Posts Tagged ‘Volume’

Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

Percy

Percy

“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.

Christopher Nosnibor

The clue’s in the name: Bdrmm started out as a bedroom-based solo project for Ryan Smith in 2017, but soon transitioned to being a proper gigging band. Like so many bands, their progress was severely hampered by more than eighteen months of no live activity, something that seems to have hit bands in the early stages of their careers the hardest, since they rely on performing in grassroots venues and supporting larger bands to build their fanbase.

This was one of many shows that got booked, rescheduled, and rescheduled over the course of the last eighteen months, during which time they’ve maintained a steady flow of releases, including their debut album and an attendant set of remixes and a number of singles, which have clearly done no harm to their profile, garnering glowing reviews from across the spectrum from NME to MOJO via Line of Best Fit. The Fulford Arms, then – sold out, although still operating at reduced capacity for ticket sales – is pretty busy even early doors.

It’s an interesting demographic, too, probably around a 60/40 split of twenty-somethings and forty-somethings – which isn’t entire surprising given Bdrmm’s referencing of the music that the older fans were listening to when they were around the age of the younger ones.

Having just two bands on the bill works well – not only allowing time to ventilate the room between acts – but to give the punters and their ears a rest, time to recharge glasses without a crush at the bar, and an early finish. After so much time out, it might take some time to rebuild the stamina for late nights for a few of us, and for those slightly further afield, public transport isn’t what it was a couple of years ago (or more).

Manchester’s crush – another band who, having formed in 2018 have a lot of early-days ground to recover – are on first. I was pretty sure there have been other bands called Crush, and it was only later I recalled Donna Air and Jayni Hoy’s short-lived pop career and the early 90s project featuring John Valentine Carruthers (formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson . The young four-piece are nothing like either. The set makes a shuddering launch into mid-tempo post-rock shoegaze with two guitars. Their sound is reminiscent of melodic 90s indie with a dreamy style, but still some drive too. There’s lots of texture and occasional bursts of noise. They may be lacking that slickness that playing often develops, but they can really play, and the closer comes on like Dinosaur Jr being covered by Slowdive, and it’s ace.

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crush

Crackling distortion yields to a driving motorik riff to announce the arrival of Bdrmm, and it’s immediately apparent that they’re a cut above, and that any hyp is entirely justified. The sound is immense. The drums are half-submerged beneath a heft wash of guitar. It’s a dense, throbbing, shimmering wall of sound. The percussion is a mix of traditional and electronic drum pads, and everything comes together magnificently. New single ‘Port’ drops early as the third song and it’s a brooding synth-driven beast, part My Bloody Valentine, but probably more A Place to Bury Strangers. There’s all the reverb, and all the volume: in fact the sound is great, and sound man Chris Tuke gets a deserved shoutout from the stage during the set. Because while it’s nice on record, and all the comparisons to Slowdive and early Ride are entirely appropriate, live, it really needs to be heard – and felt – at organ-trembling volume.

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Bdrmm

‘Happy, is a synthy swirl meshed with a gritty bass, and as the set progresses, we see the band peeling off blistering sheets of noise. Bent over, guitars practically scraping the floor, they don’t only do shoegaze but they also properly rock out. Near the end of the set they treat us to an immense, slow-building crescendo climax worthy of I Like Trains.

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Bdrmm

They leave us overheated, breathless, and stunned by the sheer power of the blistering noise of the guitars that howl and melt. No way should we have been able to experience this in a venue with a capacity of around 130, and I rather doubt we will again. Bdrmm are a Brudenell band at the very least: they have not only the songs, but that indefinable ‘fuck yeah!’ quality that comes from the wild exhilaration of seeing a band who simply blow you away.

Magnetic Eye Records – 11th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Often, the measure of a band’s quality is in their live performance, especially in the domain of metal when you’re up close and can feel the force, the viscerality and the volume – although these things don’t always necessarily translate to the live recording.

Magnetic Eye Records’ document of flagship band Horsehunter ‘destroying onstage at the “Day of Doom” label showcase at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar’ in November 2019 at the event held to commemorate the label’s 10th anniversary definitely does translate and makes for an absolute monster of a life album.

The four tracks are almost a quarter of an hour apiece, and the audio quality is exceptional – that is to say, studio sound with the added bonus of live volume. Yes, this SOUNDS loud. Played through speakers and given room to breathe, the sense of volume is suffocating and exactly the way it should be – like you’re in the room as the band lay down monstrous riffs.

For the most part, the pace is a crawl, the chords grinding out slow and sludgy, with throat-ripping vocals in the middle of the mix. Around five minutes into ‘Nuclear Rupture’ things slow to the point of almost stopping, and time stalls, and in this hanging moment we find the absolute essence of Horsehunter: that moment of perfect tension that hangs before the next chord crashes in like a landslide with a power that is utterly decimating in its destruction.

There is beauty to behold, but it’s the kind of beauty elicited in the watching of the bombing of Hiroshima in slow-motion. And with its frenetic guitar solo work and gut-churning bass that thunders across the abyss with earthquake-inducing force, this live recording is little short of devastating.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be nine minutes on foot from the station according to Google Maps, but despite having probably been maybe twenty or even thirty times, I still find myself struggling to find it, even with GPS assistance. I have no idea why: it’s like I have some kind of mental block, or the venue has some kind of cloaking device that blocks my internal geographical radar. And so I’m disproportionately pleased when I find myself within yards of the venue without taking a single wrong turn. And then I remember the bar doesn’t take cars, and despite having intended to get cash at York station, then Leeds station, then en route, I’ve sailed past all of the cashpoints and only have about four quid on me. Even with beer at £2.80 a pint, I might be a bit thirsty at the end of the night.

