Finally the Friction Tour rolls in to Bristol. The wait is all but over but before the evenings main draw, there are three other bands to contend with. The Thekla has a crazy curfew of 10pm due to their Saturday evening club night. Considering doors were half six, shoehorning four bands in seems like a pretty tall order. Humanfly take to the stage just fifteen minutes after doors which unfortunately for them means that the modest audience is still adjusting to their surroundings. The band deals in sludgy adrenaline injected stoner riffs mixed sparingly with vocals that range from deep death metal growls to Iron Monkey esque yelps. 25 minutes isn’t long to get your point across and it’s even harder when the audience is so small but given the circumstances, Humanfly were pretty impressive this evening.
Maybeshewill sounded exactly as I thought they would tonight, I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not. For me they seem to perfectly sum up Explosions type post-rock with all of the relevent boxes neatly ticked. Upon initial listens I was pretty excited by their sound but the more I listened the more I suspected that there was something amiss. Not that I could possibly level any kind of criticism at the band, although the boy band posturing and graceful hair flicks did catch me off guard a little. There is something that keeps me liking Maybeshewill but stops me loving them, I just can’t quite put my finger on what that thing is. Seeing them live only cemented my indecisiveness.
The Ocean were up next. Second time seeing them, the last time when they supported Dillinger Escape Plan. I couldn’t remember too much about them but after a couple of minutes it all came flooding back. The Ocean have everything they need to be an arena metal act; expensive looking gear, elaborate CD packaging, eye-catching light shows, not to mention all the moves. What they lack though is substance to back up all of that style. Not only that but they sounded pretty awful too, for all of his rigorous endeavours the singer may as well have not been anywhere near the stage. Even when the band weren’t at full throttle during the token singing parts, he was barely audible. Things improved slightly towards the end of the set but I remain unimpressed.
I reckon I must have seen ET9 around 7 or 8 times back when they were last active, on not one of those occasions did I leave the venue feeling anything less than blown away by what I had witnessed. I feel a strong connection with the band having witnessed them progress both in terms of their recorded material and also as a live band. To get the chance to see them again almost a decade later is both exciting and unnerving in equal measures. Some things are best left in the past, all of those memories could easily be crushed with a dodgy, poorly judged re-union. My nerves were appeased somewhat by the new song Tide Of Ambition which was a scathing return to form and easily sits alongside past glories. Part of me was hoping that they would open with Grind & Click but when Off Kilter exploded from the Theklas tiny stage I couldn’t help but shed a grin. A grin born of pure elation with a hint of relief, ET9 all of a sudden seem like the most essential band in the world again. Back 10 years ago I was watching an incredible band struggling to get the exposure that they deserved, now I am watching a triumphant second coming and these songs have grown in to the classics that I always knew they would. Even songs from debut album Lo-Def(inition) Dischord sounded absolutely phenomenal, I have never heard Withered sound so colossal. True, Karl and the boys don’t necessarily move like they used to but shit, they sound exactly like they used to. My only complaint is the brevity of the set, fifty minutes simply wasn’t long enough and surely on the back of this a headline tour is imminent? Tide Of Ambition was the only new song to get a stroll out but live, it was a set highlight. They conclude with I Nagual Eye, and leave the stage to rapturous applause from a modest but floored crowed. When I reflect back on why this was such a good gig, it comes down to the fact that the band looked like they were enjoying themselves like I’ve never seen before. I think that Karl spoke more tonight than he did during all of the times I saw them combined, it really seems like the band are as excited to be playing for the fans as the fans are to be seeing the band. the new EP is a cracker too, will try to get a review up sometime soon. If you are unfamiliar with ET9 and like a bit of metal, I would highly recommend you check out the digital best of (of sorts) Inside, Embers Glow which is available for FREE HERE.
For Emma, Forever Ago was self released way back in 2007, which seems like an age ago now considering that we are still awaiting the follow-up nearly half way in to 2011. Justin Vernon has kept himself pretty busy though, with side projects such as Gayngs and Volcano Choir along with high-profile collaborations with the likes of Kanye West. We also had the Blood Bank EP, which I personally think was underrated and often forgotten. Calgary is the first taste of the self-titled follow-up album due out next month (although if you’re in to the words, then the album lyrics are up on the Jagjaguar site).
