Tag: The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

Surprisingly heavy on ordinary instrumentation

October 2023
The Rossi Bar

Ron Caines, Andrew Greaves & I’m Dr Buoyant: if you don’t know him, Ron was the saxophone player with the near legendary prog rock band East of Eden, long before half of us in the audience could walk. He’s been playing with both Andrew (and with his band Broken Star) and I’m Dr Buoyant for a number of years, but this was the first time they’ve played as a trio. The set starts with some layering up of synths by the electronicians but when Ron starts they drop away leaving him to lay some plaintive lines before a thin stream of near feedback creeps in and ever so slowly swells to some lovely swirling, echoing space noises. Ron starts to bounce back off this; trilling and parping, Andrew responds with a flurry of notes and then slows it down to another deep space tone. As things progress Tony starts channelling Ron’s saxophone back through the effects chain, which is nice. Andrew gets into some synth runs, then back into the spacey washes and occasional organ scurry. About 20 minute sin Andrew starts a much effected drum pattern, pinging echoes and squelchy reverbs all over. Ron switches to slight, tremulous bursts until everything starts to thicken out and he gets into some harder blowing. And then it all winds out in light arpeggios and looped sax breath.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, it’s the first time we’ve had Ben back in a while, and he’s changed things around a bit, the lovely Black and Chrome Jaguar guitar has gone to be replaced by some multifunctional high end (but at least black) modern thing. He’s also changed his set around a bit, gone are the tight punchy songs and he’s loosened up a bit, but there’s still plenty of structure. No singing though. The first song he starts by getting some guitar loops going through Bill the laptop. There is some odd glitching and you can visibly see him deciding on whether to restart or use it as feature, he decides to forge ahead. When the chiming interlocking guitar loops are cycling away, he gets the guitar to show some of its other features, messing with things, triggering midi sounds, the wayward glitches mostly fall away leaving on the deliberate ones. And thankfully for his stress levels the rest of the set seems devoid of issues. Apart from the unexpected triggering of an amen break. The next one starts with one of his pop guitar riffs, there’s some madness noises and the amen break. The whole thing has that clarity and lightness that reminds me of my favourite of Cornelius’ work. He gets really into messing with the beats at the end, building on his work with the games controller the last time we saw him. The next one starts with the messed up beats. Slower and rather chunky, he plays in a bassline and some more nicely interlocking guitar parts and glitchy frills. There are some great guitar controlled breakdowns on here. Theres a really quick switch into the next song, it’s almost completely formed. Guitar and rhythm doing what I can only describe as tripping along with extraordinarily filthy noises over them. Unless its some kind of dub of the previous song. Organ Grinder’s Monkey on the Version. It does go through a quite expected silly breakdown/chop up at the end. But a great example of what can be done with a bit of imagination on how to do things. An interesting experimental approach to playing, with a great ear, combining to make something really out of the ordinary.

Nina Kohout starts with heavily affected multitracked vocal, thick and well layered. We fall silent, piano comes in and she sings on, simply and alone. Electronic bass tones well up, and a fairly brutal waltz beat starts. The sound is surprisingly spacious after that heavy start. The next song is deceptively simple with an electric guitar and voice. Followed by something that starts with some deep electronic pulses, and slow dread-full beat. Some nice use of a what sounds like a scrapingly bowed cello sound. The beats pick up, heavy on the toms, intensity ramps, yowling backing vocals add to that. And it rounds off with a nice drop to a spooky ending. The next song is about consent, pretty dark, angry and as it’s new I guess raw. Intense, something of Kate Bush about the way the vocal lines interleaving. After a light break for a middle eight we get some seriously heavy synth riffing, deep and ponderous. The next song is much lighter, starting with vocals of a high thin drone before a piano line comes in. There’s a really nice string synth interlude before things go off at a bit of a tangent with interplay between pre-recorded and live vocals and back to the piano line. The next song is a song for waking up and in Slovakian. Multi-tracked and affected vocals start with drones, and a bass pulse “hah!”, church organ washes and reedy pipe melodies follow with synthetic bird whistles. The final song starts with a plonking marimba pattern, the vocals come in, everything fades briefly then a deranged Latin rhythm starts, with some proper sonic bass. Its almost channelling a gothy Herb Alpert, only without the trumpet.

