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Cosmic Fantastic: Rocket Recordings Twenty Weekend Reviewed
Joseph Mumford , March 13th, 2018 19:33

In celebration of their 20th birthday, the mighty Rocket Recordings hosted Rocket Twenty - a three-day event at The Garage in Islington with Julie’s Haircut, Mamuthones, Gnod and more. Joseph Mumford reports.

Julie’s Haircut

For two decades now, Rocket Recordings have been consistently excellent purveyors of whacked-out psychedelia, krautrock, prog, post-punk: a hallmark of weirdo record collections everywhere. To celebrate their vicennial, the label hosted a three-day event at The Garage in Islington featuring most of their fantastic roster. All weekend the venue burst at the seams with Rocket enthusiasts, all delighting in the shared psychedelic experience.

An early highlight comes on Friday night with Italian experimental rockers Julie’s Haircut, who deal in jazzy krautrock. Midway through a lengthy motorik jam, a power cut silences them all apart from the rhythm section - who soldier on unperturbed. Seizing the moment, frontman Luca Giovanardi yells: “Fuck Brexit! We want to be here with you!” A little hammy, perhaps, but the roars of support from the audience drive home the fact that Rocket Recordings is a label with a global perspective and that this weekend is testament to that, with bands from all corners of Europe joining the party.

Saturday brings a stellar set from Italians Mamuthones, who perform most of their latest album, Fear on the Corner. Their deranged psych-cum-dance rock is complete with contagious drumming, caterwauling synth and frontman Alessio Gastaldello’s seemingly endless assortment of ornamental percussion instruments.

Russian experimentalists Gnoomes are joined by new synth player Masha, who brings an extra depth to their live sound. The band conjure a sprawling shoegaze wall of sound that works beautifully with visuals from Rocket co-founder John O’Carroll and artist Sam Wiehl of Liverpool Psych Fest.

Housewives take to the stage dressed entirely in white and perform against a perpetual strobe, looking somewhat like a version of Air from an alternate dimension who decided they’d deal in futuristic industrial post-punk instead of melodious electronic pop. Their new material, which makes up most of the set, is outstanding, and utterly defies genre. The south Londoners make odd time signatures into something trance-inducing and haunting, choral vocal samples into something euphoric. It’s a perfect balance between oppressive, organ-vibrating volume and quasi-religious ecstasy - the saxophonist rips off his shirt barely moments in and leaps about the stage, beating his chest and screaming as though possessed. It is wonderful: despite making music that is wildly experimental and clearly thoughtful, there is nothing remotely haughty or cynical about Housewives’ stage presence. They are utterly invested in the music, clearly enjoying themselves and completely unafraid to show it. The triumph of the weekend.


On Sunday, Polish duo Zimpel/Ziołek perform their first UK show, an exercise in ambient looping and intermittent clarinet gymnastics. They play tracks from their fantastic debut, a self-titled released last year on Instant Classic (and tQ’s most beloved album of 2018). Another joyful reminder of Rocket’s European appeal comes when Kuba Ziołek challenges the crowd to pronounce his surname and is met by a roar of successful Polish voices; he looks both surprised and genuinely delighted.

Anthroprophh, with songs from their soon-released record Omegaville, are a dramatic change in pace. Bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, one hell of a rhythm section, play off one another other with a rumbling extraterrestrial might. At its peak, their set is sheer chaos, doom metal through a psychedelic lens as Paul Allen’s guitar feeds back into the demented oblivion from whence it came.

Also dealing in new material are postrock adventurers Teeth Of The Sea, who lead us through the cosmos and into the luminous vortex which opens up on the screen behind them as they play their electronica-tinged space rock. They’re joined by saxophonist Chlöe Herington and trumpeter Nick Richardson for a triumphant finale, ‘Responder’, which is spectacularly grandiose in its live form.

So if Anthroprophh are a sonic assault, then it follows that Gnod must be setting out to brutally murder their audience with sheer volume. Bowel-emptyingly loud (apologies for the grossness but it really must be stressed just how loud they are), the Mancunian collective open with a new track from their upcoming record that centres on a repeated distorted bass chord, recalling Swans’ later work in its menacing groove.

As they segue into ‘Bodies For Money’, the stage backdrop begins to cycle through each word of the valorous title of their 2017 LP, JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE, casting The Garage and all its hypnotised attendees in a blood-red shade. Gnod’s deafening aural protest is an all-encompassing experience - you physically and emotionally feel every stomach-churning note, every visceral scream that Paddy Shrine exhales. They close with a bone-shattering rendition of ‘Tony’s First Communion’, smothering the crowd in a 20-minute grooving drone. It’s a fitting end to a weekend of debauched noisiness and fundamentally forward-thinking music.

As we leave The Garage for the third night in a row, merry rounds of “Happy birthday, dear Rocket” echo through the venue. It’s a rare feat for a label to command such a dedicated audience in the same way a revered artist does. Here’s to another 20 years, dear Rocket.

All photos thanks to Al Overdrive

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