LIVE: Nukuluk @ Windmill Brixton, London
‘It’s gonna be a total disaster’, warned the event poster - a collage flanked by inverted, low-res figures riding giant ducks.
Tucked behind Blenheim Gardens Estate, the Windmill Brixton has hosted some big names since it became a live music venue in 2002. The knowledge that any one of its many listings could go on to become mainstays always gives nights there a sense of gravitas. Certainly, this was true of Saturday when it hosted the launch for DISASTER POP, the arresting debut EP from new arrivals, Nukuluk, signed to Spinny Nights.
I was excited for this, not just because DISASTER POP is a genuinely subversive release - an expert mix of Dean Blunt eeriness and JPEGMAFIA-style neuralgia glitches - but also because of the supporting acts. Nukuluk were backed by CAN’T, a week-old project from Ciara Reddy and bassist, Antony Boatright, as well as Teeth Machine, a band I’d heard about relentlessly but never seen - headed-up by Gray Rimmer. The launch would be closed out with a DJ set from Grove, the maverick artist behind Queer + Black, an album that radically re-contextualises the gender and sexual politics of dancehall.
Arriving just before the opening set and emerging into the Windmill’s interior I counted myself lucky; there were no tickets on the door and they’d quickly sold-out online. “It’s been a nightmare,” said Luke Kulukundis, Nukuluk’s founder, who’d spent most of the afternoon fielding messages from friends and fans anxiously looking for cancellations.
CAN’T were first up. Manipulating her vocals live through a series of delay pedals, Reddy’s voice washed over the room bolstered by Boatright, who by all accounts is one of the best bassists in London. They began with a great cover of X-Press 2 and David Byrne’s ‘Lazy’. CAN’T’s music has an ethereal, meditative quality to it, reminiscent of Arthur Russel’s World of Echo. The tracks lapsed and folded into each other as onlookers bowed their heads. CAN’T haven’t released anything yet, but fans of astral sonic landscapes should stay tuned. The duo hardly packed up when they’d finished; both are also members of Teeth Machine, who were up next.
Never have I heard so much about a band with such a small online presence. The name crops up a lot but I’d never managed to hear them live. They’re virtually undetectable on the internet but for an Insta profile and a Facebook page that lists them as a ‘movie and music store’. That day, Rimmer was downing regular sips of herbal tea; her voice had taken a beating after an apparent 48 hours without sleep.
As it turns out, Teeth Machine are brilliant. Like some perverse love-child of Slint and Elisabeth Fraser, the music mercilessly transitions from naked guitar riffs to a droning death wall. There were echoes of trip-hop in the rhythm section and Rimmer’s voice - boosted by Reddy - balances both restraint and power in its delivery. There’s also hypnotic, howling additions from saxophonist Arthur Bently. After a while, people began standing on tables for a better view, when the band stopped playing one onlooker abruptly screamed “very good!”, summing it all up. Teeth Machine say they’ve got upcoming releases, “mostly named after stuff you’d find in your pocket”.
Top of the bill, Nukuluk features Louis Grace (of Legss fame), Mateo Villaneuva Brandt (who expertly directs their music videos), keyboard player Olivia Morgan and fronted by Kulukundis and Charles Bourthoumieux - known to the world as ‘Syd’ and ‘Monika’ respectively. Their EP dropped last week and it’s well worth a listen. The interplay between Syd’s snarling monotone and Monika’s hip-hop blitzkriegs keeps the project sounding authentic and unpredictable. Some of the arrangements underpinning the tracks are also quite remarkable - particularly on ‘Ooh Ah’, where the beat cracks and buckles under the weight of Monika’s bars, which recall Death Grips' MC Ride.
Nukuluk kicked off with the title track ‘Disaster Pop Song’ - probably their best. As soon as the band exploded into the chorus technical problems caused the whole thing to shut down - DISASTER POP: does what it says on the tin. However, Nukuluk remained unfazed and by the time they started up again the crowd - now at capacity - were pushing forward towards them. Eventually a pit formed and the smell of sweat began to linger. The set was huge; Monika has a unique talent for erupting into the foreground, swelling the audience with just a couple of sentences. They ended with a new track which they’d written a week ago, one that leans into grunge influences.
“We had a jam at a party and that was it” Charles said afterwards, the rest of the group perched around the table smoking deliriously. “I was at a crossroad production-wise” Luke interjected, “I was still making guitar music and wanted to go electronic and branch out into hip-hop, I was looking for the right person to work with”. When I asked what had prompted the switch he told me it was Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition. “I look down on everybody” Charles proclaimed loudly, “I want to be myself, I want to dominate.”
After fifteen minutes, Luke wrapped up the interview to go and listen to Grove’s DJ set. The rest of the night was spent dancing to agro dancehall tunes mixed in with hardcore, queer club bangers. Sadly, Grove wasn’t playing any live renditions of their own songs, but they’ve got another release coming imminently. By midnight everyone filed into Ubers for a house party in Peckham, carrying the launch with them into the early hours.
DISASTER POP is out now via Spinny Nights.