Saturday, 26 November 2011

Express Roots – Arcane Roots Live at The Barfly

Arcane Roots*****

The Barfly Camden 17th November 2011

So, an early start at my favourite venue and the atmosphere was already building (as was the crowd) for the impressive Surrey scene boys Trails.

Trails ***1/2**
They’re a groaning dim sum trolley full of differing flavours and vibes. Ranging from full-bodied spicy rwaaar moments to lighter, but always tasty poppy hooks sprinkled with astringent arpeggios and wholesome thumping bass. And I tucked in greedily.

I’d never seen them live before, but  they were really on it tonight and the already packed house seemed to agree. Not totally original and there were moments of generic scene rock out of the recipe book of Deaf Havana, Francesqa and early YM@6, but they certainly served up high quality tunes and a thoroughly energetic and tight performance. I’ll definitely and happily dig in again next time the trolley comes around. Yum.

Beyond catergorisation, Norway’s electromathpopprognewrtomantic darlings 22 were next up. Starting with a tecchy and frazzled duel between bass and guitar, 2 UV face painted dervishes whirled onto the tiny stage and gave the assembled throng an almighty polyrhythmic kick in the cock. Then a similarly UV facepainted albino high-camp monk complete with cowl wandered out of the stygian gloom to front up proceedings.

The crowd seemed largely bewildered but hypnotically acceptant. There was a fair smattering of Norwegian fan boys hurling themselves about in frenzied delirium; but the rest were left nodding, stroking their hipster statement beards and generally lapping up this weirdest of intoxicating luminous cocktails.

22...Jazz Monk
The set was fast and furious overlaid with euro poppy gymnastics. For sure there were heavy moments and the musicianship throughout was as tight as a nun’s lady bits, but until the last number Plastik, it failed to totally and consistently hit the spot.

Arcane Roots’ frontman Andrew Groves joined the by now melty UV face painted Scando ghouls for Plastik and it was by far the best and most stirring number of the set. Don’t get me wrong, they were original, bewildering and, at times mesmerizing and generally bloody great, but if they could match the intensity of Plastik throughout, they’d be on another level.

Arcane Roots*****
I remember the first time I heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It was undeniably brilliant. Moving. Emotional. But it had a simmering dark side. Almost a malevolent shadow.  And I fell in love with it. Its nuance. Its ability to captivate. Its originality. And its middle finger in the air to the status quo and  to the tried and tested. Well, without being too wanky, I get the same feeling when I am privileged enough to be in the presence of Kingston’s brilliant Arcane Roots.

I’m running out of superlatives to describe this jaw-dropping trio and have given up trying to sound clever by cross-referencing influences, sonic signifiers and reference points. Suffice to say they are right at the front, and I mean right at the front of the burgeoning and exciting UK rock scene. So far at the front that they are at least 92 league places ahead of even the best of the others.

From the first melodic and trancy noodlings of their opening number (the first of three dazzling new tunes on show tonight which’ll hopefully appear on the new album that they’re recording next month), they ooze class, control and genuine star quality. The new tune segues neatly into the always stunning In This Town of Such Weather (from their recent tour de force, Left Fire); the place melts down. The assembled industry types, musos and hipsters are forced to discard any hint of insouciance or contrived coolness and dissolve, morphing into baying acolytes joyfully singing along like the front row of a One Direction show.

Andrew Groves exudes a charisma and a trail of stars seems to follow him around the stage like a meteor tail. But it’s not all about this ball of fiery energy, This is truly a joint effort. Adam Burton and Daryl Atkins provide one of the tightest and most explosive rhythm sections on the planet while adding multi-layered spellbinding vocal textures, growls, counterpoint and an almost orchestral support.

We are truly in the presence of greatness. The whole set is delivered with micro-surgeon’s precision, skillfully eviscerating the love-struck crowd while joyously and mercilessly caressing them at the same time without vulgarly or cheaply groping or lunging for the soft and squishy bits.

Rouen, as always is a beautiful, haunting and beguiling highlight, but the best is kept for the end. A true classic set closer. Tonight with added Norwegians. In neckties. Long and Low first pummels the spleens out of the sweaty throng then transforms onto a beautiful, haunting and plaintive refrain leaving a sated and seduced crowd humming and wailing their way through their own versions long after the stage has been emptied of our fabulous threesome and attendant Norwegians.

A truly unforgettable evening in the company of Britain’s very, very best. Can’t wait for the new album.

Every Time I Die, Spycatcher et al next.

In the meantime, here's a wonderful live session thingy that Arcane Roots did recently. Astonishing.

More tunes soon, Bwoooar!

Arcane Roots - You Are Live Session from Deethree on Vimeo.

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