Nosferatu @ Prince Charles Cinema

A Sympnony of Horror - And Beauty


 A long queue hugged the left-hand side of Prince Charles theatre, Leicester Square, in a sold out screening (with live music) of Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the film's release and, as The Artist walked away with 5 Oscars, no wonder silent films are a big deal for more people than their usual dedicated fanbase.
Prince Charles Cinema, with it's luscious burgundy red ambiance-which, in this case, could hide a few splatter connotations if, like some people, you let your imagination run wild-, didn't need a lot of help to get the mood going.
The Minima quartet - bass, electric guitar, cello and drums - took their place in a low-rise stage in front of the screen, with most people, unfortunately, having a hard time spotting them; but the music was impossible to ignore. A beautifully imposing, crystal clear sound wandered away since moment one of F. W. Murnau's expressionist horror tale - based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, but with changed names, as the production remained unauthorised.
Silent films or not, there's accompanying music that chooses to boost the heroes choices, passions and dilemmas; and there's music that creeps in (or strums wild) and takes a role all of its own.
Minima decided to go for the latter.
Unlikely a lot of other silent films with live music I've seen (including Louis,, and Man With A Movie Camera, at The Barbican), I got the impression that these guys feel a much bigger part of the on-screen action than most.
They added a sense of... horror, humour, imagination and details-like a genius sonic translation of a man falling into the sea, that made the movie uncannily tangible.
The audience was in the presence of a full-blown work of art. And though you can't judge which of the two sides works best (you definitely don't want the band to impose on the film too much), they are both welcome, as long as musicians know how to respect the balance.
Nosferatu is, in itself, a daring creation, and it only takes a daring soundtrack to live up to its virtues.
In all irony, these four daredevils come wrapped up in delicious melody, cleverly softening those sharp vampire edges (what could very well be a metaphor for a tad difficult, and occasionally boring 1920's big-screen creation), while keeping all the excitement intact.

Devilish Presley @ Pipeline

Sympathy for the Devilish


From Antiworld to, well, Devilish Presley, goth rockabilly bands sound traditionally "less" on record (maybe cause they have nothing to do with tradition...). Studio recording seems to flatten the very soul of their music - which is much closer to naughty kids going wild than fettered adults keeping up with recording schedules. Even when they self-release all five of their albums, which is what those last ones are about.
These sonic hell-raisers set up camp for the night at the Pipeline, just steps off Liverpool St station. They littered the floor with fistfulls of fake pound notes (soft as napkins), they rose the American-inspired DP flag at the back of the stage and they opened their arms to "friends and family" - who, according to vocalist/guitarist Johnny Navarro's opening statement, built their small (but respectable) 10th anniversary audience.
Over the years they have supported masters of the noisy dark trade, The Damned, The Misfits and Meteors and, make no mistake, they have toured to much bigger crowds. Yet, they remain a rather overlooked rock pair. Maybe it's those darn (and indispensable) recordings, which won them critical acclaim, but still don't do them justice; or the fact that subgenres like goth rock have to fall in synch with the latest fashions to see the occasional light of bigger masses. We have come to a point where some of London's most influential, trademark cultures are consistently snobbed by the music crowds (and I doubt that music has anything to do with it).

Back to what really matters, Devilish Presley's music rocks.
The moment the duo grab their guitars, their sound explodes. It's sexy and ferocious and it could never fit in four studio walls. From The Devil Rock & Roll (out of their 5th album The Dark Triad) to Black Leather Jesus (from their 2003 debut Rust Garden), this is no music for the faint of heart (and that's the way we like it). Happy As Saturday and Black Glitter - they're all great songs.

Powerful both in voice and looks, Jacqui Vixen is an imposing female presence and a cool counter-balance to Navarro's restless cavorting. He's the one also making all the jokes, or maybe prophecies; like the one about their 20th anniversary: "...when only one person in this crowd will have a job and NHS won't exist". No shit...

Tunes like Hammer Horror Glamour don't quite sound like the ones that sing all the answers to our existential dramas, but this one does claim that much: "Anything is possible with rock 'n' roll. This is one monster you can't stop...".
Since rock has given answers to many of my dramas, it sure sounds wise to me.
Glitter. Hammer. Rock. And you'll roll fine...

