January 25, 2019
by Richard Foster
An irreverent memoir, in which I hook up with Moscow’s brilliant ГШ / Glintshake during the NL leg of their European tour.
“They’re late…” Koen ter Heegde of Subroutine Records breaks the news and potters off to find an amp lead. He’s got enough on his plate without pandering to my idea of fun.
It seems ГШ / Glintshake won’t be joining in any pre-gig bonhomie at the The Sound of Young Holland showcase. They may miss their food on this, their first NL gig. This doesn’t really bother me but then, I’m sat in the womb-like gloaming of Groningen’s O’Ceallaigh’s, Guinness in my hand. Before the band play, at midnight, in the cramped, sweaty Kult, I can watch The Homesick and Neighbours Burning Neighbours, sneak in to ESNS proper and watch the brilliant Ukrainian accordionist Yegor Zabelov (amazing!) and meet up with all my old pals from the old Dutch underground scene. In any case, I feel ГШ / Glintshake have a sort of indestructible charm about them. The last thing I want to think about is how Sergey (saxophonist, diet specialist and driver-mechanic par excellence) is currently navigating the Hamburg-Groningen route.
ГШ / Glintshake are on their first EU tour proper. Doubtless someone will correct me, but I think this is the first time they’ve played more than 5 dates on the road in a row. This isn’t down to laziness, rather the opposite in fact. Kate Shilonosova and Jenya Gorbuov are busy people, at the beck and call of the demands of their respective solo projects. So this is a rare treat.
Before we talk about the Muscovites we should talk about the bands I’ve just mentioned. As ever on this showcase O’Ceallaigh’s is heaving, and The Homesick are up first. The new set is again a revelation. Confident, relaxed, and with an aura of hitherto unseen professionalism about them, the trio knock out three brand new tracks that blend into each other in a very raga way. The Heaven up Here Bunnymenisms of the previous year or so have been artfully stretched to pander to a bleached American 70s-80s alternative songbook. Green on Red, Todd Rundgren, Rain Parade, very early REM, maybe Camper Van… The sense of remove and confidence they show is something else. This is a matter of fact bunch of lads making music that is on the cusp of greatness. To invoke MES on a year’s anniversary of his passing, they’re just living too late.
I stay downstairs to catch Neighbours Burning Neighbours. Sweet Release’s Alicia has swapped her bass for lead guitar. Her bandmates have a raggle taggle feel about them; it’s as if they’ve found each other in a supermarket. When they start play however they sound perfectly in tune with each other. It all sounds incredibly sharp, a choppy mix of post rock and no wave, all with a coating of Next to Jaap studio’s trademark sturm und drang. The tracks are presented like professional card tricks, replete with clever turns, unexpected reveals and endings. And the wall of sound is often given additional emotional punch by some very clever singing (the co-vocalist has a hell of a set of pipes on her) that gives real resonance and to them. They are incredibly promising.
After what feels like wading through a bath of Guinness we wind our way up the street to Kult. We see ГШ / Glintshake. They look stressed. Whatever is going on between them and the lads from Lepel – who look after the kit in this speakeasy cum venue – isn’t plain sailing. Regardless, we get going and as ever, with the first crashing bars of Польза (Benefit) it sounds as if they’re headlining the Ziggo Dome, not playing a floor show in a cramped sweaty room full of drunk, baying hipsters and journalists. Kate, as ever, takes hold of the emotional direction of the songs and draws the room out of itself. She is a hypnotic presence and it’s not only me who thinks it. There is a line of girls in front of her watching every move… For their part, Jenya, Andrey and Igor play their parts as C17th courtiers and counsellors to a monarch, busying themselves with providing the stage and supplying the scenery for the Grand Masque. Sax man Sergey wages a one man war with the monitor which lasts the whole gig. Things get frenetic with Недолж, which becomes a rock monster scattering the audience like pins on a bowling alley. Despite everything that drove them to frustration in the set up, they are utterly triumphant. After this Sweet Release of Death put on a brilliant show, burning holes in the stratosphere with a set that really is heading into Sonic Youth’s Sister territory.
Later I talk to someone who avidly lectures me on the Word of the Lord in the Scriptures and simultaneously tries to steal my drink. Batman’s car picks up two friends and I wake up – fully clothed I hasten to add, and my honour fully intact – next to one of the gentlemen organisers of MENT festival. Such is life. Now, Amsterdam.
After a train journey south that can best be described as a waking dream fuelled by saucijzenbroodjes, I walk through Amsterdam Oud Zuid’s pleasing streets to the mighty OCCII, the last bastion of underground culture and a reminder of what DIY can do if you put your soul into it. My job is to do the door and get in everyone’s way during load in and soundcheck.
