April 7, The Exchange | Photo: Harry Furniss
Many gathered for a gig that felt like a fanfare in honour of the guitar. A collection of highly cerebral music was due to begin but was by no means mundane or insular. The hip was as much involved as the head.
First act Cloudshoes had a post-rock Mogwai feel to them but with a very retro 60’s flavour. The frequent choking of the frets across the songs reminded me of Hendrix’s Star spangled banner improvisation indulging in an interplay with the keyboards which sounded as if they were from the same era, almost like a ghost train.
Each track was clearly carefully constructed and intriguing to hear but it felt that the link between keys and lead guitar were emphasised at the expense of the drumming. With the exception of the bass player I didn’t feel that they were listening closely enough to the back line and splendid though the music producing mechanism was it clearly needed some tightening of the bolts to hold it together. I think focusing on that aspect could double the impact felt by the audience.
In contrast to the last act The Brackish kicked off displaying a pleasantly alarming tightness. The first song had a punchy immediacy to it and straight away I was blown away by the skills, particularly, of their drummer as he span almost effortlessly around in what felt like a blender full of time signatures. Being an instrumental act, the decoration and complexity they achieved in the compositions was more than enough to satisfy the ears. In fact I think vocals would have convoluted the sound had they been there.
The sharp guitar melodies kept a breakneck pace as they hurtled along beside each other like competing leads in the grand national; feeding through the pedals, they were coated in reverb and felt like air raid sirens echoing in almost orchestral unison. As the initial song seemed to continue relentlessly it started to feel like a giant desert rock action painting; reminding me of ‘Close to the Edge’/’Relayer’ era Yes where the intro’s seemed to never end and you were actually disappointed when the songs began.Throughout this the drums would shift moods explosively as the tracks shifted from one colourful chapter to the next.
To finish us off and/or smash what remained of our senses into splinters of cathartic bliss, Repo man emerged to close the night. As they set up Bojak could be seen psyching himself up, a mental scrapbook full of brisling adjectives at the ready. As the high hat clattered in a run up they broke the frequencies open with an energy worthy of Rage against the machine presenting a front man hollering poetry like an enraged cult leader rather than a rapper.
As a band they pull together to create an unbelievable amount of momentum. Much like At the Drive-in there is a large amount of highly accomplished guitar work drafting in funk, jazz and Latin techniques of playing but retaining that brazen punk edge which feels so therapeutically angry to listen to.
The groove created was substantial and infectious due to the multi-layered character of the music whereby the band members rarely directly align with each other. This intentional disconnect forms a tension which drives the music forward. Amoungst the slashing guitar sounds the bass had a delightfully grimy Joy Division urban pessimism about it which gives a darker tone to some of the music.
As they move from one ugly grunge gesture to the next they do it with great precision. “Oh Cecil” was one of the high-lights of the set. From their album ‘all mind in the cat house’ it features a distinctly off-step moment of fiddle playing where the band drops out as the bow manically tries to saw the instrument in half before rejoining it with floor cracking intensity. This and the occasional blast of frantic saxophone playing sprinkles some beautiful eccentricities into the mix. Universally enjoyed by everyone there this is an act where faking it couldn’t be further from the truth.
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