Live review: WALL, Palisades, New York 22nd April, 2016

WALL bring the New York noise on home turf

Barely contained and dangerous sounding, like a volatile chemical lump on the teetering razor-edge of self-destruction.

WALL’s haunt of choice tonight in Bushwick is incredibly fitting– if perhaps slightly coincidental. Along with conveniently being another word for.. well, a wall, Palisades is slap-bang wallop in the middle of the post-punks’ adopted stomping ground; serving up cut price tinnies, with a side-serving of scrawl-covered toilets, covered in visiting bands’ autographs. Amping up the discordant aggression of their recorded output ten-fold, it really shows that this lot are completely at home tonight, too. Barely contained and dangerous sounding, like a volatile chemical lump on the teetering razor-edge of self-destruction, WALL feed off the messy, dusty chaos that hangs in New York’s saturated air.

Slightly surreal, endlessly unforgiving and forever monochrome, WALL follow in an abrasive tradition of New York post-punks that match up their hectic home of choice. Like their equally absurdist contemporaries Parquet Courts, the band’s core touchstones are familiar ones, sure; the tinfoil-coated Velvet Underground, the fuzzing Television, and Sonic Youth’s impossibly meticulous puppet control of barely contained noise. One thing marks WALL out. They’ve got that unnameable, hard to pin down quality as a band which whacks you round the chops without warning. The only reaction is to stand bolt upright and pay full attention.

Crouching to eyeball the front row at every opportunity, frontwoman Sam York is in possession of a often-menacing, occasionally-frenzied drawl, flecked with hints of Kim Gordon at her most attacking. Battering amid the locked in combination of her bandmates Elizabeth Skadden on bass, and Vanessa Gomez’s fearsomely relentless drums, jarring squalls constantly threaten to knock everything down in a single stab, courtesy of guitarist Vince McClelland.

York leads with calculated, rising urgency during the mean, clawed ‘Cuban Cigar,’ and there’s a odd, magnetic weighting of syllables to her every delivery. “Crinkled, ageing, washed up, faded, conquered, jaded,” she chats over the gut-punching abrasion of ‘Last Date’ trying each word on for size and then tossing it out into the room. It brings a sort of poetry to WALL’s otherwise unforgiving onslaught, and it’s a tension that only grows more potent by the minute. “Two-thousand feline mistresses!” yells a delighted York, and the room respond with drinks held a-loft. “Laying all over the cobblestone!” WALL might still be laying down their first foundations as a band – with a lone EP to their name so far – but they’ve evidently got grand designs in mind.

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Photos: Cheryl Georgette Arent

WALL play their debut UK show on November 1st at London’s Old Blue Last. Their self-titled debut EP is out now.