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I’ve always wondered what the noise is a couple of houses down from mine. About once a week there seems to be a faint gabble of voices drifting across the gardens, the sounds of a crowd of people really enjoying themselves. So I started asking around. It turns out that on my street there’s a collective based in the battered remains of an old Jamaican social club, which can be accessed by rooting around for a black doorway at the back of the local petrol station. Wind your way up some stairs and through some cobwebs and you’re basically in an adapted living room with a bar built in it.

This is the Total Refreshment Centre, and it’s a beautiful thing – it’s like a big, well organised house party, and who doesn’t like a house party?

Landshapes have taken up a residency here for Febraury, so for three Thursdays they’re in charge. Tonight that means Auclair, Tirzah, and Landshapes themselves, along with videos, psychedelic projections and pink flamingos.

I rocked up a little late, dripping with the year’s first cold, unleashing countless pathogens upon the unsuspecting as I lumbered into the crowd. The graduated layers of people facing the stage seemed pretty entranced watching Auclair do her thing. My first thought was that she sounded like Bjork with a steel drum, and I immediately wished I’d got down a bit earlier. She moved on to simple but effective synth basslines and minimal digital percussion, letting her voice do the work, and seemed totally at home, like she was really enjoying herself.

After a short disco break Landshapes took the stage, with the front and centre bass seeming like a statement of intent. The lead singer’s voice is incredible; the bass growling, present and aggressive; the guitarist seemed to have boundless energy. I had a brief chat to one of the band after the gig, who told me that they all write together; this fits with the obvious variety of influences on parade and the array of styles the band seem to cycle through. For me the highlight has to be the fuzzy, overdriven bass – typified when the equipment shorted out, prompting a call to start one of the songs over. With a grimace and a shake of the head the bassist launched back into a killer riff and dragged the band along with her – it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Also, you know a band’s going to be good when the singer is also playing some kind of Les Paul style electric ukulele, and the bassist is wearing a hairy top that looks like it’s been decorated with scalps.

Check out this video that was premiered on the night, and get yourself down to the second instalment next Thursday.

(By the way, I feel a disclaimer coming on: As I’ve mentioned, I had my first cold of the year when I went down to this gig, and didn’t arrive as early / stay as long as I’d have usually liked. So apologies to Tirzah, who didn’t get a proper mention in this review, and Auclair, who I wish I’d seen more of.)
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/876097209099630/?pnref=story

James Brown

is a musician/producer from the north-east of England, now residing in a charmingly frenetic area of north London. He is generally engrossed in music production under his Plainview moniker, and has a soft spot for old-school sci-fi novels with badly drawn covers. You can find him out and about in Dalston and Stoke Newington most weekends, or Djing at his residency for club night French Cafe. Feel free to contact James at james_philip_brown@yahoo.co.uk