Oya Nights: Live Report From Oslo Part One
, August 8th, 2013 02:57
John Doran watches Tremoro Tarantura, Mount Kimbie, Electric Wizard and the Wu-Tang Clan
Up until relatively recently I harboured an unrealisable fantasy of running a weekend urban noise rock festival called Monsters Of Drugs. It was going to take place across two cities - probably Sheffield and Leeds - and feature the cream of current post hardcore, space rock, psychedelic metal and pig fuck from the UK, the US and Norway. For me, the idea of having Dethscalator and $hit and $hine back to back with Årabrot and Noxagt playing in some poorly ventilated concrete death bunker with opium sweat dripping from the ceiling seemed like unadulterated bliss.
A series of vivid nightmares (concerning being a witness at a coroner's inquest into a drug death that occurred at a festival - called Monsters Of Drugs - that I was running) meant that clearer heads prevailed and the idea was shelved for good. Touch wood I'm done with all that nonsense now anyway and I'm learning to come at heavy, psychedelic, psychiatrically punishing head music from a different more... ah... esoteric and sober angle. Luckily for me, my enthusiasm for powders and potions as a younger, more reckless chap ensures that the cream of psychedelic guitar music still tickles my not yet quite atrophied Altered States gland by muscle memory alone. These Pavlovian triggers and routines are hard to disengage from once set in place. Thankfully.
I don't know what it is about Norway but in musical temperament these people are my brothers and sisters. Dark, mind expanding music is their forte. Whether it's Mayhem - more psychedelic, magickal and mind expanding than nearly anyone gives them credit for - or Svarte Greiner or Ulver or Arabrot or Wardruna or Necessary - Norway's third eye is wide open and unoccluded.
I arrive in town for the Oya festival just in time to have my pretty little socks blown clean off by a psychedelic battle wagon built from chrome plated razor blades, leather whips and bad, bad dreams, while fuelled by nothing stronger than tap water. I've known Tremoro Tarantura for a few years as a studio project of a dude called Mateus who sends me bonkers space rock music on CDrs packaged in airline sick bags through the post. This year he has finally expanded the project into a live rock band (two guitarists, one bassist, one synth player and one drummer) with tonight being only their third show.
The influences are neither the most obscure nor the most obvious in the world, taking in Loop, Pharaoh Overlord, Harmonia, La Dusseldorf and early Secret Machines, but when done well - and this is done very well - this shit just propels you somewhere outside of yourself completely.
They go to prove the sentiment voiced by a character called Hazel Motes speaking in Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood (brought to life by Brad Dourif in John Huston's film adaptation, later sampled to great effect by Ministry): "'Twas like where you're from weren't never there. Where you're going doesn't matter. And where you are ain't no good unless you can get away from it."
This is driving psychedelia in several different senses, the motorik beats sound like hammers hitting anvils, like gun metal against cartridge cases but still the heaviness doesn't slow down this sense of rapid transit. This is the driving music that should be on car stereos in Mad Max Two, The Duel and Vanishing Point. Sure, psychedelia can be about the destination, but this stuff is purely about the trip.
Their third of only three epic tracks slows the pace down to '72 doom velocity. Mixing in T-Rex playing '20th Century Boy' and the Butthole Surfers playing 'Something', they make glam, doom and Texan acid rock sound like the most unnaturally righteous bedfellows ever.
There's a lot you could say about TT by observing them, such as: white T shirts, pony tails, sweatbands, double necked guitars, dreadlocks, etc, but after watching them live... After submitting to them live... After immersing yourself in them live... You can only really observe that they're fucking stupendous.
I'm reminded of more words of wisdom from Hazel Motes (this time not sampled by Ministry): "This car is just beginning its life, a lightning bolt couldn't stop it."
The next afternoon, the sun is blazing a fire across bright blue Northern skies. We're at the foot of a vivid green hill of Nordic firs swaying gently in the breeze. Yet all Mount Kimbie can produce is dance music's equivalent to painting a whole house in magnolia or settling down for an episode of QI on the iPlayer. They get about three girls dancing and whole bunch of baseball cap wearing bros chewing gum in time with their polite beats. I've seen Mount Kimbie live three times now and nothing is going to dissuade me from the suspicion that they actually think that people dancing vigorously is a bit gauche and that nodding in time with music is a preferable state of affairs anyway. I guess people who don't want to get their expensive clothes messed up need a soundtrack to nights out as well. Each to their own, but this is not to mine.
