Reviews

Now live at the Strongroom

Reblogged from Freq Magazine

London
3 October 2015

Anyone who’s seen London stalwarts Now play live will know that they are always different, yet always reliable (as in they will always deliver). They’ve been existing in different formations for over a decade and a half now (Now!), and have collaborated with the likes of Damo Suzuki, who is basically Krautrock royalty, for those of you unfamiliar with his name.

hypnotic grooves forged from the ashes of various mantric musical strains

The pleasant yet ordinary surroundings of The Strongroom aren’t the most inspiring; yet, as stated before, Now will always deliver. Tonight’s set was purely instrumental, so we weren’t treated to any of their infectious ‘pop songs’; which was definitely a shame. However, the trade off seemed fair as instead the audience were handed candy-coloured motorik confectioneries that brought huge grins to everyone’s faces. Now bring us hypnotic grooves forged from the ashes of various mantric musical strains. For example, “The Foundry Favourite” sounds like a tougher incarnation of Zuckerzeit-era Cluster rockin’ an acid house dance floor. In fact, the spectre of the famous Chicago dance music style hangs as heavily over proceedings as NEU! does (this is a very good thing).

come together in the most natural and wonderful way, rather than feeling like some forced, muddy fusion

Along with the motorik and acid influences, one can detect the sound of minimal house, techno (in all its many guises), funk (hey, is that you Bernie Worrell?) and disco; and these all come together in the most natural and wonderful way, rather than feeling like some forced, muddy fusion. Now make it sound like all of these genres (and non-genres) are the most natural bedfellows in the world. The added dashes of acid become even more obvious when you realise that Now founder Justin Paton is performing and recording acid house tunes under his own name (an album is imminent), and it also explains the expertise that is so effortlessly sprinkled over the solid krautrock that Angela, George and Vanessa were driving home.

Now had the room rocking and smiling like idiots

Other tracks, such as “The Pump Room” seem to be both minimal yet rich, rigid yet funky and fluid; everything you want from hypnotic dance music is it not? By the end of their set Now had the room rocking and smiling like idiots. They really delivered exhilarating, fleeced music; and no, that wasn’t in any way a put down.If you’ve never seen this act live before, it is strongly advised that this is remedied and you seek out one of their gigs immediately; you really won’t regret it.

-Jay Harper-

Now ‘Liminal Mixes’

ALEX SPALDING, YEAHIKNOWITSUCKS.COM

‘The first track, titled ‘Groovy Chick’, gets a warbling synth and rhythm together adding a wah-fuzz bass. I’m feeling it so far! Bits of electronic-sounding weirdness shoot out like a guitar run through strange processors, very avantfunk.

Next is ‘Creatures’, in which a thick sawsynth sequence grows steadily louder, and then these really nice tiny bells start playing… it’s like a sleigh ride through through an electronic German town abuzz with displays of yuletide cheer, coming mostly from the robots out of Kraftwerk’s secret underground laboratory. I mean, we all know Kraftwerk have secretly been building robots with which to take over the world, right? Harmonica and then a nice groove come in as well. It’s a really cool track!!

Then it’s ‘Don’t Make A Sound’ which, despite it’s title, does make a sound… starting with guitar fret flicking, then churning out a riff and adding a stompy drum beat. This track gets fierce! I love the drumwork on this album so far. I hear what sounds like a scissor snapping in the mix. Lofi vocals come into the mix, this sounds like a garage exploding. It’s taken down for awhile, slow building guitar drones, feedback and electronic noises… really great!

After that is ‘Fill Up The Gaps’, beginning with an eclectic beat and growing synth modulations. It’s something in almost the same vein as Add (N) To (X), with it’s Moog bass and acoustic drum groove, but more and more it is reminding me of many early forays spanning the ’60s and ’70s into crafting enjoyable electronic rock/pop. Sirens, lasers, ever changing analogue sequences. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, inducing me into a sort of hypnosis. The drums start beating off at the end, and then it devolves into a shuffle of noises and low, rolling modular bass.

