Thomas Truax @ Drop The Dumbulls

Just about a year ago we were all set to play a gig with lupine troubadour Thomas Truax at Liverpool's louche boho loitering-hole MelloMello. We were understandably very excited about this. A day or two before the gig we discovered that the place had shut down. We were as equally un-excited about that.

We'd been rehearsing in the venue's basement on and off for a few weeks, partly because the place wasn't populated by the usual twitchy amateur DJs, poodle-haired rock kids and beige pantalooned hipster toffs. They had also stopped caring about whether they charged us or not - which should have been a sign that things weren't quite so mellomello behind the scenes.

We turned down the offer of playing a Jazz Night at Kazimier (which is now in the process of being shut-down too) instead, and thankfully a slot was found at the newly established home of the anti-hipster underground arts venue Drop The Dumbulls.

Truax is an anomoly. He's honouring a kind of tradition that barely exists in contemporary culture, with the exception of moments of Tom Waits, The Dresden Dolls, Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey.

He makes me think of antiquated carnival acts: those fairground games where someone in a striped suit and bowler hat guesses what you had for dinner once when you were nine; eerie Eastern-European stop-animation, fairy tales that end in death and destruction.

It's all oddly familiar, even comforting - but the instrumentation (a unique collection of automaton drums and found objects retro-fitted with echo-boxes and digital tape-loopers) gives him an edge of originality. And no, Truax is not Steam-Punk.

He isn't Steam-Punk in exactly the same way Michael Moorcock isn't Steam-Punk: some people just do their thing: some people try too hard to imitate that thing.

Where Amanda Palmer is readily and easily imitated (because nothing that she does is particularly original): the rag doll attire, the Brechtian theatrics, an upright piano sound and an effected 'politely appalled at the world' attitude; anyone trying to copy Truax is doomed to a life of singing into washer-dryer parts, endlessly pursuing the perfect pinstripe suit. Nobody needs to see that.

Truax is crumpled and quirky without coming across as annoying or too geeky. There is a definite nod to Tom Waits in the music - particularly on record.

And you can't fault his dedication to doing things his own way: with an array of unique, fragile home-made instruments that must be a pain in the ass to transport and set-up, he certainly isn't making life easy for himself.

We play Drop The Dumbulls Saturday 12th December, with Liverpool Electro Post-Punk Double Echo.


Image c/o http://thehearingaid.blogspot.co.uk/2010_11_01_archive.html

The Mekano Set


Everyman Theatre - Light Night 2015 - The Mekano Set - Alchemy

I remember this day quite well. It started after I'd logged my digital doppelganger offline. The sun was suggestive, the wind was lazy, even ignorant. 

In the blissfully immigrant ALDI I stood wearing a hat and listening to someone husky. This was an effort to smooth the edges of my guilt for not helping with the gear for the gig. Schweppes and lemons! And I've even bought Gin! Sim-sala-bim! 

Will the Everyman Theatre always smell like a new building? I was on-time-early and I was not wearing stripes (Zoviet / Gulag / The Prisoner / sailor homage) because I had to. 

I was wearing shirt and tie, which could have said many a-thing about me, but was, in fact, a lie. Among the commotion on the ground floor Milk greeted me with a firmly-Pink-Black-Triangle-Socialist-Party deliberacy. 

We went upstairs, my rubber soles squeaking black polished footsteps. He showed me the room, which was about the size of a Wilhelm Reich's Orgone accumulator. Great. As it was going to be used for exactly the same purpose. It had secret doors and invisible windows and carpet under the laminate. And 'behind-the-screens' back-projector. 

As we stood on the smoke-free balcony contemplating man made contradictions we saw Sandra Tsch cheerfully approaching the bread to make the Mek sandwich. She was also wearing stripes and her smile was real curved. Then we started setting up, but that part escapes my recollection. I began to feel dry. 

The pre-show existence is complete purgatory. Each of us picked a corner and began to assemble their transmission-communication devices. Once the three rivers were merged into one, the chairs were generated onto the bridge and the sky appeared in the mirror above. We were free to meet the angles in the staff communal area. So we took the staff staircase, which for it's undeniably Brutalist concrete properties will become a future location for the famous getaway scene in the not-yet-renowned ambient thriller 'Sterile Sinfulness', and in the communal area we met ourselves and had some lemons.

