ButterClock, Madame Claude

by James Glazebrook

ButterClock at Madame Claude flyer

Madame Claude, with its Black Lodge aesthetic and furniture nailed to the ceiling, was an inspired venue choice for a showcase from an up-and-coming witch house artist. Depending on who you listen to, witch/haunted/drag/wevs is set to either turn electronic music upside-down or expose itself as just another triumph of style over substance.

Pulling back the curtain to reveal a chilly basement full of smoke and white noise looping from an unmanned laptop, first impressions of Paris’ ButterClock did nothing to dispel the skepticism cloaking her genre. When Laura Clock did appear, weighed down with chunky goth chic in shades of silver and black, her first synth stabs underwhelmed; the spectre of the de rigueur downtuned MC dancing behind her, face covered by a skull-emblazoned scarf, moved the crowd to sniggers. So far, so emperor’s new clothes.

And then the drums kicked. As unholy bottom-end rolled across the crowd, heads began to nod and bodies started to sway. Hacks may have given witch house short shrift, because it co-opts the beats and bad attitude of urban music and places them in a context far from its macho origins – but the gay and the fey, the whites and the women, the goths the indie kids… well, we deserve sub-bass too. Icy melody and a warped pop sensibility shone through the strobe-cast shadows, and with tracks like a cover of Jennifer Paige’s Crush ButterClock slowly unveiled its true identity: the crunk Portishead.

Polite applause, house lights up, scarves off – with the set over, a little bit of magic was lost. But watching the performers pack away their kit underlined the fact that – hype aside – witch house is (or can be) real music created by real artists. The likes of Fever Ray have started to wrestle electronic sounds away from dull men stood behind banks of equipment; if genre gems like ButterClock are allowed to shimmer, perhaps dance music can finally accept the marriage of theatricality and musicianship that rock and pop have long embraced.

[EDIT: since posting, we’ve found out that the MC was actually o F F, a Berlin-based artist we’d assumed we’d missed. That’s how opaque this scene is! Hear more from him over at his Soundcloud]

ButterClock at Madame Claude, 11 December 2010.

To hear more from ButterClock, visit her Soundcloud. If your finger’s so far from the pulse that you don’t even know what witch house is (pfff!), there is an excellent primer over at Soonnight. Check out the venue at MySpace – although berlin.unlike has prettier pictures. Speaking of pretty pictures…

Dear Dickheads

by James Glazebrook

Matthew Dear live

Matthew Dear was captivating last night – despite some serious distractions offstage.

Admittedly I’ve been a bit of a shut-in lately – a situation bound to worsen with the oncoming snow and Siberian (perhaps) winds – and I’ve never been the biggest fan of, well, people… but this was too much.

First, there were the dickheads. Or whatever they’re called here. Probably still “dickheads” as no doubt they’re either from <ahem> East London or Williamsburg. Whatever you call them, their Where’s Wally look of bobble hats over scruffy hair and ironic pattern jumpers is just BAD.

Dickheads I can handle. Living in London Fields, I was surrounded by them 24/7 and even dabbled in a bit of dickery myself (cf. jeggings / quiff).

It’s the willfully uncool people who really disturb. Particularly the 90s rave throwbacks that Berlin seems to attract, with their hoodies and dreads and baggy jeans. They looked like extras from the clubbing scene in Spaced, only there was nothing funny about it.

I suppose I should rejoice at the sight of a Gallagher-esque monkey man skinning up under a No Smoking sign, but the cynic in me believes that there’s such a thing as too much freedom, even here in the former Soviet Union.

I hope I learn to lose the cynicism. After all, one of the reasons we moved here is the culture (and economy) that encourages, fosters and allows creativity – and so we should embrace everything that comes along with it: unfettered freedom, genuine anarchism, honest revolutionary impulses, even reckless dressing.

But the guy with the hippie/punk haircut, wearing a jazzy afghan and tartan trousers is not helping…

This is a kind-of-review of Matthew Dear’s performance at Berghain/Kantine on 1st December 2010. For another cock-eyed (literally) look at the gig, see my Tumblr Gay For…