Last is ‘With It’, and I’m sorry the album ever ends… a shrill chorus of whirring, buzzing electronics, then bass frequencies that start pulsating erratically, a low kick just barely audible. These synths can scream! :D The dizzy disharmonics are engaging my senses, we hear drums careening ahead, piano plays softly over the top. This is probably the most experimental production on this short work, and it’s amazing. So many layers of synth, strange noises… we’re left with piano and reversed-sounding synths with long-attack, and it’s really pretty, free. A bench is creaking. I hear something snap or crash. A low piano chord like human anger, resulting. Sharp, crisp notes from the piano in high octave… the way it’s been produced or recorded, there are gaps in the distance between some notes, when the sizzling hiss disappears, making the sounds seem like composites, tapestries of several recording, despite the cohesion. Well, cohesion… you know what I mean, I hope. A synth returns, it’s oscillation modifying subtly. The kick returns, the wash of synth layers with it… synthetic sounds beckon to you, loudly! Then, the track ends.

Very enjoyable listen! Normally, it would seem that attempts to bring together a diverse range of artists to do something experimental or pop or cohesive, or really anything, ends up sounding like a big wank at the end, if it ever even materializes… but this album really worked and had a magic all it’s own, all of the artists really made something worth hearing, standing apart from histories, or personalities… something appreciable and self-merited. I implore you… get it today, and share in the dream of awesome tape music experiences with me…’

Now ‘Ooodipooomn’

RICHARD FONTENOY, PLAN B MAGAZINE
‘Pursuing their offbeat, off-kilter and occasionally off-the-wall mashup of lo-fidelity experimental pop music and uptempo kosmik grooves at the fringes of undergound and overground success, NOW continue to demonstrate the tireless heart of their being is something close to an unsung national treasure. Just like NOW’s ever-changing live shows, the gumbo of influences and references which permeate ‘Ooodipooomn’ suffuse it with an almost naÔve joy in its own existence. Adventurous and elliptical more than merely eccentric, ‘Ooodipooomn’ revolves around the core NOW trio and a parade of guests, buzzing vibrantly through sensational moments where shuddering analogue synth boogie morphs into avant skronk’n’roll before throttling back into hypnotic cello, somnolent beat loops and droning surrender. The six minute trance-inducing motorway chug of ‘Hiway Code’ seems more like a whole roadtrip thanks to its the sheer busyness, while the spacious sprawl of ìYellow Tent T-shirtî and the brazen churn of ‘Ethnik Snack’ both coalesce into wildly divergent epics, remoulding the model of jam-band ethnopsychedelia along the way.’

MAARTEN SCHIETHART, PENNYBLACKMUSIC
‘Now, the quirky combo from London with a sense for melody, wrap up a lot of sounds and vibes on this album. Most of the material is dazzling and daunting. Esoteric electro-acoustic pop seamlessly melts with broken beats. There is a quality to be discovered in their blurpy blips. Now rather compare to Cornershop; mostly because of the troubled lyricism and original melody lines in songs which have a a rather peculiar arrangement. Their main virtue is in their clean pop music touch. On ‘Yellow Tent T-Shirt’ all their qualities fall into place on one 13 minute piece of majestic breeze of vulnerable zanity and vanity. Now have bigger promises to fulfill. This fifth album is riddled with lovely little tricks.’

Now ‘Frisbee Hotpot’
DANIEL SPICER, PLAN B MAGAZINE
‘Did you ever wish Stereolab would just stop with the wussy leopard-skin lounge exotica and get thoroughly stuck into the krauty riffage? If so, you probably have to hear Frisbee Hot Pot. There are grooves on here so deep that bathospheres have been lost exploring them, so repetitive that they’re being considered as a cure for autism. This is no macho endurance test though: just listen to ‘Little Bits Inside of You’ and its cheeky Human League synth-funk and snooty girl-sneer. Opening track, ‘Abominatrx,’ is an eleven-minute journey from inept jerk-pop through a squelchy Brazilian robo-party, ending up in some kind of trombone comedy march. Elsewhere there are withered trumpets, fey breathings and heavy, heavy drum breaks. Ritalin pop, perhaps?’

