Oh hai Mexico City!


Two weeks ago I paid a fleeting visit to Mexico City to review the Corona Capital festival for the Quietus. The line-up was positively teaming with UBER stars; the antithesis of my spiritual home Primavera Sound, which, aside from Croatia’s Soundwave, is sadly the extent of my non-UK festival flutterings. I only really had one full day in Mexico City and this was filled with record shopping/present buying/boat tripping/drinking/smoking/eating/sleeping/going to closed art galleries/watching a cycle race/buying decorations – there’s a lot you can pack into one day if you’re not hungover and, surprisingly, I wasn’t. For once. Everyone else was.

I completely lost my voice so that by the end of the trip I sound like satan. Yes,  the devil probably did take up residence in my humble corporeal abode but that’s another story…

There are some stats at the end because I wanted to add a bit of – how do you say – weight, to my review but these may not be your thing.

Here’s what I writ;

Initial Observations: Traffic Is Bad And You Can Sleep When You’re Dead

Arriving in the country’s capital city at 6am on the Saturday morning and gazing out of the window in childish wonder at a sleeping city cloaked in darkness, traffic-less roads stretch out for miles. But they’re about to be gridlocked. You think the M25’s bad – Mexico City’s tailbacks are like nothing else.

The hotel Camino Real – a slick, smooth, star-lined operation – is located in the affluent Polanco neighbourhood, just north of the city’s largest park, Chapultepec, with streets named after philosophers, writers and scientists. Staying at this shiny palatial edifice, mixing with business heads and rock ‘n’ roll royalty, sets a precedent from the off and coupled with Corona Capital’s exclusively middle-class demographic, it becomes clear that any well-informed anthropological observations must be made away from the confines of the festival and the hotel locale.

The Noughties Live On?

60,000 revellers converge in Mexico City each year for the country’s leading, two-day music festival. Now in its third year, Corona Capital pulls in gargantuan headliners – 2010 had The Pixies and Interpol, 2011 The Strokes and Portishead – and is at the top of its game; a well-oiled machine, which puts a lot of UK festivals to shame. This time around New Order and Suede are pitted against hype acts like AraabMusik and Shabazz Palaces, for a heady concoction of nostalgia and beatmaking, with an almost quintessentially English bias. As this is an international showcase first and foremost, geographical location is not immediately apparent or distinguishable: you could have been watching New Order anywhere in the world. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Skinny jeans, trilby hats, garage-rock scuzz; the spirit of the noughties lives on and it’s been revived, rehashed and re-imagined for the discerning Mexican attendee. Corona Capital is peppered by a cast of musical protagonists who occupy that twilight zone somewhere between past and present – Franz Ferdinand, The Hives, The Raveonettes, Snow Patrol (?!) – bands not quite dog-eared enough to be classed as ‘nostalgic’, but not really ‘current’ either. However, in dealing with all manner of skewed chronometric occurrences, their existence is welcomed with a sense of misty-eyed ownership as the crowd yodel through The Hives’ ‘Main Offender’ like it was… 2002.

Bizco Club Is Where It’s At

There are four festival stages; Corona, Corona Light, Capital and, the odd one out (both semantically and structurally speaking)- Bizco Club. Fraternising/body shaking under the tarpaulin roof of the latter, the distorted psych of Portland by-way-of New Zealand’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra provides a satisfying appetiser to the weekend’s happenings as the band sound their clarion call to arms with ominous, thundering feedback and a percussive battle cry which errs on the right side of ear-splitting. Part Jefferson Airplane, part Tame Impala (with enough vocal echo to feed a small, pallid goth army), the band use clutches of Spanish to communicate with a receptive audience who collectively groove to the warped funk of ‘How Can U Luv Me’, the breezy stomp of ‘FFunny FFriends’ and the topsy-turvy Technicolor of ‘Thought Ballune’. Flecked with some impressive wig-outs, it’s loud, effected, and noisy at times.

Mexicans Like To Lose Their Shit

Mexico City’s very own version of Duck Sauce –- if you like – Star Wars enthusiasts The Wookies, serve up some pretty freaky club cuts on the Saturday afternoon, taking the party, dousing it in petrol and leaving it burning for a heated set of schizophrenic bass heavy dance. They put Juan Atkins/Detroit techno, Saturday Night Fever and frenetic gabber through the wringer, bound together with chiptune visuals and fellow Mexican dance pals She’s A Tease join them on stage for a magnetic finale. It’s a lot to take it all at once.


