Le Volume Courbe’s debut single “Harmony” was released on Alan McGee’s short-lived Poptones label in 2001. Five years passed before the astounding arrival of their only album to date, “I Killed My Best Friend”. Essentially, Le Volume Courbe is the brainchild of Charlotte Marionneau – her vocals, compositions, production and mindset overseeing proceedings, but her recordings have boasted a large number of credible guests – most notably My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Colm O’Ciosoig, and Primal Scream & Felt’s Martin Duffy. The notables are absent from her touring band, but the musicians she has replicating her highly individual sound are more than equipped to the task ahead. The cavernous space of the Apollo assists to create an atmosphere of dreamlike sensuousness for opener “Born To Lie”. Country meets Eno on the deceptively whimsical “Sitting In Your Head” – the lyrics contradictorally offering a questioning, unsure approach to the song’s confident, jaunty setting. The Kevin Shields’ co-composition “I Shall Skip Your Judgement” caresses by in a blissful haze – leaving one unprepared for the jolt in the form of “Little Shoes”. This still-unreleased live favourite comes of age tonight – its dismissive words and confrontational musical arrangement enabling it to be the highlight of a remarkable set.
Le Volume Courbe are unafraid to take risks and fearlessly present a trio of revamped covers – their renditions of Nico’s “Le Petit Chevalier”, Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” and the sublime offering of Roky Erickson’s “I Love The Living You” confirming the band’s refreshingly individual voice – a sounds that appears to be comfortingly familiar initially but on balance is quintessentially unique. “The House” climaxes the set in triumphant fashion – Mel Draisey’s violin soaring to the Apollo’s rafters.
Twenty-five years have passed since my last My Bloody Valentine gig – the “Doing It For The Kids” Creation Records all-dayer at Kentish Town’s Town & Country Club (now The Forum). In 1988, they were Creation’s new signings, tentatively flagshipping the day’s events. Now, the arrival of third album “MBV” has commanded press attention second to only the new David Bowie release, and it’s surprising appearance on sale caused the band’s website to crash under colossal demand. Insiders tell me that the band have had Wembley Arena’s PA installed, as they felt that the Apollo’s would not justify the band’s sound. Wherever you look tonight – bouncers, ticket staff, bar staff, seat attendants, merchandise staff, even outside the toilets – earplugs are being offered for free and the notices informing you of this are equally omnipresent. The sheer volume of My Bloody Valentine’s shows are well documented and the HMV Apollo is not taking chances. I attended the notorious Swans show at the Town & Country Club in 1987. On that occasion I was in the front row of the Circle, but the sensation was that of having your head rammed in a speaker. Added to this was the bass frequencies – churning so deeply it felt as if your bowels would surrender to the inevitable (thankfully they didn’t).
From my Circle seat at the Apollo I decide to take matters into my own hands and leave the earplugs in my pocket. Straight from the opening number “I Only Said”, the piercing grandiosity of guitars confirms the loudness is no mere press hype, but from my vantage point I am listening intently for separation and clarity. Bewilderingly, given Kevin Shields’ penchant for striving for sonic perfection, none of the above materialise. With the welcome exception of “New You” (one of three tracks aired from the new album tonight) – the set crushes past as a top-heavy cacophonic mush. The great mystery here revolves around the presence of the vocal mikes – as they are rendered virtually inaudible for the full hour and a half.
“You Made Me Realise” features the middle section which compels the faint-hearted to head for the bar, the committed to reach for their earplugs, the foolhardy (including me) to brave it out, and for the reviewers to reach for their notepads. By all accounts this section is quieter and shorter than in 2009, but the ten minute plus aural explosion coupled with the high-speed road visuals is momentarily shock-inducing. Once acclimatisation sets in one realises that the PA appears to be overloading – all attempts at clarity are lost, and unlike the Swans – and various noise artists since who use extreme noise and frequencies for creativity and a challenging artistic experience, this appears to be an extended rockist indulgent thrash within their most well-recognised track. Newie “Wonder 2” curtails the set and the band depart without an encore. It may be the seat I was in – it may well be I just don’t get the band – but for their admitted influence and commendable attempts to crumble the walls of the Apollo, My Bloody Valentine leave me underwhelmed. Le Volume Courbe, however, leave me expectant for the time when their name will grace the legendary hoarding above the entrance to the Apollo.
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come in Alone
Nothing Much to Lose
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise
Review by Lee McFadden
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