Legend has it that OCCII’s front is inspired by the C19th Russian nationalist avant-garde, and specifically in the venue’s case, Viktor Hartmann, a Russian painter and architect. ГШ / Glintshake update this NL-RU entente into the C21st after soundcheck, turning OCCII flyers into РOCCИЯ flyers (easy if you have the know how with a biro). Tonight they are joined by their new found pals The Sweet Release of Death and Terrie Hessels of The Ex. Hessels gives a masterclass of a soundcheck, simply turning his amp on and plucking the odd string on his guitar. It lasts 20 seconds. By showtime there is a decent crowd in; – some achievement given the weather and the fact many Amsterdam music hounds are currently in Groningen at ESNS. ГШ / Glintshake have an aura about them, though, and of course Terrie Hessels is Terrie Hessels. His set is a marvellous opening blast, a fun extempore performance with the wisdom of years behind it; akin to a Gerard Hoffnung book or lecture. Or Buzz Lightyear amped up. I have written elsewhere about his playfulness in presenting his music, how he smashes through perceptions of how we should approach avant-garde sounds. And his gig tonight (replete with his small arsenal of plectrums spoons and drumsticks) is the perfect opening fanfare; warm, engaging and stimulating.
Oh yeah, talking about tonight… tonight ГШ / Glintshake have a proper stage to play on. This means they are able to stick some of their LED lights up, bringing some of the visual elements of their witty music to bear. Kate – dressed in a white shirt and suit – maybe unwittingly reflects the capital’s self regard and runs through a series of animated jerky motions that perfectly introduce the ГШ / Glintshake’s witty, playful message. It’s impossible explain how captivating this whole act is. For their part the band thunder on like some huge old steam train, the rhythm section oiling the wheels and being the perfect counterweight to the sharp stabs and expressive counterpoints created by sax and guitar. And tonight their long drawn out improvisations in tracks such as Недолж and Что-то случится hit a peak; a LED-lit “Barrett meets Ludus” show, interstellar overdrives and howling comiques for the digital age. The discerning crowd sink back and drink it all in, luxuriating in the band’s vision and know how. After this Sweet Release of Death – yet again – churn out a howling thunderous noise that promises to end the world. SROD are some proposition nowadays, driven it seems by a common purpose. They also seem to be adding an elegiac, anthemic side to their sound, one born from ceaseless live practice or deconstruction of their live pyrotechnics. In that particular aspect, they aren’t that far away from Repetitor nowadays. I have to run for the train, and face a long walk home in a bitter climate but all that is an irrelevance.
First things first. I work at WORM. Just so you know I am utterly biased in this report, but then the course of life, let alone love, never did run smooth. I arrive to sort out all sorts of matters including ensuring saxophonist Sergey doesn’t die of spicy food and finding him a tall chair to sit down on on stage. And eliminating the merest hint of tofu from the meal of another Muscovite. This is no joking matter. The place is full of heads here to see the band (many of whom remember the incendiary Shortparis gig here last summer), a fair smattering of Russians and Poles and people who have come to see a historical play about Mary Queen of Scots in WORM’s theatre space next door. Who are fearful of the racket the alliance of post-punk and fusion could bring. Quite why this night panned out the way it did is beyond me but that, as they say, is WORM all over. Consequently, to allay the fears of Tudor enthusiasts, the stage is swung around 180 degrees to face the adjoining theatre space to limit the noise; opening up WORM’s hall to greater effect. Win-win.
The support for tonight is Cement Shoes; a veritable European fusion super group with Giovanni di Domenico (Rhodes and electronics), Gonçalo Almeida on bass and Hungarian skins man Balázs Pándi. They knock out a rumbling growl that stays in a low gear for most of the concert.This in itself creates a sort of existential tension which the players relieve now and again with plenty of flourishes on the keys and some clever time switches and textural counterpoints. As well as being very stimulating music it’s, well, just really groovy and puts everyone in the mood for the night.
I have already mentioned I work at WORM and am not to be trusted. So please don’t trust me when I say this ГШ / Glintshake gig is the best of the three so far. Revelling in a big (if not high) stage) and with their splendid LED display fully projected and beaming like a city centre ad board, the band roar into life. We get a different set too; starting with a total favourite of mine, the bittersweet stop-start opening track off the new LP, Только для вас (Only For You) which morphs into an anthem. Then it’s time for their many Barretesque workouts that segue into tracks such as Симпатичный мужчина (Pretty Man) and Что-то случится. Now and again the band sound a bit puffed but they manage to ramp up into a veritable whirlwind by the end. In fact, things only get crazier and crazier; James Chance-style guitar flashes do battle with grumbling bass lines and the incessant patter of the drums. Kate dramatises wildly over the whole thing, dancing around like some mad teen hero in a Hayao Miyazaki film. For his part Sergey is lying flat on the floor, making his sax bleat like a goat on the run.
We get an encore and all too soon it’s over. The rest of the night dissolves into a colourful whirl of drink and chat.
The day after we all eat fish and drink gin in Rotterdam. Afterwards wild scenes appear on the band’s Instagram account. We see headbanging, carousing and the film lights at WORM on at full beam. They’re filming a video. I sit in bed hoping the place isn’t burnt down. On the Monday the band pack and go to Paris, and I slink off back to work, a little frayed around the seams. Why can’t these things go on longer?
Photos nabbed from Instagram courtesy of @_andreibes, @man_checkman and @aryatsagan