10th May | St Paul’s Church, Southville
Looks like I can tick off ‘church basement’ on the list of obscure venues I’ve been to. This was no ordinary Sunday service. I found myself in The Crypt (the lower part of St. Paul’s Church in Southville). I had two lukewarm cans of Red Stripe in my rucksack and I was ready for a night of experimental wooziness (not a reference to the beer).
As I walked down the stairs into the mostly pitch black crypt, an intense booming noise was echoing throughout the arches, reverberating and creating an eerie atmosphere. Gareth Turner, aka Fuck Authority, was performing to a backdrop of optical illusions being projected on the back wall. Hammering at his electric double bass and creating a throbbing ricochet of loops, it was equally haunting and mesmerising and most definitely unlike anything I’ve come across in Bristol.
Second support for the night was from Orryx. Decked in a white gown and pink UV eyeshadow, she performed an enthralling set which ebbed and flowed like a turbulent sea. Constantly dipping in and out of electro and gothic pop – think Kate Bush meets Amy Lee – it was eerily ethereal stuff, which was only heightened by the dim hue of purple lights and strobes. The venue suited the mood of music perfectly. I couldn’t imagine this sort of atmosphere had it been held at a more generic venue. The archways made for a perfect backdrop, strobes bouncing off the walls and the music seeping into every crevice of the exposed brickwork.
By the time Stereocilia took to the stage, everyone was seated and eager to witness what new material had been brewing: “I’ve not played this all the way through before, so I hope it goes well.” Performing the entirety of his latest release in full, guitarist and composer John Scott was at the ready with an arsenal of pedals. It was a 40-minute set of absurd guitar playing and experimental goodness. Creating captivating soundscapes by looping and shredding, John layered each one and contorted them to the absolute max.
Sitting somewhere in between prog and ambient, each cluster of noise was an extension of the last. Had I not known he was performing the album in full, I’d have thought it was just one epic tune. Seamlessly performing each song without any interruption, it was a fluid yet tight experience.
Everyone was silent, bar the odd sound of someone cracking open a tinny. Transfixed by the immersive and atmospheric set, I was rocking back and forth in my seat staring intently. Hypnotic doesn’t cover it. An interstellar set which ended in a triumphant battle with his whammy bar, a solid 10 minutes of shredding and an exhale from John that mimicked someone who’d done a round with a boxer. It was the perfect way to experience the album. If you didn’t manage to get yourself down to the gig I’m sure blasting the Stereocilia album with fairy lights on might suffice.
Eyeball the video for ‘Verglas’ here: