Live Review

Anathallo, Monto Water Rats, London

In no uncertain terms, ‘Canopy Glow’ is radiated perfectly at Water Rats.

Water Rats is by no means an expanse. The venue is, essentially, a pub with a converted backroom stage of modest size and, as such, is not completely inclined towards gigs or performances. The building’s location is similarly furtive, folded into a sluggish cutaway of King’s Cross. The result is the passive notion that music performed here is ushered awkwardly into secondary significance. Nonetheless, Water Rats holds a cardinal advantage in a particular respect; its cosy stage layout creates an unmistakably personal pantheism between audience and performer, a spectacle seen to humble the most conceited of bands. The ensuing impulsive intimacy is clearly not lost on Anathallo tonight, with the Michiganite bards adapting amiably to the equal prominence given to their wealth of fervent support acts, to the only barely fettered glee of the audience here.

The harrowing volume of support bands are, arguably, less a meagre stimulation for a headlining act than nonpareil musicians in their own right, each exhibiting an inimitable dynamic. The notion is immediately discernible in the youthful zeal of The Cutaway. While not reconciled by the relatively matinee slot they are allocated, the band, nonetheless, circumvents the subsequent encumbrance with little incident. Their haunting, morbid quality, therefore, exemplified in the thick reverb and increasingly pregnant pauses of closing track ‘Laughing Gas’, and a distinct, hostile vocal curve, remain inexorably effective. Nevertheless, for all their professional musical competence and assertive composition on stage, seemingly far beyond their years, a stagnant, often unwelcome impression operates throughout their set; that, perhaps, the band are patrons of a formula that has been exhausted beyond the point of functionality or authenticity. Still, the conception is at, most, only fleeting.

The morose aesthetic left by The Cutaway is, to an extent, amalgamated with abstraction by Sleepercurve, a band ominously escaping conventional classification. In around half an hour, the three piece assail us with a solute of Americana, post-punk, exultant pop and frontman Dan Walsh’s veracious lyrical fare at, essentially, the same instance. Showcasing tracks from recent EP ‘The Midnight Resistance’, the ambience throughout their set is often evocative of a compacted rock opera, apparent in the long standing emotion of several songs. Trailblazing synth and ditzy piano in tandem file down the jagged edges of the rhythm section, particularly in the exigent ‘Old Lady’, creating an entirely gentle dynamic. It is a daring demeanour to assume, one that fails unequivocally in other places. Nonetheless, Sleepercurve’s hands soon prove capable. Rarely does an act in a venue such as this remind us of roller discos and grievous bodily harm simultaneously.

Nonetheless, the paltry distance between audience and performer is only fully realised - or employed - by Anathallo. Announcing themselves through extrinsic pseudo-haiku ‘Kasa No Hone’, the band immediately develop a tangible affinity with the assembly here. Frontman Matt Joynt, for instance, is certainly in a mood for banter, discussing the rationalisations behind certain songs and other hilarious meanderings, indicative of a group already earmarked for gratuitous engagement with their audience. An accommodating punter at the front is even made to hold Joynt’s guitar for him while not in use, given permission to rupture into a solo at will. None of this, however, detracts from the calibre and gravity of their performance in person, promoting second distributed album ‘Canopy Glow’. The reality is, adversely, the contrary; the songs played are made no less acute or abrupt, in fact rendered palpably assertive. The coarse severity of ‘Four: A Great Wind; More Ash’, for example, resonates through the stage area and beyond with the assistance of an inflated use of percussion, boasting an august, coercive marching bass drum. Meanwhile, the same foreboding, unstable rhythm peripherals and various brass pieces arm the sporadic vocal harmonies of Matt Joynt and Erica Froman on many songs, vindicating the poignant sensibility maintained throughout.

Many things reveal themselves in the duration of Anathallo’s set. For one, it becomes clear that, consciously or not, the band operate on a directive of seamless interaction. No member of the band is undervalued or banished to a static charge of a single instrument - each is integral to the culminating sound, partaking equally in the flawless yet somewhat shambolic harmonies. It produces the effect of a constantly animated, lustful stage presence, seemingly inspiring those present. The plethora of rustic, innocent receptivity and countless cultural inclinations from which Anathallo take influence, furthermore, coupled with their relatively vast number (seven), produces a bashful quality not heard on record - we relish the spectacle of every variety of sound and instrument, from regal trumpet to naive handheld glockenspiel on songs like ‘Dokkoise House’, colliding to great effect. The delayed delivery and piecemeal structure of tracks like ‘The River’ and ‘All The First Pages’, in addition, illustrate a form of audible rumination, where the “thoughts” of music manifest themselves erratically, yet are in ordered, unperturbed sequence. Enraptured calls for no less than two encores by the end of this painfully short set illustrate the enthralling impact of the band’s untainted musical direction. In no uncertain terms, ‘Canopy Glow’ is radiated perfectly at Water Rats.

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