Arthur Habsburg, Liverpool / M√ľnster September 2015

A live recording of the performance of 'Water Flowing Up a Hill' with visuals from the projections can be viewed at https://youtu.be/Q3FlV_0bu9w


The Mekano Summer Set

Berlin Graffitti

Following our inspirational expeditions to the mega city of Berlin (imagine a place where you can hear adventurous music in public seven days a week, grab a vegan feast on every street, and a decent beer for less than £1), we've completed a mix and remix for London dirty-electro sleaze merchants Blindness.

Abstand : Berlin : Prost!

Plans for gigs are temporarily on hold as Arthur continues to explore That Europe inside aeroplane machines (intent on bringing back new and exotic sound samples), and Chucky having temporarily departed into the 1920s via the medium of Acting (and possibly a time machine). But come late July, we should be back on track to take the Meks back into the streets and alleys for your aural disturbance.

Our last live outing (Liverpool Kazimier) was such a blast and it was great to really get into exploring certain grooves like 
Fires Made Safe and Heatwave all over again.

In the meantime, we are looking to polish up and publish two or three new songs, one of which (8 Mile High Cloud) was previously only available on the CD version of the
 Pareidolia e.p.

Work continues on Mekhan Rising - the sequel to our audio documentary Behind The Sins - a Mekstory Channel audio doc that explores the legend of The Mekhan: a mythological Springheel Jack-liked trickster figure and features new music from us.

I'm also tidying up a live recording of our performance of Water Flowing Up a Hill at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre in May. And we also have videos for Pages and The Lighter (from the Pareidolia e.p.) - see below

"The essence of reality is not fact but question. There are no facts, only truths." The Key, Whitley Strieber.

The Mekano Set : Pages

The Mekano Set : The Lighter (edit)

The Mekano Set


Water Flowing Up A Hill – The Meks do Light Night 2015

The Mekano Set grinning silly

Yesterday evening was Light Night, and as previously announced, The Mekano Set played a live soundtrack to a video montage of our own making at the Everyman Theatre.

Rehearsals had been a bit of a mixed bag... we managed to record some footage early on, and Milk wrote lyrics that centred around the Liverpool  / maritime / docklands theme that had some political undertones (and bits that were downright obvious). Then came the question of the actual music.

Despite problems with our various technologies, ranging from “oh, the laptop turned itself off in mid-recording again ha ha ha” to “I'm playing a G on the keyboard but that clearly isn't the note that's coming out of the speakers” and everything in between, we finally settled on three sections to accompany the video (which Milk had now painstakingly sellotaped together in spite of the unruly machines): a minimalistic intro; slow-paced title track “Water Flowing Up a Hill” (which cheekily repeats the Everyman's “Play on” slogan many, many times); and “Cruiser Rules” – this one had a little bit more of a groove and thus allowed Arthur to make the best of his new oil-drum drums and gave him a chance to really shine (which he did!).

silhouette milk and large projection of clouds
Milk and Water, Flowing up a Hill

Aside from technical glitches, there were also discussions about how much (if any) silence should be involved in the soundtrack, how many drums would be needed, the balance between planning and leaving space to improvise, and what our impish patron demon, the Mhechan, would make of all this, what with his name not being mentioned once in the whole performance.

The typewriter is an essential part of the percussive selection.
Dramatic clouds: still from Water Flowing up a Hill

We're wearing the same shirt... well, this is going to be awkward.

So imagine how pleased we were when it did all come together in the end, sounded good to our ears (and to at least some of the audience who kindly told us so afterwards), looked great projected onto that big screen which took up one whole end of the room, and felt as if it actually flowed, with quite a few of the lyrics matching up with the footage in places we hadn't even planned!

Although we didn't get to sample the numerous other delights that were happening throughout the city for Light Night, the newly redesigned and reconstructed Everyman Theatre was a great place to be. We had a quick snoop around into the Auditorium which had been transformed into a dark ocean of calm, and an even quicker peek into the room where the evening’s debates were happening.

The whole building was buzzing with people, so thankfully we also got a fair share of passers-by, looking in on us, sitting down, staying for a few minutes or the whole performance.

Big thank yous go to the Everyman Theatre and its staff, Victoria Junashko and Jo Stapleton who supplied us with superb additional visuals, Alan for snapping some super cool silhouettes of us (and sticking around for all three sets), Cath and Andy at The Gregson Institute, Thomas Lang and everyone else who came to listen and show their support.

We're a happy bunch.