That debut was always going to be a hard record to follow, partly due to its reception but mainly because of the unique circumstances in which it was recorded, and how integral that was to its appeal. Everyone loves an album with a back story but there’s no way that this guy was ever gonna go back to that cabin by himself and record a new batch of songs, for this reason there is going to be a portion of the hardcore fan base that might feel disappointed with the extra instrumentation and flirtations with electronica. Although none of this should come as a surprise to anybody, the entire basis of Gayngs is collaboration, and Volcano Choir was pretty experimental in terms of studio manipulation. Calgary eases you in slow though, a sombre organ introduces Vernons distinctive falsetto, the song dies temporarily before swelling louder around a similar refrain. The third time around, drums and a few synthesised melodies are added to the mix. The trick is repeated for a fourth time by which point the full complement of sound is present and the song feels fully formed with guitars audible for the first time. It’s a clever trick, taking a stripped back idea and repeating it each time building up the layers. It makes the final quiet passage of acoustic guitar and vocal all the more sombre and stark. I’m enjoying this song quite a bit, it’ll be interesting to hear how it compares to the sound of the rest of the album and how it fits in with the other songs. By itself though it stands up pretty well, hopefully the album will be able to exist outside of the shadow of that debut.
Listen through the video below or head over to Jagjaguar for a download.
I have to be honest; not a lot of music has been inspiring me particularly of late. I seem to have spent the past couple of weeks or so listening to new albums by the likes of Battles, Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio and Okkervil River (amongst others). Which on paper, a couple months ago would have been a mouth-watering prospect, but the reality is that despite none of these being particularly bad records as such, they have all failed to live up to my own personal expectations in one way or another. Even the Tyler album, whilst still growing on me, didn’t quite hit the mark. All of this kind of seemed to be building towards hearing Clams Casino for the first time. Hailing from New Jersey, Clams Casino is a bedroom producer who has most notably produced beats for Lil B. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with this material but having been lifted out of a post ATP lull quite magnificently by this free Instrumental Mixtape, I can wholeheartedly vouch for his solo stuff. Where this music stops becoming trendy and current and starts becoming spectacular is with the emotion that he evokes through the use of the samples. Similarities can be drawn with acts such as How To Dress Well but for me the emotional leverage squeezed from the source material is far more similar, if not a hell of a lot more subtle than Kids & Explosions. The manipulation is masterful, and that’s without even mentioning the beats; which not only pack an equal punch but are impecably timed and arranged. These songs are both euphoric and sad at the same time, inspiring yet introverted, cloudy but at the same time beautifully crisp. It’s far too seldom that I feel this enthusiastic and affected by new music so swiftly, and what I love is that it always seems to happen both when I least expect it and when I need it the most. Check out one of the many album highlights Realist Alive below, and download the full mix HERE.
Clams Casino – Realist Alive MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
ZOMBY!!!! WHERE WERE YOU IN 2011????????
Josh T Pearson cuts a lonely figure on the Anson Rooms far from modest stage, it’s an early indicator of what will turn out to be an evening of contradictions for the bearded cult hero. Best known as lead singer and guitarist of legendary Texan band Lift To Experience whose only release Texas Jerusalem Crossroads has to go down as not only a great concept album but one of the best albums of the last decade. Having spent nearly ten years below the radar, Pearson recently released the harrowing yet brilliant solo album Last Of The Country Gentlemen.
The Anson Rooms is a soulless shoebox of a venue and to add to this, the majority of the crowd have no clue as to who Josh T Pearson is, let alone the musical importance as to what they are witnessing. These elements combined result in something akin to a near religious experience marred by the inane and uninterested conversations of impatient Drive-By Truckers fans who have very little clue as to the significance of what they are witnessing. Understandable of course; as a support act there is a huge contrast between Pearsons haunting acoustic laments and the headliners country-rock anthems. And there is no blame apportioned to the unsuspecting crowd, it’s just a simple case of wrong place, wrong time.
Speaking of contrasts, the most striking aspect of Pearsons performance this evening was that between the top and bottom three strings of his acoustic guitar. His playing is masterful, creating deafening feedback whilst his little finger delicately picks out the most intricate of melodies. With only 45 minutes to play, the set list was sadly limited. Kicking off with Sweetheart I aint your Christ and concluding with Sorry with A song, it was far from an easy listening experience. He did an admirable job of filling the venue with sound but came unstuck during the all important quiet moments, which is why I think that he would be far better suited to a smaller venue housing a dedicated audience. regardless of all of this, Pearson stopped me in my tracks with a performance that not only upstaged the headliners but soared far above the uninterested portions of the crowd.
UK producer Zomby will release his full length follow-up to the incredible Where Were You in ’92? some time in July. By way of an appetiser, check out Things Fall Apart which features vocals from none other than Noah Lennox. It all starts with a blast from a shotgun followed by a blast from those distinctive air horns. So far, so Zomby but it’s not long before the creepy nature of the song sets in, the mantra-like vocals distance the sound further still from previous output. The vocals sound great, it’s kind of nice to hear Lennox actually sing free from reverb and distortion. He does have a brilliant voice and it compliments the cleanliness of the glitchy beats and twinkling synths perfectly. Potential for an onstage collaboration at ATP?
Zomby – Things Fall Apart (Feat Panda Bear) MP3 (Right Click / Save As)