Thursday, 3 May 2012

Circles of influence - Russian Circles and Deaf Heaven Live at The Scala review

Russian Circles*****
Deaf Heaven *****
Astrohenge *****

The Scala
30th April 2012

Beards. Loads of beards. Plaid. More plaid. Another beard. With plaid. The hippest looking crowd I’ve seen in a while are out in force tonight. There’s definitely more than a Sailor Jerry soaked whiff of industry in the house. And a packed house. Even for the first band.

Astrohenge *****
Don’t know where to start. But I’m not sure if I should have started at all. A kind of uncomfortable mélange of Ozric Tentacles, The Damned, Chas And Dave, Les Dawson, Vadis and Bullet for My Valentine boiled up and served on a bed of wilting King Kurt with a Messhugah coulis. At least that’s what I think it sounded like. 

Zucchini ice cream anyone? 
Instrumental meanderings with chunky, chuggy (apologies to Johnny Doom) guitars. No bass. A keyboard player in a pork pie hat with the gloriously silly name of Dr Oliver Weekes noodling, banging, modulating and hammering away like a four year old with a sugar rush on a Bontempi. And a crazy-arsed possessed drummer. 

Really couldn’t get to grips with it. They looked as though they were having fun though. And a lot of the strong beards in the throng did too. Nodding approval and whooping where required. 

Didn’t hate them. Certainly didn’t love them. The variety and bizarre ingredients just didn’t seem to work. A bit like a bucket of mint choc ice cream mixed with courgettes and pickled onion Monster Munch. 

Rum. Very rum.

Deaf Heaven*****
Even more beards have crammed into the sweaty shoebox and a full, beautiful, complex soundscape seduces the hipsters and hangers-on. Layers, textures, polyrhythms and a cataract of cascading guitars weave a magical air of expectancy.

There’s even Brandon Flowers-a-like lead singer sporting a jaunty Shoreditch fringe and a strong beard swaying and getting into the vibe. Man. Then as the drummer cues, he wanders up to the mic and Gaaaaarrrrrrr.. More gaaarrrrrrrrr. Then some more gaaaarrrrrrrr. Gotta say, wasn’t expecting it. And, to be brutally honest, wasn’t digging it. I love a good bit of screaming. As an underline. To make a point. A neon highlight. Dramatic exaggeration. Anger. Bile. Vitriol. Raw emotion. But this was, well, meh.

Greg Puciato. Eva Spence. Andrew Groves. Steve Sitkowski. Sam Carter and their ilk are masters of it. Even Corey Taylor gets it right occasionally. But tonight, the dapper, achingly cool and Charismatic George Clark just turned into a fucking annoying wasp interrupting a lovely pint of delicious summer cider. Just as you keep delighting in the complex and satisfying beauty of your drink, the bloody thing starts buzzing in your face and ruining the whole experience. His screaming is so one dimensional and lacking any nuance or range, it becomes tedious. And wearing. Like a distant wailing teenager repeating the same monotonic whinge. With all the passion, edge, violence and bombast of a hedge trimmer. Having seen monsieur Puciato put on a near perfect demonstration of the art with the mighty DEP last week, Clark’s attempts are laughable and futile by comparison. Shame. And a let-down to the rest of the very creditable band. Awkward conversation needed.

Russian Circles*****
So, after wasp-interrupted beverage, what would Russian Circles serve up?

An intoxicating, heady mix of post-metal, shoegazing complexity, full flavoured brilliance, subtlety, beauty, brutality. Mesmerising, hypnotising heaviness, luscious layers and loops, full bodied, big arsed riffs, runs and delicious drops. And drums that describe riffs. Seriously. Riffs played on the drums.That’s fucking what.

I’ve not watched a gig with my eyes closed since an Afghan-black hampered Hawkwind gig in Chelmsford over 20 years ago, but tonight, I couldn’t do anything else. Aided by no lightshow whatsoever (initially a major disappointment, as shows are meant to be just that, shows – but soon forgiven as I slowly ‘got it’) I got totally and utterly lost in the moment. Gloriously long and complex passages lulled and caressed my genitals, then thunderous climaxes and drops kicked me squarely on the bellend. This was a non-chemical aided dreamy journey with drama, danger, ecstasy and explosions on the way. The so sadly late, lamented Oceansize are the only band that have come as close to engendering such a hazy reverie. But tonight, I reached a new level of escape. I came out of the Scala feeling like I’d just been swimming in bong water for two hours. Totally numbed. Totally seduced. Totally lost. Totally torn a new one. Wow.

This is what I smoked:

 Harper Lewis

Death Rides A Horse

Here's a vid of Harper Lewis from the night:


Before I go, as a very sad post script, I must just mention that Fei Comodo have announced they're calling it a day. A truly fresh, original and talented young British band. They will be sadly missed. I just want to wish Marc and the boys all the best with future endeavours. And thanks for some great tunes lads. I'll be there at their final London gig in July with a lump in my old throat I'm sure.

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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