Smoke launch (#3)

 

13th Note Cafe, July 15th 2001

Best laid plans and all that, but after 2 (apparently) storming launch gigs for this compilation album - with punters turned away at the door such was the appeal of the event - that something just had to give on the closing Sunday show. Fortunately, less by luck and more hard work of the participants, the potentially disastrous problem of a band pulling out FIVE MINUTES before they were due on was duly coped with.
First out of the hat for the random running order was Pulsar - less a band, more one man and his magic piano. Pulsar's track on the Smoke compilation is more of a (big)band thing, featuring the mystery guest of a pub singer from Birmingam and leading to some ill-founded speculation that the silver-throated lothario might well be Vic Reeves. Sadly we shall never know but the gaps are ably filled with an engaging set of piano-vocal pieces - though we'e not talking Elton John here. Songs about Terry Thomas are typical of the set, though a electronic-backed frenzy about "people with computers in their brains" certainly isn't.
Nibushi Shang Hong have enough to cope with given that they are without their regular drummer (Rowan from Nova Express filling in admirably even on the unrehearsed 'encores') but after 20 minutes or so of simply top pop tunes the crowd are more than happy for them to return. Somehow taking all sorts of 'new wave' influences - ranging from Elvis Costello to the Wonderstuff - putting them in a big blender and distilling the brew till the best stuff is left might not be a new approach to music-making, but Nibushi simply create a great feel-good atmosphere which has the now-packed Note dancing now and undoubtedly whistling next day. 'Aqualung' and 'Song in Three Parts' are only part of their armoury of tunes.

Kasino are another band that know a thing or 2 about songwriting and despite having an (almost) all-new lineup they've come back if anything stronger than ever. It's effortless for them to insert the odd acoustic number to the set such is their skill but it's the remodelled stuff like 'You Don't Have To Be Alone' which with its Edgy guitar and stadium-filling sound which turns the Note's tiny basement, for a short time, into Wembley. Goal!
Which leads us to Troika who in a different way are also able to cope with extra time. Not for them building to a climax, the set is turned on its head with an opening number that descends into an orgy of feedback and guitar abuse after a couple of minutes. From then on it's squalls of noise with pop undertones lurking beneath (pop being a common factor in Smoke). 'Insane' is almost an odd contrast with its (comparatively) chilled feel and moody slide guitar, but in this sweaty basement Troika's pounding rhythms march on, the closing 'Camera Track' showing that, pretty much in common with the other 18 bands on the compilation, that the Scottish music underground is as lively as ever. Smokin' in fact.

(note: remove last sentence if NME don't take it)