Review and photography by Danai Molocha

The Civil Wars @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Harmony in War(s)


If you read the music press, or speak to your music freak buddies at-all, you know that this Tennessee boy-girl duo are, apparently, all the rage.
Having a natural allergy to hippy-folk-romantic-country harmonizing (yes, this allergy really exists), I got an instant rash just by checking them on youtube.
But I'm not one to turn my back on real talent - at least, I try. I had to give them a chance live; if anything, just to justify the rage (mine or the people's).
Their vocal harmonies are, indeed, downright charismatic. On top of that, they know how to add a little sense of humour, stretching their ooohs-and-aaahs to a point where you know they take their music, but not themselves too seriously. That alone, in my book, deserves some respect.
Hearing them on stage bears an uncanny resemblance to listening to a studio CD in state-of-the-art stereo equipment; such is the perfection of their delivery; but it's there, and it's a 100% live. In addition, their stage decor is boldly monastic. They strip your attention off the image and place it on the music, knowing they can win you over.
And in a sold out Empire, they won everybody over. With self-penned tunes from their acclaimed debut Barton Hollow, along with Jackson's Billie Jean and Cohen's Dance Me To The End of Love.
Of course, they didn't win me over... There's hardly any cure to those sonic allergies of mine, and that's the way I like it. Music is an endless war of tastes and capabilities.
But they did win the live battle. If they click with you these guys are the real deal; have no doubt.

Kate Radmilovic @ Mum and Dad Studios

Black coffee and cigarettes


 Last time I crossed paths with soprano Kate Radmilovic, last May, it was at an opera-meets-Broadway special within St Sepulchre Without Newgate's imposing setting.
A few spheres down from the above spiritual h(e)aven, and much closer to everyday London life, Mum and Dad photographic studios welcome Radmilovic this time; and myself, in order to assist in the creation of a showreel that will unfold the soprano's other talents; like her recent explorations in jazz territory.
Till we get to jazz, though, between finger food and lighting equipment moving around and about, there's always room for some Abba. The evening's warm-up is none other than Mamma Mia's The Winner Takes It All - or, in other words, the musical from a more pop(ular) angle, as Radmilovic's past takes on the genre didn't stray much from her dominant operatic leanings.
Dressed in a modern fitted black suit and a classy black corset, in a set stripped of all decorations but the unrelenting studio lights, she lets the music (and the body language) do the talking. Her heartfelt performance can't help but shine, thanks also to expert musical theatre pianist Charles Miller, who gives a hand.
Dancing his own dance behind the camera (literally, as he loves a good spin here and there!) Ian Burke slowly creeps and sways among studio equipment and props, till he gets that perfect shot.
When it's time for Black Coffee, the team has already warmed up and relaxed. Instead of turning the kettle on, we open a bottle of wine and rejoice in the evening's job. Kate reappears in a dramatic long black dress and gloves and takes her place by the piano. Charles follows her lead, losing his jacket and adopting a jazzy black hat for the occasion. And he's one smooth jazz player! Crafty fingers wander playfully on the keys, introducing a 180 degrees turn; Kate herself is a sensually ominous presence that plays cheekily the jazz game.
From the smoky Ella Fitzerald to the saucy Peggy Lee, Black Coffee has seen several reincarnations. Radmilovic's vocals stand closer to the former, but (re)assuming the character of the latter. Of course, no matter the transformation, her years in opera couldn't become obsolete overnight. There is a certain grandeur in her delivery and it's an interesting game to watch how her strong operatic vocals crawl and adjust to different waves and lenghts. As the cigarette smoke - and Ian's ever present camera hover, there is no doubt that jazz becomes her.
Time for take No3 and we roll the piano back and out of sight, baring the set once more to an absolute minimum. While Charles gets comfy with some wine and chocolate cake, Kate dashes back to hair and make-up.
Les Mis's I Dreamed A Dream finds her in a not really understated, but always elegant shiny red dress, which echoes the song's fervent heartbreak. Since I'm surely not the one for romantic melodies, I begin to drift (luckily I had no wires to watch this time)... I try to focus on the fact that it's songs like this that keep Les Miserables on the up for almost three decades now (or instantly propel previously unknown artists like Susan Boyle to mega stardom).
Eating away the last remaining snacks, I suggest Kate to give Why Don't You Do Right A go - another one of Peggy Lee's (or red hot Jessica Rabbit's) jazz treasures. But no matter her love for Lee, or Fitzerald, for that matter, she finds modern jazz singers like Madeleine Peyroux and Diana Krall much more intriguing; plus, she would like to opt for the more experimental side of jazz, rather than play safe with classic jazz repertoire.
Hmm... Taking risks. Isn't that what good music is all about?

