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TRANSMITTERS/HUNDRED WAYS WITH DJ REX OFFENDER@ ST PAULS CENTRE, BRENTFORD 07/05/11 - REVIEW BY DEN BROWNE

 
Another interesting and fun night at the St Paul's Centre in Brentford, with a distinctly early-80's/post-punk feel to the proceedings, courtesy of a reformed Transmitters and new guys Hundred Way. 

Hundred Ways were un-phased by the bane of support group life, starting their set to a near-empty hall. They've been gigging round the London club and pub circuit, and this experience has stood them in good stead with a tightly-performed and well-rehearsed set. In addition to citing some interesting influences and inspirations - Pink Floyd, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure and Alice in Chains. I'd throw in a measure of B-52's and Talking Heads as well. They see themselves as embodying a kind of geek-core culture of the obscure and darkside aspects of comic books, video games and other outsider media. There's certainly a Devo-ish je ne sais quoi about singer Bishi Kaneta's glasses, bow-tie and tank-top outfit. Meanwhile the guitarist at times seems in another world, playing away in a separate universe and wearing a Guns'n'Roses t-shirt - but it usually works, and he contributes a lot to their sound and has one of the most individual slide-guitar sounds I've heard, avoiding the usual bluesy feel for a spacey Hawaiian guitar sound which at first had me looking round to see where it was coming from.

On a first hearing it's hard really to single out any particular song from their set, but for a group who've only been playing since last summer, they've got a strong and confident sound, and some good material.  Look out for them coming your way at Monto Water Rats, King's X (May 13th), Babalou, Brixton (May 20th), Hope and Anchor, Islington (June 16th), and 229 Great Portland Street (July 14th).

Hundred Ways set-list: In the Morning / Art of Kicks / Ant Tribe / Each to their own / Go Our Separate Ways / When September Comes / Donna / My Heart is Bleu / Sound of Breaking Hearts / Falling out of Love / Berlin Night

Line-up: Bishi Kaneta - vocals, gtr / Andres Miranda - gtr / Svet Ivanov - drums / Ben Wakefield - bass / Jonny Electro - keyboards

The Transmitters have a fascinating back-story to go with a powerful and challenging sound. The first version of the group played from '77-'88, were a favourite of John Peel, and had links to various other ranking indie acts of the time, from Furniture, Glaxo Babies and Transglobal Underground. After the '88 split Sam Dodson went on to be half of Loop Guru for fifteen years. Now they're back, mainly to promote their compilation "I Fear No-One" (on Sam Dodson's Elsewhere Records label - versatile guy! Look out for an interview here soon).

I'd need a real brain-storming session to describe their sound - which is, of course, their own - but among the names in the hat would be the Fall, PIL, Joy Division/early New Order, XTC, Gang of Four, This Heat, Magazine and maybe even a soupcon of Captain Beefheart - get the picture?

Between sets - graced incidentally by DJ Rex Offender playing primo punk and reggae selections - I'm looking idly at the group's equipment onstage when I notice what looks like a vintage wooden radio speaker perched on a stand. "Aha! Visual pun," I thought, "They're called the Transmitters and they've got an old-school one on stage." Wrong! This turned out to be a Theremin (as heard on "Good Vibrations" for example), a fore-runner of the synth - basically comprising a couple of antennae which are modulated by the player performing T'ai Chi like hand-movements around them (but without direct contact) to control pitch and volume. John Woodley showed considerable skill at this as the night went on. I'm not sure you'll see too many of these in action, but it's a distinctive sound, a bit more resonant and warmer than the normal synth

For a group who've only played together intermittently over the past few years, they make an impressive sound.Their music is a dense mix of overlapping instruments, voices and samples, with insistent guitar and Hook-esque bass usually prominent in the mix. Naturally most of the set is drawn .from "I Fear No-one", plus "Chicken Roundabout" and "Count Your Blessings" - alas no "0.5 (Half Alive)", my own favourite of theirs. The group have a strong West London connection and were well supported by a good-sized crowd - "Hammersmith" seemed to get one of the loudest cheers of the night. Cries for an encore led to a group huddle, from which they emerged to announce they'd played everything they knew, but no matter, we got "Captain Spot" again, this time with added theremin. Very good it sounded too - I'm looking forward to a chat with Sam about whether there's any future Transmitters action in prospect.

The tireless Lee McFadden was there as always, and thanks to him there are clips on youTube of the Transmitters doing their Velvet Underground cover "Ferry Boat Bill" and "Nowhere Train", plus a couple of songs from the Hundred Ways. It remains to be seen where the Transmitters go from here, in terms of recording or more live work, but thanks to all for an instructive and enjoyable night.

Transmitters' set-list: Captain Spot / Testosterone / Ferry Boat Bill / Ache / Nowhere Train / Silver Car / Hole in the World / Hammersmith / Chicken Roundabout / Dead Siamese Sister / Count Your Blessings / Captain Spot (encore).

Personnel: Sam Dodson - gtr / Tim Whelan - vocals, gtr, samples / James McQueen - bass / John Woodley - theremin and keyboards / Jim Chase – drums

Review by Den
Photos by Jane Maskew
video by Lee McFadden