March 9, 2014
by Tjeerd van Erve
When one reads about Deerhoof superlatives often crop up in the text. The blogosphere, with Pitchfork leading the pack, describes the band as one of the most innovative and influential indie rock bands of the moment. A band with a unique sound that uses jazz, child tunes, indie rock, Afro beat, pop and japanoise to make one big musical pie. There is no typical Deerhoof sound: every song is a new adventure on its own, showcasing all different interests of its four individual members. Or at least, so the blogosphere writes. But when listening to Deerhoof vs Evil it actually was my kids who came with the only accurate description of what they were hearing at that moment. Laughing like crazy little baboons, they told me that this was just plain weird. They kept laughing the same way as they kept laughing when they heard Melt Banana for the first time. My two little buggers, born music connoisseurs, gave me all information I needed in preparation of this evening’s Incubated: Deerhoof, tonight’s headliner, is just plain weird.
A birth brings us The Sweet Release Of Death to the gig. That’s right, a birth. Howso? Well, the actual opener was supposed to be Space Siren, but they had to cancel at the last minute because the bass player of this grand Dutch noise pop quartet had to assist his wife in labour. Still, The Sweet Release Of Death is a more than half decent replacement though; maybe one of the most promising Dutch indie rock bands of the moment. They’ve just released this fine (not brilliant, though I’m pretty sure there’s this small seed growing in them waiting to turn in to something magnifique) début, recorded and clearly produced by Corno Zwetsloot. Clearly, as there’s this Seesaw, Seedling, Zoppo, Space Siren twang in the sound and production that is unmistakably due to Zwetsloot’s hand and ear. The man has the cunning ability to keep all little details clear, clean and upfront without really bringing anything upfront. With The Sweet Release Of Death‘s debut LP Bulb , it’s precisely this which makes the record open most of its beauty. Sadly though, the Rotterdam trio doesn’t have a clear vision on what to say in some of the songs yet. It sounds almost as if they filled a perfectly balanced EP with some on-the spot-written sketches that could have used some extra moulding.
Still this debut does give you, or at least me, the idea that there is something about to happen with The Sweet Release Of Death. And live, the threesome has recently got its thing together. Compared to previous shows, they are a tighter, more energetic unit. And it is precisely that energy that gives the melodic noise rock that extra kick. Even I nearly start hopping around to the playful baselines, embracing the soft and open spun guitar wall. This is what ticks my indie heart a little faster and leaves me hoping they’ll be able that catch that energy on the follow up of Bulb. Surely they have it in them.
As always with Incubated there is absolutely no theme in the programme. You might as well go unprepared and just expect the unexpected. An open mind and a love for independent and left field culture is all that connects the different nights and bands. I have previously referred to this as Incubate’s own temporarily autonomous (art) zones. A travelling circus, a brand, but also a state of mind. Going to Incubated also means you are ready to be bewildered. Therefore, there is no possibility to create a bridge from The Sweet Release Of Death to Father Murphy, the second act on the 013 stage this evening.
For the next thirty-something minutes, we are part of a dark prayer -a reverse Tibetan mantra -drenched in noise, drones and deeper, more experimental industrial. The duo does not so much offer a performance as a seance. They chant in noisy congregation to either avoid or embrace the darkness (I’m not sure about that one). Personally I have to think of the folky dark wave of Kiss The Anus Of A Black Cat and this other Belgian band Sylvester Anfang mixed with the more devotional moments of Swans. More importantly, tit’s impressive: unavoidably I’m pulled along by the noise mantra. Father Murphy is not just making music, they become the music on stage and bring every vain in to bring it to you. An experience, as every noise act should be. Something to be immersed in, and so I get caught in waves of bells, noise and chants, chants and more chants.
Even more of an experience is Deerhoof. Fittingly described by my two boys as “plain weird” this quartet serves a good hour of quirky indie sizzle. Forget the concepts, structures and rules of pop and rock and enter a world in which you are constantly taken off guard. The only certainty Deerhoof offers the bystander is the knowledge that something will happen. What, when or how, you don’t know until it kicks you in the face. It’s quirkiness to the top with four musicians each playing their own tune, and – almost as by accident – create a group tune outside of the box – most boxes I know anyway. Most noteworthy though is the drummer, who eschews playing on the beat, making it sound as if he’s constantly making mistakes. But they are very accurate mistakes, performed in utter brilliance. The drummer of The Sweet Release, shining like a happy child after just seeing Deerhoof tells me, this was the best musician he has ever seen perform live. Honestly I think that is a bit overdone, but I do get where he is heading. What he does is brilliant, unimaginable, especially in pop music. A brilliance shared by the rest of the band.
Brilliant and innocent, an innocence that harbours the unlimited fantasy of a child where there are no borders or conventions of reality. Anything can and will happen, performed by four skilled musicians with an unlimited creative musicality. An unlimited musicality that is probably best described by the only red line through out this show, a recurring monologue of the drummer around the Dutch word ‘tuinkers’, the bands favourite Dutch word. For years, eleven years, they had been pronouncing it as ‘twink-ers’. Incorrectly, they found out last year, as it should be ‘t’owncùrs’. Bowing down to the microphone, which is at one metre and forty centimetres or so, he goes on and on about the ‘t’owncùrs’. Hilarious, and weird as my kids would say, whilst laughing like only these young brads can laugh. Without any form of shame or convention, they let themselves go. Just like Deerhoof does, all with the same effect: you can’t just but laugh along with them. There is no order in making sense, with chaos being the best free structure to live by. A chaos, that does work better on record than on stage as here it lacks the tightness the band does manage to get in the studio. But that is made up with playfulness and enthusiasm that seems to be without borders, coming from a world where conventions clearly need to be broken, and it is normal to be mixing Iron Maiden double guitar riffs with free-form jazz drumming and the absurd simplicity of a child or even just childish tune. These three dudes and one dudette are out on having fun in breaking the rules. That’s it. Simple. So, fuck the blogosphere, my kids are right, Deerhoof is just plain weird.