Index for Working Musik
@ The Garage, London
Words and pics by Captain Stavros
It’s the evening before St Patrick’s Day and we’re propped up (being crushed to death by the crowds) against a bar in Highbury, Islington attempting to order a pint of Guinness. ‘Good evening, may I have a pint of Guinness please?’ ‘A what?’, a barmaid screws up her face like she’s bitten into a lemon, better yet, smelled milk that’s gone off. We could just as well have ordered a Mountain Dew or a goat hoof, by their reaction. We, instead, just point to the tap, in hopes the message will permeate the membrane. It may not be polite to point but it works. A quarter of an hour later, my pint arrives, which has given us ample time to take in our surroundings of football supporters, of one team or another. Which is exactly enough time to be thankful that we’re supporting a gig instead of the football. Enter, Index for Working Musik.
An elemental gathering of musicians, mainly elements of already existing bands (Proper Ornaments/TOY), found their way to us around 2022 with the release of ‘Wagner’, a single off their upcoming album which, coincidentally, turned out to be their set opener on this evening. We’re already fans of label mates White Flowers, which share similar musical and visual aesthetics so, naturally, we were intrigued. Scrolling through the press blurb re-affirmed what we already knew to be true, there was something profoundly unsettling and weird about these lot, just the way we like it.
Index For Working Musik was born on an evening in late 2019 amidst the discovery of a collection of faded black and white photocopies that had been marinating on the floor of a urine-alley in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. An assortment of sacred and profane imagery was crumpled amongst an essay on early Christian hermits, entitled Men Possessed by God, the meaning of which was enticingly vague.
And so, with that we left the pub and crossed the street entering into the windowless void that is The Garage. The set opener, ‘Wagner’, carries with it an intense loneliness. It’s a tune with nowhere to go and no reason to get there, existing purely for its own entertainment. It’s a storm with the air let out of its tyres, half in tune with the other half of the seamless noise being carried along by a crisp percussion and methodical bassline. So far, so good. ‘Railroad Bulls’ lumbers through the station with the help of a passing slow pulled bow across the bass, right on time as usual. The double bass really shines through on this song and proves itself more than just a Proper Ornament on stage.
As enjoyable as the set is thus far, it’s sort-of like everything before the four-minute mark of Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’. That, however, was all about to change with ‘Ambiguous Fauna’. Hearing the song unfold whilst simultaneously watching it is nearly indescribable, like a fly fruitlessly thrashing against a window trying to escape. Although inevitably it’ll never manage to evade the glass, you’re still mesmerised by its frantic motions wondering what’ll happen next; set me free! The entirety of the song was an anxiety-ridden demonstration of how to perfectly incorrectly tune a guitar, each string being over-tuned one pluck and turn at a time. This is not a criticism, this, the set’s zenith, was exactly where we began to re-engage with the performance. ‘Isis Beatles’, a track that began with reel-to reel-loops of Afghan music compete with the found-sound overlays of voices recorded at the queue of the pharmacy and drum machines borrowed from Spanish heroes, channeling both far-off climes and snippets from a closer reality. A bold statement for a mid-set number, the double bass playing throughout was like watching throats played throughout a slasher pic, slashidy slash slash, the horse hairs peeled and broke away from their taut housing. No going back now.
Finally unshackled, the set takes off in a full upswing, cleaving its melancholy tempo with each bar of ‘Chains’ and ‘1871’. “Isn’t it fun?”, Max sings to his audience through an emotionless face that’s 90% razor edged cheekbones with sullen cheeks to match. Hey, Argentina, what are you putting in the water over there? Although both songs are excellent, our head favors nodding back and forth. We slap our thighs and our feet restlessly tapping out the rhythm to ‘Chains’. The percussion surgically manages to cut through, without overwhelming and stealing the show on this one. We felt it in our shins, and still don’t know how that magic happened but we ain’t questioning nuthin’. It was the cough in a pregnant silence. The set finale, ‘Habinita’, would call again upon that sorcery of percussion, along with rest of the band, throwing-off their reins. This was the point, amongst many in the set, that our eyes were drawn to Natalie Bruno’s Thunderbird bass and smokey vocals which combined with Max’s harmonized into a velvety pool of aural bliss.
It took at least a full five seconds for us to realise the band had left the stage and for reality to set back in. The fact that the gig was over. Dragging The Needlework For The Kids At Uphole as an album has a great depth of nuanced tones between the lead and rhythm guitars which seamlessly hands off to each of the other instruments, like the double bass and drums but this, along with almost every other subtlety, is washed away live. Hushed lyrics, we’re afraid, turned to muffled cotton-ball stuffed mouthed puffs more instep with a cow’s moo. That’s about the most amount of criticism we can give to the performance which is more of a technical kink to be resolved than a lack of talent, of which there is plenty. We’d really recommend combing through the album, which is fantastic and switched us on to the gang in the first place, to let your mind fill in the gaps when watching them live. Index for Working Musik is touring now and next playing at The Seabright Arms on March 23 in the year of our Lord two-thousand-twenty-three, you’d certainly be remiss to miss them.