Crud World Domination Enterprises give you
The Burning Buddhists
My Imaginary Friend
Jug Of Ale, Moseley
Strange days, strange nights. Passed through Cheltenham, where at one particularly low and desperate ebb I was "Turned down by Tesco’s" (for a job, but taking the positives would make a good punk song title). Nothing much seemed to have changed, still had the excellent independent Badlands record shop, still had the little Roundabout music shop where I once saw local resident Wurzel ex-Motorhead. Also the one place I’d voted, won’t make that mistake again.
Spent the afternoon moseying around a nuclear power plant on the banks of the Severn, alongside the Wetland Trust nature reserve. Returned as far as the Midlands in preparation for my next days work, having already checked the gig guides, nothing I recognised but a visit to Afrirampo’s website hinted at entertainment of some sorts.
The venue is a medium sized room upstairs at a pub, regular and frequent live nights of indie/alternative type stuff seeming to create a good vibe. Some 60-80 people for this one off promotion of something a whole lot further off the wall.
Two big projection screens, a digital alarm clock at the side of the stage, a bit of nervous faffing around, I feared pretentious art toss from My Imaginary Friend. This was rapidly dismissed though, as a chopped up stream of city- and landscape film, with a lot of extra work going into digital manipulation and layering, provided a visual fix to their dislocated experimental music styles that went on largely (literally) in the background. Constantly changing, techno-jazz, electronics and samples running though interspersed with breakbeats from live drums, looped guitar picking and a beautifully evil dub-heavy bass. Slightly overlong, but still strikingly fine example of 21st century psychedelia.
Three "older gentlemen" (40’s?) were the Buddhist’s, but age and mellowing didn’t come into it. While one with his back to the crowd was engaging in some sound mixing and warping with various devices the guitarist (strapless) was relentlessly thrashing sh*t out of his instrument in mid-air, occasionally changing position but with no let-up in pace. As if this wasn’t enough the drummer was an absolute revelation, one of the most intense ever seen, a live incarnation of Animal from the Muppets. But no joke, a whirlwind blur of shamanistic tribal thunder, sometimes playing standing to unleash further fury. Reminded me of the Destructo Swarmbots wall of sound, especially after the 20-odd minute rising, pulsing torrent ends abruptly with guitar thrown across stage and an exit to much applause.
There are probably some normal Japanese bands. Shonen Knife, with their smiley surf-punk in the early 90’s, were… relatively normal. However, there are a lot of, frankly, mentalists like Psydoll and now Afrirampo who trek half way around the world to share their friendly madness with us. No doubt cultural differences could be a factor in this oddity but when the guitarist comes on stage with a metal ironing board balanced on her head while the drummer beats it with a big stick, I think it could be slightly more. It’s just the two sisters, pretty and good humoured, tasselled, quite revealing dresses, barefoot, lunatic. Though you can see starting points of reference of White Stripes (especially with their 2-piece set-up) or early Sonic Youth (who they’ve supported) they go off on so many tangents, encompass so many moods and styles it’s fantastically engaging. There’s a punky rock core, some more atmospheric pieces, some extreme noise, constant experimental pushing of boundaries. For all the apparent chaos their playing is very tight, focussed on each other, enjoying what they do. Again, the drumming has patches of incredible, surprising, ferocity while the guitar is fed through a combo amp AND a meaty bass head and cab giving a really powerful sound, plus the treat of simultaneous heavy and high feedback. Their dual vocals are the final quirky layer, sometimes just sounds (the entire first song seemed to be "Da-da-da-da-DAAH!"), sometimes their native tongue, banshee screams, just about anything they could come up with. For some reason they conduct most of their between song talk in French which just adds to the general bemusement/amusement. The sound as a whole has great impact but then I was a foot from the PA speakers and loving it. The guitarist crawls on all fours around the front of the stage to recover her ironing board as a slide, the drummer is standing on her bass drum singing and still playing, so much goes on I can only remember a fraction. To universal rich applause they finish and leave, waving coyly goodbye. With the leg of the ironing board. They are off to appear at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival down on the south coast, along with the likes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Suicide and Yoko Ono. Wherever, whenever, if you get the chance, see them and you will not fail to be entertained.
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