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Laetitia Sadier & Jane Weaver Live At Oto
John Doran , December 11th, 2014 13:05

Sophisticated and cool Gallic pop next to cosmic Anglo-German biker grooves with support from bewildering teenage (almost) outsider artists Let's Eat Grandma (pictured), makes for an immensely satisfying night at Cafe Oto, London, says John Doran

Oh boy. If there is a band out there with the potential to act as a litmus test for idiocy in a certain type of male music journalist in 2015, then Let's Eat Grandma are it. Citizens of Norwich, Rosa (15) and Jenny (just turned 16, received synth for her birthday and is playing it tonight) forward roll all the way from the door into Cafe Oto onto the stage. Let's see you try that Marshall Allen and the Arkestra! They aren’t biological sisters but nevertheless display signs of obvious familial closeness; they’ve been best friends since they were four and you’d imagine that they say the same thing at the same time or finish each other’s sentences. In fact the entire aesthetic of LEG is suggests a retreat away from the exterior world of family and school into a much richer, shared interior domain of imagination; too frightening and weird to be totally childish, too uncodified and uncliched to be totally adult.

I don’t know what their music is yet to be honest - it’s undeniably still only partially baked - but I guess you could call it very lo-fi, experimental pop. I could imagine Kramer signing them to his Shimmy Disc label (were it still a going concern). Like a lot of that great label’s acts, LEG's music is neither 'inside' nor 'outside' - neither Space Lady nor Jessie J but instead exists in a liminal zone - I know, I know, even I feel like punching myself - where untutored weirdness crashes up against canny pop nous, where id and superego are locked in a wildly fluctuating battle and at no point are the psychically vampiric notions of 'cool', 'authenticity' and 'tradition' sticking their unwanted beaks in.

I’m just in the middle of noting down that LEG resemble the twins from The Shining playing the greatest hits of The Go! Team in an even more lo-fi manner when my friend Natalie leans over and says: “It’s like the climactic scene from Carrie but unfolding very, very slowly.” Their show is choreographed from start to finish - which is exactly how it should be, and everyone from Public Enemy to Taylor Swift via Mayhem will tell you as much, even if none of them have stars painted on their faces in glitter and are playing school recorder solos.

Jenny starts banging a regular strike on the triangle as Rosa intones into the gaps: "This. Is. A. Song. About. The. Unconscious. Mind… It. Is. About. The. Stage. Between. Being. Awake. And. Being. Asleep.” And it’s like a poundland/school music practice room version of Penguin Cafe Orchestra but with a teenage girl screaming: “Am I dead? Who is that man in the corner of the room?" through a kazoo at the conclusion.

This track ('Sleep Song') and the final number, 'Deep Six Text Book' will be LEG’s first single, released on Hand Of Glory records early next year. This last number shows perhaps a bit more of an interest in R&B and R&B leaning indie like The xx. It points at one possible future style for them, but at the moment they could head off in almost any direction and that’s rather thrilling.

After their set. They stand around looking nonplussed while people applaud wildly, dematerialise off stage and then rematerialise next to their label boss, Mary Epworth and then say simultaneously in a not-unfriendly manner: "Snacks. Where are our snacks? You said there would be snacks." Brilliant.

Jane Weaver (backed by her band of stalwart players) was easily the best live act at Festival No. 6 in Port Merion, Wales, this Summer. Playing a set mostly culled from this year's stupendously good The Silver Globe LP, they triumphed in a festival tent setting because of their giant, irresistible krautrock, space rock and pop hooks combined with a very muscular rhythm section. Here in the more intimate and sonically pleasing environs of Cafe Oto, the experience is even better with, the sheer depth to the music being fully revealed. After Weaver, the star of this set is her keyboard player Raz Ullah, who may look like a harassed geology teacher with a melancholy secret but reveals himself to be some kind of electronics genius. His subtle but effective use of one KORG and bunch of FX pedals adds the kind of psychedelic depth, alien weirdness and acidic warmth to the music that many, many bands aim for but very, very few achieve. The rest of her band are great as well, with Brian Edwards on drums playing so metronomically and precisely that you half expect his face to slip off revealing a bunch of wires like with Yul Bryner’s cyborg cowboy in Westworld. But you have to be a brilliant drummer to play this repetitively, this well and that’s what Edwards is.

The set opens with 'Fallen By Watchbird' the centrepiece track to her album of the same name released on her record label, Bird, in 2010. With its throbbing interstellar synths, propulsive Klaus Dinger beat and breathless, Euro-psych vocals, this was really the track that pointed the way forward toward The Silver Globe. It has been rebooted slightly with serotonin burst burbles of electronic noise, acid shimmer and Italo disco sheen, summoned up by Weaver on her Farfisa organ, while taking a break from playing melodica. The first new track is 'Argent', which has a slightly tougher, biker kraut stomp of a backline. The song is both very human and very celestial, like it was written to be listened to by astronauts living in a biodome or a lonely crew charged with terraforming a new planet lightyears from home. It is as cooly wistful and emotionally implacable as The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, while having some of the extra muscle and sinew of early Neu! or Hawkwind at their most restrained and even some of the numb magic present on side one of Bowie's Low.

