Kendo Nagasaki at Hare & Hounds,Support: The Courtesy Group| Moths Of The Moon
January 31, 2024 at Hare & Hounds,
Promoter: This is TMRW
What better way to mark the midpoint of Independent Venue Week than a night at one of Birmingham’s finest? Weird On Purpose is a monthly night from dependable promoters This Is TMRW: three bands, five quid. Splendid idea really. Tonight’s impressive triple whammy features a cast of faces who’ve been troubling the streets and stages of south Birmingham for a while now.
First up, Moths of The Moon are a spin off duo from the magnificent and mysterious Pram. If you didn’t already know, you might be able to work it out. There’s no drums or brass but layers of floating sound: creaky electronic organ drones augmented variously by accordion, violin, recorder, melodica and whistling shortwave radio. It is dreamy, woozy and hypnotic. As their name suggests, it’s nocturnal, lunar, music that feels entirely suited to the enigmatic clips of early cinema they play in front of. Their first tune has a backdrop of swaying pines and a twangy keyboard motif that brings passing thoughts of Twin Peaks. You can imagine them accompanying Méliès’ A Trip To The Moon or the river boat scenes in The Night Of The Hunter but they steer clear of anything too obvious or familiar, offering obscure visual moments that resonate with the music. There’s a fair few ominous figures moving slowly and various creaky ectoplasm effects.
The Courtesy Group are long-running local favourites who seem destined to remain a midlands secret, the wider world still not ready for songs about Alum Rock. They play every couple of months or so but only record occasionally. Tonight’s set draws largely on their most recent album 2nd City Liquor which I’m startled to note is soon to be six years old. Al Hutchins barks poetry out at us backed by swinging post-everything garage rock. It’s powerhouse stuff, Chris Cundy blowing up a storm on the sax. Hutchins loses power to the mic early doors, fixes it and then wanders straight into the crowd. The weird floral shirt having finally died he now rocks a suit which gives a bit of a desperate-football-manager-in-relegation-dogfight aspect to his pronouncements. The lazy shorthand here is to invoke either The Fall, The Nightingales or both. I would usually try and rise above such reductionism, but after they finish Hutchins plugs next week’s launch of his poetry book before looking out in the crowd to ask The ‘Gales Fliss Kitson what date they’re supporting House Of All here to plug that as well. So, y’know, why fight it?
We might also mention Redditch Colossi The Cravats whose spirit hovers in the room like one of those pale figures in the flickering films behind Moths Of The Moon. The Shend himself has pronounced his approval of headliners Kendo Nagasaki, and since their debut album last spring, when eyebrows were raised at the idea of a drums trombone drums trio, they’ve made impressive progress, particularly in the more interesting corners of 6music. Nonetheless a degree of incomprehension still greets their onslaught. Nagasaki use improvisation to write their tunes but then they practice and tighten up the good bits. There’s none of that skittering tempo “no really, after you” jazz business; they dive straight in and blast off. The beats are tough and steady, people should really be dancing in a delirious and peculiar manner to their heated grooves as if they were a 60’s beatnik organ-trio tearing it up. Then again, it is only Wednesday. Wild frugging to swinging noise-beat instrumentals is yet to really catch on. We can but dream. They’ve a new single ‘Thudding Dollar Dictation’ landing in a month, which has a touch of the Rhubarb and Custard about its repetitive chewy insanity. Get on it pop kids.
Next month, Weird On Purpose coughs up three chunks of punk with Dimes, Hey Alamo and Bad Girlfriend. Rude not to.