Soma Crew / Stereoscope / The Wharf Street Galaxy Band

Posted: 1 February 2016 in Live

The Fulford Arms, York, 30th January 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

There are many who dismiss local bands out of hand as being inferior. Usually, they’re the people who don’t bother to investigate what’s actually happening on their doorstep, and similarly, fail to appreciate that every band is local to somewhere. York is no exception: there are many who bemoan the lack of a scene in the city, or otherwise complain that there’s a lack of variety. Tonight’s show is as good an advertisement for the York scene as any you’ll see, the three bands on the lineup being complimentary to one another without being remotely similar – and not a sniff of indie, folk or acoustic singer-songwriter material to be found.

The place is already getting full by the time the Wharf Street Galaxy Band take the stage. Sporting matching red boiler suits with custom prints on the back, they open with the fractal dub of ‘Inhuman Resources’. As the set progresses, they churn out a succession of dense, bass-driven efforts that combine the scratchy krautrock repetitions of The Fall around the time of Dragnet and Grotesque with the jagged edges of early PiL. While Dave Procter occasionally adopts a Lydonesque sneer which is perfectly complimented by Ash Sagar’s Jah Wobble-worthy bass grooves, he mostly delivers his political (and occasionally surreal) lyrical outpourings in a techy, hectoring tone. John Tuffen hangs to the rear of the stage and remains static, and looks like he’s auditioning for a Kraftwerk tribute act. The band’s northern attitude is integral to their work: Procter admonishes Iain Duncan Smith with the reminder that this is how we do things in the north, and spins out the narrative of ‘Sergio Leone Comes to Keighley’ in an unashamedly Leeds accent, raising a metaphorical middle finger to both the Capitol-dwelling capitalists who run the country, and the London-centric music scenes which continue to dominate the press.

 

Wharf Street

The Wharf Street Galaxy Band

Expectations are high for Stereopscope’s debut. Emerging from the ashes of Viewer, the electropop duo consisting of Tim Wright and AB Johnson are reincarnated as a three-piece featuring Martell James, former drummer Honeytone Cody. The place is pretty heaving by the time the stage is plunged into darkness and black-and-white scenes from around the city flicker on the stage backdrop through a low electronic throb. Immediately, it’s clear this is no Viewer rebranding: the bright, club-friendly indie trappings are gone, along with the immediacy of the songs. Stereoscope are all about the slow-build: the throb goes on, and on, seemingly interminably. The tension mounts. Finally, AB Johnson takes to the stage, and things build around his dry monotone vocals. And build. And build.

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Stereoscope

The songs are long, dark and designed to challenge the audience. There are no chirpy choruses or bouncy basslines. Instead, layer upon layer of sound evolve as rhythms and counter-rhythms intersect; the programmed drums are stark and mechanoid, while Martell’s live drumming adds depth and dynamic, not to mention weight. While Johnson still banters between songs and berates Wright for ‘pressing the space bar’ too hastily, he’s no longer the cynical, jaded but ultimately groove-orientated front man he was with Viewer, but a tortured cipher of anguish. He wears it well. The backdrop bursting into colour for the set’s final pop flourish, it’s a hugely triumphant debut.

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Stereoscope

This is where having a diverse lineup is astute. If Soma Crew sounded anything like either of the preceding acts, they may have been in danger of being eclipsed. But the only real common element the three acts share is hypnotic repetition. Soma Crew are master of repetition. Any band that are content to bludgeon away at a single chord, or maybe two, for six minutes or more is always going to get my vote, and these guys are the absolute kings of the locked groove.

It’s six deep at the bar and I abandon the idea of another pint, and instead hunker down stage front where I can best immerse myself in their whirling smog of sound. They don’t disappoint. They play loud and crank out those endless grooves in near darkness, while kaleidoscopic patterns project behind their silhouettes. Merging the tripped-out energy of Spacemen 3 and the cavernous, reverb-heavy psychedelic grooves of Black Angels with a dash of the most motoric Krautrock (drummer Nick Clambake doesn’t go for the heroics, hammering out a steady beat without resorting to fills or cymbal crashes for almost he full duration of the 50-minute set), it’s utterly immersive.

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Soma Crew

The set builds to a monumental climax of sound, and rejecting calls for an encore, they exit the stage, drained and shredded, leaving the crowd wanting more. Credit to them: encores are just so predictable, and they’ve already done enough to leave us all half-deaf for the next three days. Take it from me, gigs don’t get much better than this, local or national, any time, any place.

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Comments
  1. Message says:

    very good

  2. […] have evolved a fair bit over the last year, and the set has changed radically over the time. The fare they’re touting now is, dare I say it, significantly more commercial than before. […]

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