13th October | Thekla
Photos: Naomi Williams
What’s not to love about a gig on a boat? There are countless attractions to the harbourside’s resident nautical venue. Be that its history, its surprisingly roomy live space, or the fact that you couldn’t escape the rapturous echoes of its PA even if you tried. Washington’s Chastity Belt seemed right at home within this vessel as their contemplative siren rattled the walls.
Out of the dark and into the brooding light steps Margate’s Gang, a twitching and sinister four-piece blending elements of progressive metal with theatrical math-rock. A long, cold silence prefaces the band’s initial rumblings, with a colloquial introduction acting in succinct juxtaposition to the chugging rhythms of the band’s percussive backbone. Atmospheric and aggressive in parts, it’s the combination of sprawling, unpredictable song structures and heavily rhythmic math-rock noodling that acts as the canvas for much of Gang’s output.
Vocally, Gang can switch effortlessly from soft, emotionally-loaded post-rock tones to manic, primal howls, heavily reminiscent of Serj Tankian or London’s Black MIDI, with these moments of aggression mirrored beautifully by walls of looping riffs. Eastern scales and post-hardcore synths aid in Gang’s ability to curate a sense of unease, which holds all of the beauty of early Alt-J alongside the ruthless mania of System of a Down.
Personable and approachable, Chastity Belt greet their audience with a simple “Ahoy!” before slipping elegantly into dulcet tendrils of dream-pop indie. Loping and morose are the flourishes of percussion bearing an emotive weight, crafted upon Julia Shapiro’s spiralling and breathy vocal refrains. Between the dull footprints of Lydia Lund’s provoking guitars and these delicate, evolving vocal passages, a pallet of pastel shades becomes vividly present, projecting a contemplative drive built upon funeral pyres and minor progressions. There are certainly elements of Kristine Leschper’s haunting Mothers apparent in these delicate, yet loaded tones, whilst folk influence similar to that of Marika Hackman can be heard in the more rhythmic aspects of Chastity Belt’s catalogue.
Aspects of contemporary grunge flood much of the band’s structures in a movement reminiscent of Beach Fossil’s Somersault or Lionlimb’s Tape Recorder, organic shades of ambient layering adding depth and texture to more predictable compositional directions. Though subtle in their usage there are miniature dynamic shifts present in much of the outfit’s pitched instrumentation that aid in producing an attentive and interesting tapestry of ethereal modern musings. Though neither brash nor loud, Chastity Belt do possess a commanding stage presence that must stem from the band’s clear personal chemistry. From fleeting smiles across the stage to persistent connections throughout several tracks, it becomes increasingly apparent that these tracks are flowing through these performers as they become willing instruments for the emotive power held within.
Through melancholic avenues and expansive waves of hook-laden progressions, Chastity Belt have not only matured, but also attained a level of passion and skill within their work that is, at times, breathtaking. With their recent self-titled record having already garnered the band vast critical praise, it would appear that Chastity Belt have opened a new chapter that will surely see them grow larger than ever before.
See the video for ‘It Takes Time’ here: