Monday 16 November 2009

s/e/l/l/o/t/a/p/e - The Forest Cafe Edinburgh 22 Oct 2009

Beginning at the beginning: the Forest Cafe is as usual abuzz with the chattering of the 21st century version of beatniks. People are reading, drinking herbal drinks, eating vegan snacks, sitting on damaged mismatched donated furniture, under hand-decorated walls, house-plants and candles in bottles. A documentary on the Riot Grrl movement is being projected against one wall, but all that can be heard is a mumble. There are maybe two people watching it.

What follows is a series of female hippy guitar and poetry recitals. There's possibly a loose theme of anti-sexism and 'Dear Diary' emotional confessionism. The compère, dressed in punk leather and metal, introduces her own band next. This is their maiden performance, and they sprint through one three chord song with angry Italian lyrics, to a tremendous ovation from an audience that are likely high.

The star of the show, of course, was vikisellotape, and her band s/e/l/l/o/t/a/p/e. Drunk to the point where she could barely stand up, Viki squeezed onto the tiny stage that her other band members had filled up. Sellotape belong to that odd genre "no wave", which uses artiness from bands like The Velvet Underground as the template for lo-fi tunes involving noise, dissonance, broken tempos and non-rhyming phrases. Often they sound improvised, and usually they sound chaotic, which is why it's oh-so-interesting when the band change gears on a penny, be it in tempo or dynamic, and prove that this is exactly how it's supposed to sound.

Guitar is provided by former The Dreamt frontman Andrew R. Hill, who kept the strings glittering through new wave riffs and shoegazing noise, despite a drunken Viki stumbling all over his pedals and kicking out his leads. Bass was equally well executed, whether it was bouncy ska-style riffs or just one single repeating heartbeat note. In fact, the drums were often the only instrument that felt like they were playing the song, and the other instruments created planned chaos around them.

The eye, however, cannot help but be drawn to Viki. Dressed in all black and white, from her white hairband to her chequered short skirt to her two-tone heels, with black makeup and black writing up her arms; whether she's screaming into her mic, like a toddler having a fit, then writhing on the floor like she's in sexual ecstasy, or crawling around like Velma looking for her glasses; Viki is definitely an entertainer, and the booze lowering her inhibitions was like throwing petrol on a tyre fire.

Her occasional bursts of synthesizer couldn't really be heard in this venue of fifth-hand equipment, but it was probably just as well, as she might not have been able to see the keys. The lyrics explore such Kafka-esque concepts as cutting off, then reattatched a mammary gland on 'My Left Tit' and curbing instability and violent thoughts on 'Plastic Bag'.

In many ways, this was the best environment to experience Sellotape. The ludicrous melting pot of alternative cultures, the extensive inebriation of the frontgirl, a tattered drum kit and PA on their very last legs, they all amplified the extroverted entropy that the songs expose.
 Myke Hall


  1. well, a girl gotta do what she can to show those hairy hemped hippies how to holler...

  2. Nice review, thanks!

    Fifth hand equipment? Sometimes our sound is bad but we do actually have reasonably nice equipment and when it is used properly, can sound great.

    One other thing: an audience that are likely high? That seems a lot like you are stereotyping just because we have a reputation as a bit of a hippy hangout (which is fair enough). Not all of us use drugs, so please don't tar us with the same brush.

  3. Thanks, Forest guys. All meant in good humour, I'm a fan of The Forest too. :-)

  4. hah hah just stumbled across this... i was there... other than sellotape, it was the first time i had ever felt the need to heckle in my life...

    the place was full of stereotypes so get off your "oppressed" high horse you utter fanny... that venue is awful, mainly because of the "clientele"
    if you are worried about stereotyping then you maybe need to take care of the graffiti in the toilet as i have never read as much cliched hippy crap in my life, i also saw two police officers enter the building to a shower of boos and animosity that night, regardless of why they visited...

    if a tarred brush need not apply to you, then you need not mention it...

    lest you sound like a biscuit ersed tee totaller that happened to be in a pub full of drunks...

    always amazed at the length the privileged go to to feel "oppressed" in this country... meanwhile in the world there are children being raped and killed BY the same level of authority that we have...

    so called activists should fuck off nod go live somewhere there is an actual fight and not nitpick over semantic bullshit like they do here...

    the two or three times i've been in that shit hole, i have found it to be a hive of twits, that conform and uniform far more than they actually realise...

    i wouldn't stop at smoking dope if i really wanted to generalise....

  5. You bunch of hippies, I ought to set yous on fire. The White Album was pish, Dark Side Of The Moon is pish, you're ALL PISH