Is half a guitar better than none?

February 2020
The Rossi Bar

Paul Khimasia Morgan and Gus Garside

First up are Paul Khimasia Morgan and Gus Garside. Gus plays his traditional double bass, Paul has the less traditional guitar body (the neck has been removed). Gus starts with the bow scratching the strings with his bow, Paul has a transducer jammed up against the back of the guitar riding a low tonal feedback. The double bass is producing a thin high-pitched circular scree that goes into the looper. Most un-bass like. A second slightly fatter and slightly lower loop joins it, before he jams a beater into the strings and produces a couple of thrums. The scraping stops as does the guitar tone, and we’re left with cello-like sonorities and the thrum in restful rotation.  Over this Paul and Gus layer a variety of noises, some odd detuning pings, drones. Gus squeaks his strings and Paul gets some bell like sounds. There’s some tension, anticipation of something. The tension builds. We finally get a little bass swoop that builds into a bit of a drone. And then, at last, a full beautiful bow sweep of the low strings filling the room. For a good amount of time, Paul sends out shrill shards of feedback whistles, chimes and clunks. A very satisfying end.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

The middle act was the welcome return of The Organ Grinder’s Monkey. The laptop, and black and silver jaguar in full effect. The first song sets out what he does quite nicely, the introduction has a fairly straightforward little guitar riff, the second time there’s a little processing on the third a pretty hard glitch and full on yammer at the end, then the backing track kicks in, and each time through the processing gets more pronounced. There are some backing vocals I’d never noticed before, and extra layers. Its catchy and pretty messed up. The second song is pretty straight, upbeat, tuneful, vocals for 2 verse and chorus’ then the games controller he’s given out to the audience beforehand takes control, tremolo, filter, sweeps, things cut out and come back or repeat or stammer. It’s a lot of fun, and stops its always over too soon. The third starts with super fat blocks of bass and guitar feedback and lopsided beat. The breakdown at the end is an immense set of synth bass, drones and detuned guitar.  The fourth song has a false start, but does start with some odd filtered voice, layered up, over a distant beat, spiky guitar figure, replaced by gated wash, and a weird guitar hero sustain solo. He finishes with 2 new ones, the first a 2 chord riff over some shudder electronics, that nicely degenerates into false stops, uneven gating, and a full strength glitching using the controller again. The final piece is a cover of a song from a local hero from his home town. Political. Hooky. “I know, you are, evil”.


Finishing off the evening are Leifert, from Croatia via Leeds – they start unannounced eschewing my introduction and looming up over the general hubbub. They have a lovely synth a big square box, no keyboard, with an array of satisfyingly solid knobs on top, I made a note of the name and lost it. Its partly midi controlled and partly live fiddling. Petra stands at the back singing. The sound is correspondingly solid, strong basses, pinging tops and fidgeting drum tracks. The melody lines swerve around, timbre changing as the pitch swoops. The atmosphere they generate reminds of a couple of 80s duos I used to see in The Fridge, I briefly wonder if we’re living in the 21st Century Weimar, and then they get some proper arpeggios going and the temp picks up and the mood all changes. This one is all about driving onward. The intensity drops for the next one and we get back into slurred notes and washes, the beats are fast but lighter weight, Petra’s voice floating around over the top. The beats gather weight and the washes become more urgent as we move on. The next track starts with a four to the floor bass drum and staccato jabs of toppy synths. These are then mirrored by some detuned bass, which sees some nice filter work, getting at once buzzier and squelchier at the same time. It ends with the drums dropping out and the bass getting fatter and tastier and fatter and tastier. Nice. The last track has an almost comic stepping bass line and frenetic drums, the middly synth rolls around growling like a set of cats singing on you wall avoiding boots. Some strange melodic line comes in over the top with Petra singing in unison with it. Disconcerting. A monster sawtooth bassline finishes it off, like something from “Playing with Knives” underpinning a deranged dub with sounds zooming everywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/nRk01S1FXWI https://www.youtube.com/embed/yKEaZYxaOEk https://www.youtube.com/embed/Vx6MELIBK8o https://www.youtube.com/embed/-ts7I-U0ZTs

Snowmen and black hats

February 2015
Green Door Store

Thanks to everyone who came out on such a cold and miserable evening.

