A Kibou Records and Dusty Curtain Face Records promotion

Saturday 21st April 2012

featuring Hobopope And The Goldfish Cathedral, Three Thrones, Viaducts and Meadows.

It’s very nearly a year since I last wrote a live review, mainly because I find them disproportionately time consuming, but I’ve decided to lighten up a bit, and start doing them again, with a less obsessive approach to the whole thing. Also Paul Rhodes keeps smiling sweetly and asking me politely, so I felt bad and stuff.

This particular occasion was marred only by the last minute cancellation of Mouse Drawn Cart, some of whose recordings I reviewed a while back, and who I was looking forward to seeing in action. Stepping into the breach, however, was the enigmatic and dynamic Cornflake Box Head, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Hobopope And The Goldfish Cathedral. His performance was a beguiling smorgasbord of the shambolic, the intense and the complex, as he struggled to find the right backing track on his iPod, and then proceeded to channel Zappa onto his poor innocent fretboard. (In case you wonder why I don’t say anything else about it, ‘channeling Zappa’ says a great deal, and is about the highest praise I can give). There was a certain element of Dada or Situationism to the set (not just from the echo of Hugo Ball’s cardboard hat), and it got the evening off to a splendid start.

Next up were Three Thrones, diffident, unassuming riff-slingers, whose most visually arresting member sits at the back hitting things, with a commendable degree of enthusiasm (and surprising virtuosity, given that he has apparently been playing for less than a year). This instrumental trio’s approach is straightforward and unpretentious, elaborating a series of rhythms and textures that are never overly fancy, but always engaging, and which betray an undisguised love for the sounds and atmospheres of metal’s stoned outer fringes. Slow, thunderous, doom-laden riffs are interspersed with lighter elements, and most of what the band has to say comes through their dramatic manipulation of dynamics and density. Their noise is very involving, and it’s hard not to like people who are so obviously doing what they do from a sheer love of it, and a generous desire to share it, despite their apparent shyness on stage.

Viaducts are a rather different proposition. It was their last ever gig, although they apparently haven’t been together long enough to write a full length set’s worth of material… They are (were) a post-hardcore band, with all the manic intensity that implies. They brought a small but extremely enthusiastic group of supporters, who pretty much upstaged them once they started playing; my main impression of Viaducts is tall, thin and very wiggly. The music itself showed some imagination, and it articulated a variety of tempos and textures (one song featured an extended noise-and-texture breakdown that was the creative high point for me), although the primary tenor was uptempo, and they performed with a degree of commitment that bordered on the histrionic. I don’t really like this sort of thing, but that’s not Viaducts’ fault; I’m basically too old to swallow anything that takes itself this seriously without featuring either some jaw dropping musicianship, or a radically transgressive creative practice.

In case any audience members were still alive after the preceding three-pronged assault, Meadows were brought on to finish them off. This band never fails to make me shit myself, not because they’re scary (they’re all very nice boys, in fact) but because that’s the physical effect of that amplitude and frequency of hellishly abrasive noise. I have to say however, for all the calamitous impact of their set, the band’s principal contribution to the evening came in the form of the major advances in heavy metal dance three of them demonstrated during Three Thrones’ set, including such choreographic innovations as the Bog Flusher, the Shit Shoveller, the Motorcyclist, and the Boat Rower. Seriously, headbanging just looks creatively bankrupt now I’ve been shown the future of the form. Such observations notwithstanding, Meadows’ performance was a thing of beauty, although I gather from what they said after their set that they didn’t enjoy it as much as usual, owing to a poor stage sound, and some deafening interference from a mobile that had been left too close to some part of the signal chain — from front of house we could only hear it between songs, but it must have been offputting. I’m not sure if they’ll thank me for saying this, but with music like this, performed at these volumes, with such deeply laminated distortions, the difference between a totally tight performance and a slightly slack one can be pretty hard for a live audience to detect. There’s a well documented psycho-acoustic effect where loud music sounds inherently better, because beyond a certain amplitude our perception of it is coloured by a neurologically induced compression, and the whole thing acquires a coherence that the performers may be struggling to feel; and when music is heavily distorted its attack points become ambiguous in any case. With music this distorted, it’s really only the drums and the occasional foray into lead guitar complexity that read as rhythmically specific, and the rest of it is kind of, well, sludge. So what I’m getting at, is that I thought it sounded pretty fucking awesome, and although you could tell it wasn’t quite the show they wanted to give, it still immersed the listener in the same physically psychotropic miasma of audio brutality that Meadows’ fans have come to love. Altogether, a simply spiffing evening.