Photography via the laptop screen, by a desperate DM waiting the actual promo shots.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

 Burning feet


Once again way too busy to sit back and enjoy the breaths of soul inspiration filling the Empire that Friday night, I had to limit myself to the basics.
First things first, Corrina Greyson - what a way to open a gig! Not having a clue about who she was, and at the time utterly swamped in gig duty, I had no reason to catch a note... But that voice, and that canny band along with it surely caught my ear before they caught my eye, and I damned every moment I had to miss. Check out their version of Let Me Down Easy on youtube (, to start with; and then join me in a race to catch them again live, since their tour with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ended the next day in Brighton.
Speaking of... I had caught up with Jones and her Kings a few years earlier, on not one of their top days live. At an indoor venue, one hot summer night in Athens, Greece, their celebrated energy was somehow flattened.
 But headlining the Empire, and overall boosted by a full, foot-stomping house, the Kings and their queen spilled their soul(s) out. From Amy Winehouse and Gladys Knight to their own 100 Days, 100 Nights, they gave the crowd quite a dance workout. Their latest fourth album I Learned The Hard Way remains high in songwriting quality and soulful vintage sound; and, if Friday's gig is anything to go by, these guys don't show any sings of slowing down.

P.S. So as to match Corrina's youtube reference, check out Sharon's amazing performance at Atlanta's Criminal Records at

Guest spot: Laura Marling @ O2 Academy Leeds

I sing because I can


All the way up in Leeds to see Marling, currently on tour, and possibly just wrapping up her sold out London show as we speak.
To start with, first support man Pete Roe was interestingly melodic at times, but not enough as to silence the burgeoning crowd.
Solo Timber Timbre who followed, though, was more my kind of man. With the voice of a smooth gentleman and the looks of a psychotic peasant, he lead us through quirky folk ballads that were worth the applause.
And then along came Laura...
Accompanied by a full band - cello, percussion, keys, her several guitars, a banjo and a horn also making their appearance, the ensemble sounded promising before it even begun. And in epic songs like Alpha Shallows, naturally, they came in handy for a full instrumental blow.
But, truth be told, Marling & guitar have the ability to effortlessly make up for a whole band. When they left her temporarily, she more than managed on her own, with her feeling, lyrics, psyche, voice as colourful instruments in full bloom.

Gang in or out, my personal highlights included Blackberry Stone and What He Wrote; Ryan Adams cover My Winding Wheel didn't quite do it for me; I'd rather go with the new Pray For Me, which followed. The crowd cutely accompanied her in Ghosts; while the band at the back had a knack for standing out towards the second half of the songs.
I can't say I didn't find a few songs boring. A Creature I Don't Know is a fine album, but not destined for the chills that I Speak Because I Can was. It didn't help that their heroine was often distracted - whether it was her name flashing next to the Foo Fighters in an ad opposite her, or just thinking of a new joke (she and her band had a few).
On top of all that, she said goodbye too soon with I Speak Because I Can - the song. I support her refusal to offer us an encore, but she's on her third album already! It's not like she's lacking the material to give us a bit more...
So she left me with mixed feelings, in effect. In many ways, the show was relaxed, seemingly unpretentious and slightly eccentric. Like the unassuming, tiny platinum blonde herself.
If you told me that's all there is to it, each and every time, I'd get a little worried. She could go for so much more. Or has she now become a well-disguised diva?..
If there have been better gigs, though, which I have missed, I'd have to make a 180 degree turn and say well done; for allowing herself the space to be herself. I would really want nothing more or nothing less for these songs.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha, aka rockets4solitude.