Death Sentence: Panda! opened the night’s festivities at Festsaal Kreuzberg Keller with a short set of amplified and tweaked feral free-jazz skronk. The crowd, perhaps a bit restless as the gig started two hours late, were initially somewhat nonplussed – keeping a safe distance from the twitchy, chaotic noise.
The band comprises Kim West on vocals, flute and sax, Paul Costuro, clarinet, xylophone and electronics and drummer Chris Dixon. They hail from the Bay Area scene in San Francisco and tonight is the second date in a European tour to promote their album Festival of Ghosts released by U.K label Upset the Rhythm.
The flute is perhaps not the most forgiving of instruments in any context and whilst Kim West is far easier on the eye than Ian Anderson it was hard not to recall Will Ferrell’s free-jazz freak out in Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy. Balancing on one leg (what is it with flautists and this one-legged thing?) she introduces the song Slumber Party as “a sexual island of violence” and given the recurrent weird animal imagery that stalks her lyrics and the strange hybridity of the music it is clear that this island belongs to Dr. Moreau.
A veritable cargo cult of influences were displayed during their brief performance, from New Orleans-style marching bands to frantic hardcore punk and traditional Korean folk music. If James Chance and the Contortions were trapped in a sack with a Balinese Gamelan and thrown down the stairs they would make a sound like this – do not try this at home!
The venue eventually began to fill up as the crowd drifted into the cellar venue in time for Part Chimp’s headline set, having finally figured out how to escape the Escher-designed staircases that had kept it trapped between the Paloma Bar and Men�ge for the last few hours.
Part Chimp are from my old neck of the woods in darkest Sarf London indeed their latest 7″ is called New Cross, perhaps in tribute to a ‘scene’ so underground that local residents can often be heard speculating that the whole thing is a ruse cooked up by bored music journalists. Despite their status as local heroes this is the first opportunity I’ve had to catch them live. Perhaps their reputation for being very, VERY loud scared off the bookers.
Despite the stripped down trio format the Chimp’s sound is massive, building quickly from simple melodic riffs into a juggernaut that refuses to be stopped. Although it is a straight forward and oft repeated formula this is no mere decibel-fest, the sound references neo-psych Japanese metal like High Rise as well as the post-hardcore of Hot Snakes and The Melvins (the latter are big Chimp fans).
This is dirty post-metal but its (momentarily) quiet, loud, even more loud, then really, really fucking loud dynamic and ironic ‘evil’ lyrics betray a musical ambition and intelligence without veering into the self indulgence of Sonic Youth copyists And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (to whom Part Chimp have been unfairly compared).
The Chimp opened with B1 from their acclaimed debut album Chart Pimp and even if the music was not totally familiar to everyone in the crowd it soon had them by the throat and howling for more, Hello Bastards (from their sophomore disc, I am come) followed and any remaining sceptics were converted. The decibel level remained pretty impressive throughout but the power of the bands sound derived as much from their discipline, conviction and song-writing, as it did from volume.
After the show, through temporary tinnitus, I asked the drummer Jon Hamilton about the secret of their sound. The Chimp smiled and replied, “earplugs”.