I still make it back, with cash, before doors, and they’re not quite done soundchecking. The fact I’m considering plugging up just for the soundcheck brings a small buzz of anticipation: we’re here for some hefty riffage, and it’s best experienced at an appropriate volume. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not loud enough.

Leeds drums and bass duo Calm are an interesting proposition on paper, consisting of John Sutcliffe from Canvas, Humanfly, Kings, Natterers, and Paul Handley from The Plight, Kings and Ladies Night. In the flesh they’re interesting, too: at the opening, oscillating sequenced synth lines bubble along beneath woozy bass before the distortion crashes I like a tidal wave of sludge. The drums are more energetic than the low-BPM grind of the chords. Structurally, the compositions are segmented and almost sound like three or four pieces glued together, but the transitions make for a set that holds the attention well, and as Sutcliffe, on drums, intones mystical droning incantations into a sea of reverb against a wall of low-end that sends vibrations through my steel-toed boots, the experience takes on an almost spiritual quality.

Calm

Calm

A Headless Horse bring a much more sedate atmosphere with mellow female vocals and delicately layered, meticulously structured songs. Their songs are keenly focused on texture and melody. In contrast to Calm and the rest of the lineup, there’s significantly less weight, and less emphasis on volume overall: that isn’t to say they’re quiet, but when they bring in the riffs, they’re not obliterative, but simply denser. Comparisons aren’t everything, but The Cure and Cranes provide fair touchstones here, and Headless Horse demonstrate that they’re capable of delivering mathy post-rock with emotional resonance. Given that this is only their second outing, they show a lot of promise.

A Headless Horse

A Headless Horse

There’s a proliferation of beards tonight, and Dystopian Future Movies are very much a beard band (singer / guitarist Catherine Cawley clearly excepted). They’re also a very much an atmospheric band, and a band who exploit the dynamics of volume to optimal effect, as abundantly demonstrated by the choppy stop/start lumbering riff of ‘Dulled Guilt’ which opens the set powerfully. Their description of themselves as ‘taking a Sonic Youth approach but arriving at some dark place between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’ is pretty accurate, and they pull the listener in with slow-burning ethereality that yields to punishing riffery, without at any time falling into the trap of formula.

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Dystopian Future Movies

This four-date joint tour sees DFM and Grave Lines unveil a collaborative / split EP, and they’re joined on stage by Jake Harding for a killer rendition of ‘Beholden, which begins a brooding whisper, almost folky in feel, before erupting into thunderous power chords The vocal duet is magnificent: the two singers intertwine with Hardin’s baritone croon underpinning Cawley’s graceful, evocatively gothic intonation to conclude a mesmerising set.

Grave Lines stand out as being very much different from their peers by virtue of the exploration of extended quiet passages that are as much dark folk as post-anything, while exploiting tropes commonly associated with post-rock. This imbues the songs with a palpable emotional depth, and when they crash in with the u-to-eleven distortion, it hits hard.

With ragged hair and beard, wrists and shoes wrapped in grubby shreds of bandage, and a dingy off-white vest, Jake Harding cuts a dramatic and tortured figure as he spews anguish and nihilistic fury, his body tense and wracked, over low, slow sludginess; then again, guitarist Oli, with Alan More hair and beard and sporting a torso so tatood as to appear to be wearing a heavily patterned shirt brings a stoic intensity that’s in stark contrast to the laid-back drumming of Julia Owen, who has an airy style of playing that belies the force with which she delivers stick on skin.

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Grave Lines

And yet it’s when Harding ceases words and spits a guttural ‘urrggh’ that most succinctly articulates all the pain and frustration the band channels.

Caroline from Dystopian Future Movies returns the favour of providing additional vocals on Grave Lines’ contribution to the new EP, the epic ‘False Flame’, and they take things right down for the penultimate track of a remarkably concise – but suitably hard-hitting – set with the minimal ‘Loathe / Disgrace’, pairing a droning organ sound which quavers against a vulnerable, melancholic vocal performance.

My notes blur to nothing as the band drive the set home with crushing force with ‘The Greave’. And in this high-volume release lies the uplifting joy of catharsis.

Humpty Dumpty Records – HMPTY030 – 5th February 2016

James Wells

Sometimes, there is simply no substitute for volume. Marking something of a change of direction from his previous Amute albums, Jérome Deuson has embraced something that could be considered more of a ‘rock’ aesthetic in cranking everything up to 11. But this isn’t a question of indulgence. It’s about the transformative nature of volume. It’s the volume of the sounds which determine the way the notes and tones interact on the pieces on Bending Time in Waves. The dominant instrument is guitar, bathed in reverb and pushed to the max to forge vast cathedrals of sound. You might loosely call it shoegaze, or slacker indie, or simply ‘alternative’, as we did back in the 90s. And there’s very much a 90s feel to Bending Time in Waves, an album capable of the same kind of temporal discoordination as induced by My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.

Beneath the tumults of guitar, there are some pounding drums, but like everything else, they’re partially obscured, semi-submerged amidst a tidal wave of treble, a screed of overloading sound that fizzes and crackles and fuzzes. Winsome slacker introspections played delicately and ponderously are transformed by the ear-splitting volume, crackles, and pops of cracking transistors and hisses of feedback. Soft swathes of soaring strings cascade in and out again on tsunamis of reverb-soaked guitar. Quiet moments of reflection, hushed and sincere swell outwards exponentially, threatening to obliterate Deuson’s fragile psyche.

It’s disorientating, bewildering, overwhelming. But there are some nice songs to be discovered, underneath it all.

Amute

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