Read the rest, if you like – http://thequietus.com/articles/10510-mexico-corona-capital-festival-review


From the Back of the Room

On Sunday night I went to the screening of Amy Oden’s women in punk documentary From the Back of the Room. Filmed mainly in DC, it looks back over three decades and provides a really comprehensive account of a female-led DIY punk scene which existed prior and separately to the Riot Grrrl movement.

Oden has collected voices from many individuals including Chris Boarts-Larson of Slug and Lettuce, Slade from Tribe 8, Witch Hunt, Leora from Thulsa Doom and loads more who all offer their own take on the scene as well as exploring issues of motherhood, violence, race, gender, sexuality, class and activism.

There are interviews with over 30 women – Kathleen Hanna and Allison Woolfe make an appearance – but the film shines a light on hardcore bands like  Tribe 8 and Witch Hunt who played an integral role in paving the way for women to claim their own space and to co-exist within a male-dominated punk sphere.

From the Back of the Room considers the socio-political agenda of DIY punk feminism, looking back at archival footage and establishing some historical context, always with the underlying message of social change. It’s a reminder that Riot Grrrl wasn’t the definitive outlet for punk feminism and delves deep into a really fertile scene which is not documented enough. Inspiring, revelatory and thought-provoking!

You can watch the trailer here – http://www.fromthebackoftheroom.com/thefilm.htm


Chris Cohen – ‘Overgrown Path’

Review originally published: thequietus.com

Chris Cohen’s debut album recreates a state of soporific paralysis experienced on days when you never can quite shake yourself awake. Like a drowsy, wayward wasp in summertime, heavy lids and weary limbs construct a world in slow motion, casting a comfort blanket of contentment over your being. Hands in pockets, gazing wistfully at the sky, Cohen bottles rose-tinted sanguinity with a feathery lightness of touch and stores it for the dismal months that lie ahead.

“Too much of a good thing / summer’s here it never goes away / we rely on the optimist high,” he croons, halfway through a languid suite of pop so breezy it could have its own convergence zone.

It’s the sound of nine tracks bleeding into one indivisible whole – a single mood or idea – much like the subject of ‘Monad’, an opener built on a dichotomy of suspense and relief, a game of percussive cat and mouse followed closely by a surge of dazzlingly louche guitar. “Just like a prism pulling colours out of sunrise” could be a metaphorical summary of the LP’s overall aesthetic: this sensory experience which occasionally veers off its chosen path in search of downtempo contemplation, yet overall remains consistent and homogeneous.

‘Solitude’ is a modest, minimal and unassuming song stripped clean of all attire and left hung out to dry naked in the sun; a solitary island in the middle of an azure coloured ocean, later immortalised by the slowcore, hazy tropic bliss of ‘Inside A Seashell’.

After ‘Solitude’s moment of bucolic reflection, even the proceeding sonic jolt back into the realm of consciousness on ‘Caller No.9’ is still held back by a sense of lethargy: “woke up a year too late / just to sit around and wait,” sings Cohen, before the caffeine hit of ‘Rollercoaster Rider’ enters the bloodstream like an Adderall, broadening the horizon with ripples of quivering electric organ as undulating baritone gets to grips with this perky, life-affirming paean to motion.

It’s at this point that LA born Cohen – a contributing member of The Curtains, Cryptacize, Deerhoof, and Natural Dreamers, who released ten full length LPs between the years of 2002 and 2008 – really comes into his own, fuelled by idiosyncratic charm and pastoral lyricism, possibly inspired by his current home of rural Vermont. He is a one-man band in the most accomplished sense of the term, eschewing the limited instrumental capabilities of many other solo singer-songwriters in favour of a varied palette which not only boasts drums – his instrument of choice – but also bass, Casio MT65, piano, and guitar.

Cohen brings to mind the far out, oddball eccentricity of Robert Wyatt, patted down and smoothed over by Colin Blunstone’s suavity, adding to the canon of otherworldly, offbeat artists who resist definition. And as the album draws to a close – its warm glow gradually diminishing to a muted flicker like a reel of Super 8 in its final frame – ‘Don’t Look Today and ‘Open Theme’ take it off to bed good and proper for a deep, but no doubt dream-loaded sleep.