Thursday, 9 April 2009

NME Radar Piece: London No Fi Scene

The nascent rumblings of a dewey eyed new movement in terminally jaded London are a sound to cherish and one that doesn’t come along every day. Whether it’s the sheer size of the city, the diversity of bills on offer on any given night or just that no one likes talking to each other very much the capital consistently does a great job of failing to produce coherent scenes in comparison to the nations more moderately sized metropolis’s.

However, in East end basement dives like The Moustache Bar and Bardens Boudoir, beyond the confines of Shoreditch, up the Kingsland Road and deep into the heart Dalston a crop of bands have embraced a solidly DIY ethic, a healthy dollop of not caring too much what anything sounds like as long as it’s fast, fun and immediate and each other. They share bills, play house parties and warehouses together, co-own labels and release split 7”s and tapes in such a flurry that they make your average jangly indie jobbers look like a bands worth of the dad guy from The Royle Family.

As well as sharing stages and sides of vinyl all of these bands have clearly spent their childhoods digesting similar records. The loud/quiet dynamics of early 90’s grunge, the immediacy of puerile late 70’s US punk all figure but the shimmering hiss and fuzz of K Records lo-fi taken to it’s ramshackle no-fi endpoint is perhaps the defining attribute.

Having been together for a whopping eighteen months, stripped back three piece Graffiti Island are, relatively speaking, elder statesmen of the whole shebang. Sounding like a lost 4-track recording of an imaginary jam session Beat Happening might have had with The Wipers their dusty tales of mysterious diseases and ancient tribes are underpinned by taught bass lines swathed in fuzz and alluringly handsome frontman Pete Donaldson’s sardonic vocal delivery.

The all girl trio PENS offer a shambolic take on skuzzy Germs style punk as sang by the Shangri-La’s codeineified younger sisters as well as a drummer who stands up and a cover of The Gun Club’s “Sexbeat” so wantonly joyous it makes you never want to hear the original again.

Male Bonding are three guys with two guitars and a drum kit who playing dizzying, spazzed out, lean punk that sound a little bit like Naked Raygun playing through Morphiene’s amps. They also run Paradise Vendors inc., the label that has already released the bands split with PENS and will soon drop a four way split with Grafitti Island and like minded Stateside souls Rapid Youth and Old Blood.

It could be easy to see the sound emanting from this East London DIY no-fi bubble as analogous to the music that US acts like Wavves and Blank Dogs have been pedaling on labels like Woodsist and Captured Tracks but while both the influences and modes of operation are similar the diversity of output offered by bands like laptop and electric drum kit lowest-fi adherents TEETH or the tumbling, urgent, reverb soaked garage of Thee Fair Oh’s will make it more than worth your while to go hunting for something exciting out East under the fuzz.

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