It takes Black Debbath Boler - a bunch of Nordic reprobates with six foot long beards, Hell's Angels colours, flying Vs and a singer who looks like Bob, the shape changing serial killer from Twin Peaks with a mic stand made out of the front half of a Harley - to get things going with crowd pleasing NWOBHM riffs.
But really today is about one rock band only, the mighty Electric Wizard. A fine summer's day it may be, but the second they slouch on stage a spherical cloud tumour the size of the moon blocks the sun's rays and the world becomes dark, cold and hopeless. It's like the man downstairs has suddenly turned up the air con.
While I really loved Ramesses and I'm sad to see them split, it's undeniably exciting to see Mark Greening and his comically large cymbals back in service to the world's heaviest band. The fact that I saw both Greening and Jus Oborne tucking into a healthy breakfast in my hotel - at 9am! - shouldn't have worried me. The new line-up, also featuring long time guitarist Liz Buckingham and new bassist Glen Charman, still brings a spine tingling dollop of evil with it. Newer material like 'The Nightchild' and 'Black Mass' is taut and punchy but, perhaps obviously, it's tracks like 'Come My Fanatics' and 'Dopethrone' which get the heads banging and the pulse racing. For a while I become convinced that I'm listening to a new song called 'Free The Last Bunsen Burner', until I remember the recent 7" 'Legalize Drugs And Murder'. Towards the end of the set a howling wall of white noise heralds a glorious 'Funeralopolis'. It's so psychedelically transcendent that not even the sight of their sound guy eating a plate of curry and chips at the side of the stage manages to ruin the beautiful moment. It's almost as dark as nighttime when they leave the stage, but five minutes later the sun is cracking the flags again... Coincidence? Well, yes, probably.
Norway and the rest of the world, this is how much we love you: we gave you Electric Wizard.
And then it's straight from the Electric Wza to the Electric Rza; colour me very happy indeed. It's a good showing from the Staten Island boys. After forgetting ear protection and having my drums perforated by the Wizard I'm cowering nearer to the back of the arena for The Wu-Tang Clan's set but I'm pretty sure I can see (and hear) Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspector Deck, U-God, Mathematics, Rza, Gza and Raekwon. And, fair enough, I don't watch them often enough to comment definitively (I last saw the Clan in Serbia in 2007) but to me they feel hungrier and leaner than they have done in ages. And - more importantly - they look like they're having fun. (When Rza is shouting "all my niggas to the right... All my niggas to the left..." to a 99.9% white audience, is he stifling a laughing fit? I'll leave the answer to your imagination.) Even the best hip hop bands have to try much harder to pull live shows off than any rock bands ever have to. They don't have the same camouflage to hide behind, like feedback, distortion, blast beats, etc. Even the best hip hop groups can't afford to travel on cruise control if they don't want to get labelled as little better than karaoke when playing live. And when the shock of the new is nothing but a fond memory, they'd better have their aesthetic clearly worked out if they want to carry on. Public Enemy's James Brown style revue with rock band routine has served them well for a very long time, for example. By the same token, it's good to see Wu back on track as well. This sort of gang mentality, united in taking on all comers, makes the kind of old shows featuring U God and three guys with names like Lobster Master, Trumpton Assassin and the Erratic Carpenter, thankfully a thing of the past.
And of course, as well as every Wu classic you'd want to hear, they do 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya' as well, the sexy bastards.
Special mention must go to Method Man, who simply by sheer dint of wearing a vest and participating in energetic dancing makes every other man in Oslo look like a fat slob. Me especially. He makes me realise I need to visit the gym. Shit is unseemly.
And then, just when I'm starting to think I'm having the best day ever... What the fuck is this on the main stage? Blur? How is it possible that the worst band of the 90s are still going? Didn't they split up ten years ago after making a musical with Fatboy Slim, George Galloway and Banksy or something? How has this been allowed to happen? Like Del Amitri, must I always be the last to know?
Norway and the rest of the world: we are truly sorry. We will try very hard to make this atrocity up to you.