Musically 'Electric Mountain' sounds like the theme music to a brilliant TV show that's not been made yet, or perhaps a brilliant show from the mid-70s that never saw the light of day. A reboot of Sapphire And Steel for the 21st Century? A version of Tomorrow’s People for a generation not born yet? Who knows? The show would have to be killer to do the music justice though.

'Don’t Take My Soul' is one of the stand out tracks of the year for me - a song so well written and realised that I initially and momentarily suspected I was listening to some kind of lost classic instead of something new when I first heard it. And if it initially sounds familiar, that in turn acts as a kind of smokescreen to throw you off noticing how slightly peculiar it is; as if Hawkwind had suddenly decided to lay down a fearsomely amphetamine tight Mod freakbeat track circa Warriors On The Edge Of Time - their psyche-liberating mission transferred from cider and ganja perfumed West country fields to the gitane fug of smart metropolitan nightspots.

"This should be translated into all languages, including cyborg, and transmitted to the entire solar system, it’s got such a fucking great message: 'Hey! The man - don’t steal my soul - you bastard!'" says Natalie.

Alright! Enough already! Just take my job why don’t you?

Jane Weaver was supporting Laetitia Sadier at Festival No. 6 this Summer and the pairing - which makes total sense - is being repeated tonight at this show put on by the Dig That Treasure blog and radio show. The former Stereolab frontwoman is far more suited to a venue like Oto as some of the subtlety of her act was lost in a large tent partially filled with inebriated buffoons dressed as characters from Bo Selecta. Tonight’s (mainly) respectful audience allows her psychedelic guitar effects - hazy phase and super deep space echo - to really hit the spot; not to mention the clearly exercised skill of her drummer, Emma Mario and bassist Xavi Munoz.

She opens with the gentle scientific enquiry of ‘Butterside Up’ - a statement of positivity about the future of the human race delivered in the most understated of ways: "Hello all the scientists, elegant astrophysicists. The firmament affirms that perhaps the azure would provide the remedy, if only to implement the mystery, obscure solutions, arcane poetry. We need, we need answers!"

'Find Me The Pulse Of The Universe' and 'Then I Will Love You Again' allow her rhythm section to flex their muscles a little bit - well, OK, quite a lot - using vocal manipulation techniques, electronic rhythms and subtle shifts in style and tempo. In fact the three of them seem be constantly prodding at the boundaries of what a Laetitia Sadier gig 'should' be without ever breaking contact with that core idea. When they’re on home ground, as on 'The Milk Of Human Tenderness' they just make it sound so damn effortless with liquid, post-Postcard post punk pop that calls to mind The Marine Girls and The High Llamas with ephedrine cool flow and groove.

Of course, Sadier comes from a radicalised background and you sometimes have to make yourself tune in to the message behind these easy, easy grooves. As the anti-neo liberal ballad ‘Oscuridad’ says (in entirety): “They are a class, are at war, are determined to win. Their plan is to transfer our wealth to under their sinister wing. We’re not discerning of this tyranny. It’s no crisis, it’s WAR. Do the rich need the poor to be rich? Would there be any poverty if there wasn’t any rich? Is it in the interest of the rich to eradicate poverty? Poverty, riches, bourgeoisie, the immigrants, scapegoating. Do the rich need the poor?” A message which is easy enough to miss when you’re concentrating on a very sophisticated jazz rock drum and bass intermesh and masterful backing singing.

Thankfully, it’s not all Jazz Cafe nods to the cognoscenti musically speaking, as undeniably luxurious as some of it is. On ‘Between Heaven And Earth’ drum rolls calling to mind the thundering swells of Velvet Underground’s ‘Ocean’ build and build until they reach early thrash metal proportions and spontaneously people in the audience start screaming in appreciation, it makes a thrilling counterpoint to the uptight, almost Jam-like verse.

But for the most part this smart gallic pop music with its nods to cool jazz, psych rock, Mondo Morricone and Krautrock is meant for rapt, listening rather than thrilling out to. This is what she's great at. Why wouldn’t she be? After all she was doing it before it was cool. And was still doing it when became cool. And then carried on doing it when it wasn’t cool any more and still does it now that it kind of rules again. Steadfast, implacable and honing her skills tighter and tighter as she goes, Laetitia Sadier ends the night seemingly 50 ft tall and radiating immense poise and energy.

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