Monday, 5 November 2012

Math the way to do it. Rolo Tomassi live review London XOYO

Rolo Tomassi ****1/2*
Oathbreaker *****
Good Time Boys *****

XOYO Shoreditch 31st October

So many trendies. Movers, groovers, ketamine users and people called Simon with interesting facial hair who work as some kind of social media consultant or back end developer; whatever the fuck one of those is.

Anyway, on this All Hallows Eve, the geeks, freaks and chics are out in force for tonight’s fête-de-noise. It’s traditionally an evening of surprises, but the preponderance of London’s über hipsters in the packed out Shoreditch dungeon is a genuine shock. Rolo Tomassi maybe many things, but at the bleeding edge of cool accessibility is a new one on me.

So, what can the assembled coolsters expect to be served on the zinc bar of aching remove tonight?

Good Time Boys *****
Here’s a weird one. Remember that song about monsters coming over the hill? Well, tonight’s opening act boast among their number (actually the front man) a metamorphosed member of the pedlars of said tune. Yup, ex-Automatic noodler Alex Pennie has undergone a trans hardcore realignment procedure, had his floppy fringy hair removed (naturally or otherwise) and had about a gallon of ink applied to become a mean looking bundle of vim, gall, lava and spit.

And has the realignment been successful? Well, in parts, yes. His energy, honesty and swagger are as evident as his constant, fitting, flailing hardcore moves. He’s got the growls, the anger, the rawness; but here’s the twist. Or maybe catch. He’s backed by Snow Patrol. Or, at best, Canterbury.

The incongruity is amazing. Purposely or otherwise. A truly competent, musical, almost melodic band of nice blokes providing a very pleasant heavy indie-fused backdrop: with a dervish nutter bastard throwing himself around like an A.D.D. kid who’s been told he can’t have a new BeyBlade for Chrimbo. Or who’s arse has been dipped in burning toluene. Told you it was weird.

Not to say it’s all bad. At all. But, for me, the music lacks a searingly sharp edge. It’s a nice electro-plated-nickel-silver fish knife and not a nasty, rusty, blood-stained stiletto. It lacks any real visceral punch. No breakdowns. Beat downs or machine gun bite.

But the honesty, endeavour, energy and spirit seem to kick the cool crowd’s designer insouciance into next week and get a good number of botties bouncing around.

Oathbreaker *****
A girl. Ok, cousin It from the Addams Family. In a sparkly jacket. With a mish mash of a band including a bass player straight out of Lamb Of God or Job For A Cowboy. Could be interesting…..

…No could be about it. The detonator primed, pin pulled and from the off the moshing crowd are laid waste by a full on assault. This is a genuine melting pot of unstable and dangerous explosives. There are semtex blobs of Down, tied to the heavier dynamite sticks of White Stripes. There’s buckets of Black Flag gunpowder, mixed with Converge nail bombs. It’s not just bombast, it’s bloody open warfare. A demure Belgian wench armed to the teeth with a heavy gun. Firing fucking dum dums.

Tanghe...she got It.
This is not math. It’s arithmetic. Adding hardcore to black metal, sludge and punk. Songs aren’t polyrhythmic per se, just collections of added together killer riffs, slow grinds, fast kicks, bad-assed breakdowns. And all tuned in doom. It’s filthy in parts. Putting even the filthiest dubstep in the stygian shade. And probably made at least nine Shoreditch back-end developers shit themselves.

Caro Tanghe (cousin It) has a huge fierce scream, which while not totally imaginative or versatile, cuts through the doom-laden, brown note infused wall of death. And after only two or three songs, the floor is straight out of Ypres. Blood, mud, bile, tracer fire and fucking ‘orrible big moaning tanks laced with barbed wire. It’s powerful, mean, relentless and, well, for a near-death experience rather splendid actually.

Rolo Tomassi ****1/2*
As I’ve said, judging by the achingly cool crowd, the steel city quintet are making as big a noise in the broader music business as they do on stage. Which, while truly deserved is a tad surprising. They can be accused of many things, but accessibility doesn’t swim to the surface of the rap sheet.

So, would the trendies really like it? Or would they nod and shuffle appreciatively because they’re supposed to? Difficult to call because, although they’re out in force, this is essentially a party for the real fans. Many sporting fancy dress (one as a wonderful tin of Spam – no, really). 
Anyway, sod the crowd, what Hallloween treats and tricks are we going to be served up? Well, a suitably Halloweened up band including the diminutive Eva Spence in a full Brian May/Anita Dobson goth wig and natty black lace number take to the stage and smash everyone’s collective pumpkins.

Impossible to truly categorise, there are passages of pure brain-melting math, jazz explosions, 8 bit console themed diversions, ambient, atmospheric reveries and heavier than uranium Dillinger-imbued brutality.

This is clever music. Very clever music. Spence’s lead vocal ranges between blood curdling screams and yelps to soothing, choral smoothness. Tornado jet powered might to little girl lost sweetness. Bruv Jamie adds a billy goat gruff percussive bark from time to time and it’s all backed with spiralling, geometric, precise and brilliant playing.

New bassist and guitarist Nathan Fairweather (from Brontide) and Chris Cayford (No Coast) have fitted into the quintet seamlessly and along with Ed Dutton’s algorithmic, jazzfuck mesmerising stickwork provide a sophisticated, thrilling and oft brutal soundscape to assault and charm the assembly in equal dose.

The new material from forthcoming album Astraea while at first listen (albeit at 110dB) doesn’t signal anything too wildly different, sounds wonderfully spiky, symphonic and sophisticated and should garner airplay and unit sales alike.

The evening ends with a mass fancy dress stage dive set to the stirring, severe singalong Party Wounds. And the trendies seemed to dig as much as the die-hards.

Rolo Tomassi are truly original, exciting and talented purveyors of intelligent, intense and incomparable noise. But the bottom line is fuck do they rock. And tonight, they left no forehead left without perspiration. No brain without ache from trying to calculate the impossible. And no face without a genuine, satiated smile. Even the back-end developers. Well, maybe.

Arcane Roots and This Town Need Guns up next.

In the meantime, here's Rolo Tomassi's latest vid, Ex Luna Scientia
More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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