JAY, MEDIA MENTALISTS
‘Now I’m all for going into music shops and choosing a random cd and hoping for the best. Some of my favourite cds are ones I did not know of and just thought “What The Heck?”. I bought The Raveonettes debut ep on the first day it came out for £4. I look back on that as amazing purchase, it was brilliant and is now full price due to their popularity. This band will not get that sort of recognition as it can get just too weird but I love it. An alternative indie pop album which starts off with an 11 minute track, you know it’s going to be special and it is. Seek this out as you may not hear music as weird and great for a while. And if you do, it will be shamelessly ripping this band off. Quite hard to find so it is worth a search.’

MARK BARTON, WWW.LOSINGTODAY.COM
‘Perhaps one of the best debuts we’ve heard all year has been ‘Frisbee Hot Pot’ by Now – marked by it’s admirable disregard for time signatures and pop rudiments alike, ‘the Incase’ sounds kookily distracted to the point that you’d swear it had prized itself straight from an old c.1981 John Peel play list schedule.

JC, WWW.APEXONLINE.COM
‘This lot don’t make the reviewing process easy. “What does it sound like?”, you ask and the answer is many things and none of them all at once… things like ’70’s funk, a samba band, Pram, Can, Tom Tom club, Sadistic Mika Band… actually, if Now remind of one thing more than any other it is Japan’s Sadistic Mike Band and they were very hard to pin down to any particular style too. Very accomplished without being overly slick, that’s Now, as they throw in everything that comes to hand, perhaps including the kitchen sink, their party might be the hottest ticket in town.’

THOMAS BLATCHFORD, WWW.DROWNEDINSOUND.COM
‘There’s not many bands left, lets face it, that claim to make pop music and yet start their debut album with an eleven-minute soundscape that drifts blissfully from being a dainty electronic choral rhyme to a drum machine-led minimal techno effort to an all-out samba throw-down and back again, let alone anyone who can make it work. Which is why my soul, my ears and my dancing shoes thank Now, more a collective than a band, who havent so much as made an album as created an antidote for musical apathy. This is a band that have played with Damo Suzuki and pulled it off. Yep, that good. And Frisbee Hot Pot is one of those albums that, if art-pop is a term coming back into fashion, would be somewhere between Pollock and Kandinsky ・free-flowing yet structured, vivid yet soothing, bold yet with numerous untold hidden depths. Musically its all over the shop, of course, yet manages to steer clear of sounding like a mere mesh of disparate influences badly thrust together seemingly because they not only have a great understanding of the rhythmical heart in everything (all music is dance music, etc), but can apply it to their own restless, driving sound. Little Bits Inside Of You comes on like a glorious summit between Talking Heads and The Knife, all squelchy synths, funk-heavy bass burbles, tribal harmonic chants and the occasional stern-headmistress vocal. The most notable is here, The In-Case, manages to be a plaintive lament, albeit one with a frantic live breakbeat underneath, and makes great use of startling the listener with some massive clamorous clanging noises. Such is the nature of the rest of the album, really, feeding off the element of surprise even after repeated listens, steering your senses into different uncharted territories through each curious noise. Container Theory, for instance, begins with a startling burst of Mariachi-style trumpet, which continues into the trip-hoppy sprawl of Moment, it bubbles out of the speakers like liquid sound in stained-glass bottles, all fizzy and kaleidoscopic. Thing is, for a while it doesnt let up either, leading you to wonder where exactly theyre mining all these ideas from. Ne? Un! is lo-fi with party organ and handclaps that wants to be dancefloor-friendly but settles for being a whole lot of fun, and Pachinko balances on the edge of being experimental hip-hop, yet without any garish production sheen. But, perhaps to make up for all the energy that surges through the first half of the album, the lattermost tracks take a turn for the ambient, and a rather gorgeous type of ambient at that: I Heard Footsteps Outside, Soft Footsteps…Like Naked Feet and Calanized pinpoint the exact moment that the likes of !!! or Four Tet start coming down. And as the whole album winds itself slowly to a halt, you know it is a journey colourful, perplexing and astounding enough to warrant many return trips. Inspired and inspiring.’

