31 January 2011
With Speak Galactic, The Sticks, Cold Pumas, and Drum Eyes
Sea Monsters is a mini festival in Brighton put on by local label One Inch Badge celebrating some of the city’s best musical output over five days in The Prince Albert. I didn’t manage to make day one because I’m rubbish and I’m not able to make days four and five for similar but more legitimate reasons, but I will be attempting to write about day two.
The thing I always forget about gigs is to not turn up when doors are supposed to open, especially when you’re going on your own. Even with a phone that you can pretend to text with and a toilet you can pretend to wee in every so often, you still look at the very least a little bit odd standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs, unsure if the doors are already open or not, then trying, finding out they aren’t opening and repeating the process - especially when you don’t know the venue or anybody in it. Still, that was more my lack of foresight than a criticism of the evening. What obviously matters at a gig is the bands, of which I can make few criticisms.
First up is Speak Galactic [link] (not that we catch what he’s called throughout his set – the one guy who makes up the act too involved in the music to remember telling us his name), who layers distorted guitar sounds with noisey samples and a drum-machine, finishing it off with high-pitched echoing vocals. It’s reverb drenched and abrasive noise that would be easy to dismiss (as some do, popping their heads in the door before heading back downstairs) but beneath the layers upon layers of crackle and fuzz is essentially pop. Although it may lack slightly in substance and actual ‘song’ on this evening (recorded songs seem to have more a bit more melody), it’s made up for in heart and an ethic which I respect and appreciate. Keep an eye on for sure.
Speak Galactic - Spector Spectre
Next on is The Sticks who, despite being a member down tonight, still do a good job of showing off their scruffy lo-fi (and annoyingly difficult to describe) sound. Stand up scrappy drumming accompanies strummed guitar for songs that are often instrumental for long periods of time, broken up with periods of semi–spoken word atonal vocals and harmonised “aah”-s. The duo swap instruments too, taking turns to switch between franticly shuffle their hands between snare and floor tom (in place of a bass drum) and producing sometimes surf-ish and sometimes post-punk-ish guitar sounds. They apologise for constantly switching roles and quip that a real band wouldn’t, but that’s exactly the point – they don’t need to do what a ‘real’ band does. It’s brilliant carefree fun - and it stands up just as well live as it does on record.
The Sticks - Messing Around
Cold Pumas are next on, the increasingly hyped three-piece playing a hometown show despite recently releasing a split with Americans Fair Ohs and Women. Their set is also largely instrumental, a motrik drum-beat/tom-rolls the central feature while two guitars rally together to create all sorts of dinny goodness. Even when there are vocals they have so much feedback that they more serve as another instrument than a way of communicating any sort of lyrical message. The songs are krautrock-inspired long jams, the guitarists bouncing off each other and switching between effects pedals, the drums fast-paced, rolling and driving. You can understand why the hype around them at the moment, their kraut-y-meets-post-punky sound and lo-fi aesthetic work in their favour today, as well as the fact that the songs are bloody good, even if not the whole audience seem to appreciate it.
Cold Pumas - Dawn Lobby
Drum Eyes are on after a lengthy pause, which works for those in the audience not prepared for the hefty drinks prices. Okay, I had to quickly nip to the cash-point, running in a panic that I’d miss some of the set. I didn’t miss any though, which is good, because Drum Eyes are an incredible live experience. Among its five members are probably twice as many instruments, two drummers, a guitarist, a keyboard player/noise fiddler, and also Shigeru Ishihara (aka DJ Scotch Egg). A ferociously in your face yet technically incredible experience, they combine the energy and complexity of bands like Battles and Holy Fuck through double-drumming, impressive guitar-work, and an electro-backing track through laptop but also add a sparkling charm through the central Shigeru on five-string bass - who spirals his bass and leaps through the crowd to the noise of Nintendo game sound-effetcs. It’s hypnotising whilst also gobsmacking in impressive musicianship, bringing a smile to the face with how sheer brilliant they are.
Drum Eyes - 50/50
There's a compilation of the best Brighton bands coming out following the weekend, with info over at One Inch Badge's website at some point, I presume.