Inspirational set from Danish indie group with a love of distortion pedals
Glasgow, Sunday 14 June, the night of a thousand gigs: Faith No More are demolishing the Academy, Can’s Jaki Liebezeit and Faust’s Hans Joachim Irmler are getting cosmic in Easterhouse, and Tav Falco is making the walls of the Poetry Club drip with pomade and perspiration. An embarrassment of riches for sure, but it’s hard to imagine any of them besting Danish group Selvhenter. Part of Copenhagen’s Eget Værelse collective, Selvhenter corral amplified horns, violin and percussion into a finely honed mass of rhythm and noise. The sound they make is genuinely exciting and new, as mutant strains of free jazz and doom intersect with minimalism and post-punk.
Selvhenter are by no means the first musicians to run horns and violins through guitar effects pedals, but few have made it such an integral part of their practice. The mutant bass tones of Maria Bertel’s pitch-shifted, distorted trombone are the centre around which the other players orbit. Her down-tuned riffs fuse the heaviness of Sunn O)) with the propulsive rhythms of Dutch avant-punks The Ex, with whom Selvhenter share a split single. Jaleh Negari’s drums range from steady rock beats to expansive polyrhythms, bringing motion and light to the darker, noisier textures around her. Sonja LaBianca’s electronically treated saxophone flutters and soars into the ether: run through a wah pedal and tremolo, it becomes a sputtering stream of cosmic slop. The violin of Maria Diekman, meanwhile, provides accented chords, orchestral textures, and beautiful alien glissandi, only occasionally bursting into scratchy noise. Their finale is an oddly charming piece of DIY tropical pop, all toy keyboards and Latin rhythms. Hugely compelling, with plenty of ‘what was that’ moments, Selvhenter’s set is an inspiration.
Special mention must go to support act Still House Plants, previously known as Your Hair Cut. It’s a while since I’ve had such a giddy reaction to a new Glasgow band. They aren’t quite the finished article yet, but there’s a beautiful spirit of adventure to this band, as if they’re still surprising themselves with what they come up with. I’ve seen too many bands who are content to rework hip reference points, but Still House Plants are genuinely alchemical, creating magic from unlikely elements. My companion likens them to slowcore indie-rockers Bedhead, and there’s certainly something of that minimalist guitar trance going on. But where slowcore broods in the shadows, Still House Plants embrace the light, with Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach’s dreamy, Liz Fraser-like vocals floating blissfully over a guitar and bass swell. Their closing number is a revelation. Bassist Calum switches to alto saxophone, unleashing melodic toots and squawks while guitarist Finlay Clarke scrubs ecstatically at his Fender like a DIY Sonny Sharrock. Drummer David Kennedy pushes and pulls against the pulse as Hickie-Kallenbach soars beatifically above it all. I’m put in mind of some rickety collision between Life Without Buildings and Ornette Coleman’s free-funk band Prime Time, but Still House Plants have a freedom and joy that is all their own.
Reviewed at Glad Café, Glasgow, Sunday 14 June.