Upsetting the Rhythm in London

Michael Kasparis

Michael Kasparis performs, releases and sometimes writes about music in London.

2005. I emigrated to London from Glasgow in that year, unsure as to what to expect from a city that many Scots had warned me against. I'd seen burnt-out 30 somethings move back to Glasgow having done their time in the nation's capital, embittered and embattled, looking for a way back to some innocence they thought they'd lost. Most of them musicians who had dabbled in The Industry and found it unwelcoming, heartless or just plain indifferent.

I was on a different trajectory. I couldn't wait to leave. It rings like a British cliché of the Northerner, a lad from the provinces coming to the “Big Smoke” with a rucksack and wide eyes, but it's true. In terms of shows and music, I caught my first glimpse of the absurdity and variety of the undercurrent in London from my first Upset The Rhythm show. Of course, DIY or independent music in London doesn't stop and start with Upset The Rhythm, but they were a door to a city I never knew existed, like the Parisian catacombs but colourful and joyful. I caught their 21st show on 26 April, about four months after moving here, and had my mind blown by Aum Sahib, White Magic and Gang Gang Dance. You can get an overview of how instrumental UTR have been from their past shows. They were and are promoters who could just as easily have Rhodri Davies supporting Jandek one night and The Black Lips headline a few months later.

Chris Tipton and Claire Titley moved to London from deepest Shropshire and set up Upset The Rhythm as a collective with numerous volunteers and friends, debuting with an inaugural Deerhoof show in 2003. Tales of their early shows abound – queues around the block for Lightning Bolt at what was then the clandestine (illegal) basement dive Barden's Boudoir, the 20 minute Coachwhips show that almost killed a few folks – but Upset The Rhythm have always moved forward, preoccupied with the next show, the next release. In tandem with their shows, which are as numerous as ever, the label wing has an impressive back catalogue. John Maus and Future Islands (among many others) had their first records out on UTR, but like all classic independent labels their local output has been a galvanizing force.

Peepholes are Katia Barrett and Nick Carlisle and their debut long player Caligula surfaced on UTR late last year.

I've played several shows with these guys in all three of the ways I waste my time, as Apostille, in The Lowest Form or in Please. I'll spare you the comradeship and hackneyed community-drive hyperbole about how everyone is friends and everyone helps each other: let's just say that Katia and Nick are friendly people who make brooding, doomed synth-punk together. I've seen them in Manchester factories, tiny London venues and bigger stages and they're always immediate and desperate in the best way. They're currently recording a follow up to Caligula.

Chris and Claire have always made music together and more recently they christened their 'pastoral punk' duo Way Through. Each utterance is a curve ball. They've made a psychogeographical tour cd/book of London's Bethnal Green, a collaborative cassette release on Manchester's Comfortable On A Tightrope, a full-length album on UTR and last week we met up to begin work on an exciting new thing. I took the Internet Standard Cat Photo – featuring Larkin – during a particularly edifying squelch sample solo.

The hazy effect wasn't the result of media training in Photoshop – I left my finger too near the lens. I think it captures something quite special but I don't know what. Way Through, I feel, is summed up in this psychedelic video postcard:

'Woodwose' takes a prosaic country road in England and soundtracks it with what could be a trad folk melody played on a deep-fried guitar and primitive samplers, resulting in an intense indigenous experience. Get with the natives.

While we ordered curry through a pitchshifter (or at least we were going to before we got a pre-emptive guilt attack), we sang along to a song from the next Pheromoans record. Pheromoans are one of the those entities that exist off the radar in the south of England that manage to permeate everything.

They are chaotic, brilliant, inconsistent and never boring. Vocalist Russell Walker's commuter-loser poetry makes it, the voice of a generation brought up in a pram at Abigail's Party (Sorry Russell, I just made that up.) This was the song: POWER WATCH, premiered here. Of all the Pheromoans' varied work it's my favorite so far. Their Does This Guy Stack Up? LP is due out at the end of August. Russell and Dan from Pheromoans also play in Bomber Jackets, who have a 7″ coming out at the beginning of June on my own Night School label. Someone, somewhere managed to get the Pheromoans together on a hill for this shot.

The worst thing any group of people doing something together can be is exclusive, with their backs turned, wagons circled against outsiders. I've never felt that in this city. Of course, maybe some folks want that, want to feel special and exclusive in pre-ordained cliques, but it's never appealed. Whether it's at crust punk gigs in squats or pop music in super-slick mega venues, there's just no time to obstruct people in their curiosity. Upset The Rhythm embody this attitude I think. Maybe not everyone buys into the idea of sharing and openness but I do and it's something that London has taught me.

Pheremoans, “Power Watch”

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