Sylvester | Live Review

Eno-inspired solo artist Micro-DeForm is most-likely an amazing, trance-inducing experience for your ears when listened to alone in your bedroom, at 1am, with your eyes closed. Yet in the sweaty and crowded Croft, at 8pm – with sunlight still streaming in; his crisp, spacious, soundscapes feel a little out of context.

However, his ability to seamlessly blend unusual fragments of sound into smoggy, steely atmospheres elevates this performance out of its uncomplimentary setting; to a level nothing short of dark, brooding and mesmerizing. Excellent stuff.
Next up, is the long-awaited return of Bristol’s psychedelic-stoner-desert rock band Vena Cava.
As the first chords traverse through acres of reverb, the riff-milking three piece make one thing clear: Vena Cava are all about the vibes; whether it be slow and crushing or pensive and dreamlike;  each of their thoroughly drawn-out ideas rides upon its own huge wave of atmosphere.
Two vast pedal boards adorn the left and right side of the stage, which can often spell a murky overkill if a band minces the bass through just as many effects as the guitar. But thankfully, this is not the case with Vena Cava, who demonstrate a twinkling interplay not just between the bass and guitar, but between their respective use of effects pedals too.
The conversational dynamic of Vena Cava’s instrumentation doesn’t stop at melody, as hi-hats tick poly rhythms beneath the delayed guitar blips, and a ghostly bass whammy floats in and out during their delicate clean passages.
But the cherry a top their multi-layered cake is the sweet, yet sorrowful vocals, which reign in the jam-like quality of their lengthy songs and add a layer of fragility to the blindingly heavy stoner-rock crescendos this band reach. If tonight proves anything, it’s that Vena Cava are back with a refreshingly pure bang to the local alt. rock scene.
Leaning towards the more tedious end of the’ psychedelic jam’ spectrum, headliners Sylvester Anfang II clutter the stage with instruments and pedals, then proceed to improvise a 45 minute set of aimless noodling. Whilst they frequently switch instruments throughout the set, their sound remains unvaried whichever band member happens to be tapping the oh-so-cultural tabla or making the violin shriek in pain. The main problem with Sylvester Anfang II’s tentative form of improv is that each member perseveres rigidly with their own particular idea, rather than drifting in and out of the music to allow for a looser collective flow between all six players.
Following some tuneless guitar meanderings through a space echo; things get really exciting 35 mins into their set when the drummer of the moment adds a double time cymbal beat. Yet even this falls victim to its own eventual over-repetition; which is an all-too-common feature of Sylvester Anfang II’s set – taking their performance beyond the realm of hypnotic into simply a test of endurance.

Words: Serena Cherry