Special words first for the combination of Matt the sound man and Steve minimal impact who between them get this weird delay on the electrocreche that delays a piano sound by 5 seconds and turns it into a human voice. Quite freaky and excellent.


Inwards The first act in at short notice for Guards! Guards! who can’t get their vocalist across the north sea, is Inwards – Kristian from the [beep] collective, with visuals from Irie pixel. Inwards is set up on the floor of the stage under the projections, he has a flight case with a modular synth and a drum machine. Interestingly he goes for an almost Baion rhythm with the bass drum, giving the start of his set a latin feel while the analogue synths cascade around it. He tweaks and turns at the knobs filtering and bringing the drums in and out. The visuals are good, mirrored lines, geometric tunnels, occasional blocks of code. Constantly flowing alongside the changes in Kristian’s music.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

The Organ Grinder's Monkey Second up is The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, Ben with his shiny guitar and helter skelter rhythms. I’m still not used to anyone being organised enough to monitor their set with stereo headphones while they play and he displays some nifty footwork controlling things with a midi footpad. He starts with an old song and belts through the first half at a pretty snappy pace ending up with the song where he hands a gameboy controller out to the audience (this time Kristian) who really gets into it, chopping and filtering stuttering and laughing like a drain playing havoc with Ben’s tune while he thrashes away on stage. Its a nice juxtaposition and you can really see the advantage of headphones for this one as he’d be lost trying to play along to what’s issuing from the speakers.

Olivia Louvel

Olivia Louvel If I always say that Ben sounds like Brian Eno circa 1980, then Olivia Louvel has something of the De La Salle of the 21st Century, thick warm beats and lovingly extended bass. One definite advantage she does have is a hell of a voice, which even on this outing you feel you’re only really getting a mild taste of. She does have quite the best mic technique I’ve seen on the stage of the Green Door Store at our nights, controlling volume, timbre and tone impeccably. Starting slowly with deceptively stately beats and long bass tones, she was peaking in the middle of a set with choppy pop song with circling multiple voices and warbling tones and trailing off with a drivingly insistent number with an on off bass that almost felt played with a switch.

The sound comes down that pipe

May saw the end of an era, but also a visit from a legend.


4thirtythree hadn’t played together for six months and Stuart Revill the guitarist was less than twenty four hours off the plane from Canada. Not that it noticed, like an avuncular band in your front room they immediately settled right into it: left to right we have acoustic guitar through loop station dropping still notes in slow motion cascades; tenor sax and un-tipped vocals providing nourish grit; finally soprano sax, chime boxes, thumb pianos, flute and piano loops bringing the ether. In spite of all this looping it’s a sparse, empty sound. Occasionally it winds backwards through psychedelic space, Tim’s cycling words repeating some elliptical husky semi-profundity; a hiss popping almost rhythmically; a piano note or ringing clean guitar note burrowing into your unconscious. An elliptical start to the evening.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

Quite a different thing was The Organ Grinders Monkey; one high tech man with earpiece foldback, headphone mic, shiny fender jaguar and slick laptop/processing unit, Tearing through a highly structured set of songs. Jittering drums, bass pulses, odd swoops, heavily processed vocals, everything stopping and juddering in bizarre places, its sing-a-long in a warm jets pop way, if you can get round the leaps of logic, that is. A highlight comes where he hands over a controller to an audience member to mangle (filter; tremolo) the end of a song. The whole set seems like a battle between his innate song-writing ability and the flighty imagination that just wants to turn this knob, try this effect, stutter edit. Ending on a stuck CD lock.

Asmus Tietchens

By the time he hit the stage Asmus Tietchens had already given us two sneaky sets of minimal pings and bops on the elektrocreche – he seemed quite smitten. His actual performance was a restrained and masterful set of digital clicks and warm tones, light hums, space noises and Spooky shimmers. It’s low key and mesmerising, creepy with barely perceptible shifts in tone followed by cascades of skittering insect feet between the speakers. At one point a gated German speaker tries to hold a conversation with an alien who appears to be travelling backwards through time. The sound appears to reach escape density, but it’s not really a climax, its beyond that kind of thing: a staccato minor bass distracts the human voice who’s still trying to talk, in the distance a spaceship enters the void, it changes, opens up into toneful knocks and crickets.