SIMON LEWIS, PTOLEMAIC TERRASCOPE
‘On their latest album “Frisbee”, the seven-piece band Now are joined by a whole army of percussionist whose combined skills fill out the sound of the songs completely, no more so than on the opening track “Abominatry” which build from pop song to street carnival in a delicious manner and will definitely get you feet moving. Elsewhere there is a Talking Heads/Eno groove to the songs with the bass-lines becoming central to the song, with the musicians playing tightly together, creating tension, whilst retaining a loose feel, (a good trick if you can do it). Throughout the band are not afraid to experiment with different rhthyms, the vocals telling stories, and the well-rehearsed grooves allowing the other instruments plenty of room to improvise, bringing to mind bands such as Rollerball, Caravan, and The Comsat Angels, although these are mere echoes to be found in a collection of original and high quality songs.’

SKIFF, THE VANITY PROJECT
‘Sleigh bells shickle like Mr T. in full tilt, and from there, through recorders, cyclical harmonies and synth hum, a locked-in, sweet and tender little groove develops, growing like ivy, capturing all sorts of other instruments and patterns as it spreads in all directions. Not a bad opener, then, and it is one of two 10 minute tracks that fully showcase their artistry and spin. All the other tracks are snippets by comparison, but equally visionary, e.g. Excited Lobo Crown has a desert funk twinkle; The In-Case clatters like a chainsaw through a back-alley bin; Calanized clings onto a spy-drama wubble and Pachinko is a juddery slink firing off an Atari electro-trickle. This record has free-jazz spirit, elements of twee, a post-rock stubbornness while it often swims with African guitars. A floating, gliding LP that is, nonetheless, perverse in outlook; soaring, dipping and jolting regularly.’

GILDAS, FR.RSS-FEED.ORG
‘First of all, I must warn you, this disc is not going to be something for everyone’s ears. Indeed, it is necessary to have strong heart to listen “Frisbee Hot Pot” because there are killer grooves on this disc which would make your great-aunt dance (yes, you know, the one with the wooden leg), and which establish, propel, expand and repeat themselves, before stopping sharply, creating an incredible frustration that the faint-hearted among you will not endure. With this album, Now has invented a dancing machine far from the ordinary. By skillfully mixing electro, pop, krautrock, experimentation jazz and pure groove, this band of merry Londoners confidently launch themselves onto the dancefloor and are there to stay. “Abominatrix”, the first title on the album starts as a nice electro chamber piece but develops little by little into a striking victory of danceable pop before turning into an improbable samba which finally melts down into a gigantic brass blast which unites everything. It lasts eleven minutes, and while for the first three minutes, you are satisfied to tap your foot, by the fifth one, you have the top of your body shaking to the rhythm, and by the seventh, it is impossible not to break out into a wild spasm.
After a small interlude, we have “Little Bits Inside of You”, a synthetic tube funk/new wave inspired by the Eighties (imagine Prince not with a guitar but with a metronome) which again gives way to another interlude. This goes on for 17 titles, each one more repetitive and addictive that the others. The album is full like an egg and does not offer any respite. The songs are smooth, varied, without real relationship between them, and yet completely coherent thanks to a perfect use of rhythm. The unit remains fluid in spite of the repetition, and entertains from beginning to end. It is beautiful when conceptual music (“all music is dance music” says Justin Paton) makes you move your feet so much.
MATS, WWW.THEBROKENFACE.BLOGSPOT.COM – “Now have quite a few sonic components (krautrock, free jazz, folk and electronics) in common with Zukanican, but the outcome is still something very different as ‘Frisbee Hot Pot’ is much more understated and based around gentle pop structures rather than wild improvisations. Some sections are even dancey and wouldn’t feel out of place on the dance floor of some high-quality East London club. Contrary to what some of you might think that bounciness and those percussive workouts are probably what make these homemade avant-pop ditties work so successfully. I love the way these guys manage to sound so experimental yet fill the air with such a melodic and catchy sound.’

