Labasheeda - The Twilight State (Presto Chango)

As far as I could tell from two visits, the average punter in Amsterdam prefers 90’s cheese, euro dance and hammer metal to the more experimental or down to earth projects. But like any city, it had to have its underground somewhere and, as usual, I had to return to the UK to find it. Labasheeda is a doorway to its gritty basement scene, one that reflects a local, more clued in angle. In a way, Amsterdam’s subculture found me.

Released Feb 7th, 2011 via Presto Chango / By Brendan Morgan
Labasheeda - The Twilight State (Presto Chango) Labasheeda formed in 2004 and since then have been recording consistently. Under a seriously driven work ethic, they’ve released nearly a record every year. Their newest, The Twilight State is warmly produced, runs beautifully from track to track and hits every goddam mark.

You can hear it all in there: Pavement’s lyrical grunge, Fugazi’s bass lines and tight acoustic punk (circa The Argument); the singer, Saskia van der Giessen, moans like Karen O, pronouncing a strange, sometimes funny version of English (for any other band, this would be a defect but for Labasheeda, it only gives them character).

Overall, the main source is extracted from Sonic Youth’s expansive exploration of guitar screams, tonality and inventive riff changes. They’ve even selected painted cover artwork suggestive of The Eternal as well as incorporating a small amount of a Kim Gordon sophistication that puts to shame most current “girl punk” attitude (the comparatively tame and superficial Paramore for example). There’s no posing, no acting, no dressing up, no falsity, no frills or flashing lights, no tactical target marketing (unless its so tactical I can’t tell) – simply rock music, with guts and realism, made by approachable people who don’t wear tight black. People you could actually enjoy a conversation with.

After an intense opening to clear your head, ‘Headquarter’, an unsettling ballad shoots ripples down the spine by building guitar harmonies over a repeated note of ‘B’. It seems to point an accusing finger: “There’s liars in this room” sings van der Giessen. ‘From You Too Me’ interweaves downcast chords with kicking rhythms and ‘White Leather’, a neat package of all their hooks, tops their myspace at the moment (trust me however, they save the best stuff for the records).

The grumpily wasted ‘Way Out’ leads into the evil, drooling instrumental epic that is ‘My First Choice’ and then to close with imprinted force from ‘Duplicated’. Playing thee note melodies, van der Giessen’s violin is the band’s most unique feature. It’s too bad that it appears so rarely and so timidly in the album’s mix.

Although Amsterdam is riding the 90’s, some at least have taken on the decade’s better side. The Twilight State is an impassioned and pragmatic number five from a superb rock band. Labasheeda do pain and sadness, red rage and subtle sarcasm; and, over the next few months, Labasheeda do England. Get out of your hovels and support them.