Tuesday, March 27, 2012
LAST HARBOUR + EASTER @ BAND ON THE WALL 26 March 2012
Uh-oh - tables are out at Band on the Wall. Maybe they're not expecting a capacity audience tonight? It was certainly a small but perfectly formed crowd for opening act Vei. Such solo laptop glitchery does not make the most visual or animated of supports but the overlapping pulses, loops and drones was a pleasantly serene if slightly cerebral start. Small crowd yes but enthusiastic response at the set’s conclusion.
Easter's ‘Somethin’ American’ was a joyously chugging earworm of a song from last year. It was the set opener tonight but full marks to the four-piece – Thomas Long, Andrew Cheetham, Gavin Clarke and Danny Saul - for adding some simple theatrics to kick it off. As both guitars held down single, sustained notes, the machine head of one was dragged across the top of the amp to add some teeth-on-edge distorted crackle before into the song proper. Spine-tingling. Under the overly bright yellow glare of some unatmospheric lighting, Easter went on to deliver some very atmospheric and at times very ferocious noise-rock. Tonight I really heard the Sebadoh connection in their heavy, 90s leaning guitars.
There were moments of quiet melody or vocal passages but most songs in this six song set were inexorably drawn to intense, twin guitar work-outs. The set finished with more distorted noise: manual manipulation of effects pedal feedback that was both thunderously ominous but also electrifyingly refreshing. Wow - heavy stuff. Tonight’s set hugely whetted my appetite for the band's debut album “Innocence Man” released this June.
I last saw Last Harbour seven years ago supporting Mark Mulcahy in the basement of an unloved – and now unmissed – cafe-bar. I haven't kept up with Last Harbour’s steady output since - especially the two most recent albums, last year's more heavily orchestrated “Volo” and this year's more stripped-back “Your Heart, It Carries The Sound” (and I suspect most of the set came from these two, unfamiliar to me, records). The six-piece – voice, bass, two guitars (or guitar and violin), drums and Roland keyboards – play a funereal pop (“misery... with a smile”) as smartly attired as their waist-coated, brylcreemed singer. There is an assured stateliness to their music – and a maturity since I saw them last – that is a gradual pull in rather than immediate hook.
The wide stage and slightly bohemian feel of Band on the Wall suited them well – even the red neon of the venue’s logo which I normally find a distraction adding to the moodiness. Last Harbour are another band without overt stage theatrics but let the songs – creepy, doom-laden or poignant – create their own sombre ambience – and the early ones that alternated male and female voice worked particularly well I thought. I initially didn’t see this line-up as natural bedfellows but by the end of the night realised what they share is that they all create distinct and darkly atmospheric music. Easter delivered all that I hoped - plus some exceptional playing to boot - and the headlining set made me realise how much catching up I have to do with Last Harbour.