A. TONAL D.
‘Well….I’m going to be brutally honest…..!! ‘Frisbee Hot Pot’ is….really,really fab!!! I’ll give it 9.75 out of 10!!! Really like it, at no moment did my interest wane or even irk me. There is the right balance between heart & intellect,also, a perfect balance of the yin-yang…masculine/feminine… The yellow cover is so right because to me it is a sunshine album. There is a happy day feel without getting sunstroke, so the moodier pieces have more of an impact…it is fun and a joy to listen to. Influences are well hidden & free from cliché…The low key ending was a suprise but that’s good. The whole thing is having a similar effect on me as to when I heard the B-52’s first album…which is a classic…admittedly they were a more commercial entity…but ace music is ace music… In conclusion its ALBUM of the YEAR, so far, really.’

Now ‘The Hepadaboo’
SEBASTIEN RADIGUET, ONDEFIXE
‘Following the example of label friend Moteer who reached their hand out to Minimun Chips, flaü diversifies its catalogue and poppifies it in a round-about way by taking on the multiform quartet Now. But the pop of these odd birds – cheap and atypical, difficult to classify – is not easy to tame.
As with Minimun Chips, the influence of Stereolab is detectable, but not explicit. One finds it in the opening match Song which makes us believe in a possible joint venture between the group around Laetitia Sadier and the eternal children of Au Revoir Simone, who allow themselves an indigent reprise of Can. Here, one finds a love that is softly screaming from synths, and from cheap, antique rhythm boxes: the latter imprint a rudimentary rhythm, imperturbable and binary, for a length of 11 minutes. However, the Stereolab heritage, that one finds again on ‘Here’, vanishes in favour of fresh and innocent electro-pop, often coloured with a dash of carefree harmonic chants (tu-tu, ooooh-oooh, la-la, you name it, they do it all), permeated with almost shoegaze-like guitars (Dwellpoint) or delivering little funky riffs such as the many resonances of the groove of A Certain Ratio (Relive the Food). Cheap, candid and a little brutal in its dismantling (have a look at the ingenuous ‘Lies are up’!), their music enriches itself with little touches of exoticism (ukulele and mbira), tastes of the joys of dissonance (No feelings), of acerbity (It’s so), but it does not really convincingly reveal itself until the very end, with a ‘Last’ propelled by organs and illuminated with glockenspiel, competing once more with the stratified pop of Caribou.’

Now & Damo Suzuki ‘The London Evening News’
NICK SOUTHGATE, THE WIRE MAGAZINE
‘Bob Dylan is not the only artist on a neverending tour: Damo Szuki picks up a different outfit at every stop, and in March 2004 at London’s Bull & Gate, he hooked up with Now, who had already been forging their own melange of Krautrock, synth pop and lo-fi for a few years. The result is an explosive set that holds well against anything Suzuki recorded in or outside of Can. . . The album creeps into life as Damo’s guttural whispers and stutters get “Knopp Off” into gear. The group knock themselves into shape one rimshot and wah-snag at a time until the piece rolls itself into a shuddering, funky whole. “Metro Girl” has a tinny hi-hat tempo, swaying with low-slung bass and mangled disco-zaps from the keyboard. “One And One Equal One” is another honourable entry in ‘the short history of poor mathematics in rock’ and is also a hypnotic slice of motorik fuzz to boot. Its followed up by the one downbeat moment on the album, “Acid Test”, a slow paced fragmentary lament. The closing workout is the magnificent “The Zero Game”, an ARP synth-loop fued bounce boogie with a two-note guitar part that Michael Karoli would have been proud of. In the latter stages it features that rarest and most precious of things – some psych trumpet playing that adds a glorious spray of Technicolor energy not heard since The Beatles’ far-out excursion “Its All Too Much”.’

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