we won’t be having any jokes about tromboning here), but seem to have an almost otherworldly element about them too.

Also, they’re hard to describe. Oh so very hard to describe.

A really nice night of music, altogether.



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