Live Review

Truck Festival, Sunday 25th July 2010

It’s a testament to Pulled Apart By Horses that we’re genuinely worried about how Future Of The Left will follow them…

We awake extremely groggy eyed after a night of exploring the various stages and the musical delights they have to offer after the bands finish. Stumbling from techno to drum & bass to dubstep to psy trance, we were also kept awake by a group of locals asking repeatedly for ketamine and laughing gas outside our tent at five in the morning. This means that we now have two options: try and welcome ourselves gently into the day ahead, or obliterate the cobwebs entirely. We choose the latter.

Brontide are best known for their drummer: William Bowerman, ex I Was A Cub Scout and current Young Legionnaire drummer who also plays live for La Roux. Brontide are very, very, very different to any of the aforementioned. The three piece play instrumental, heavy rock/metal. Loudly. Lots of time changes, constant changing between riffs and intricate guitar work, thundering bass all combine to form an unpredictable band. Except that, well, after a while it does become somewhat predictable. The song starts, the guitarist plucks at notes which he then records and loops over the rest of the song. Then he plays big meaty riffs and jumps around like a twat. The almost forced nature of the ‘unpredictable’ element of the band means that it becomes repetitive by trying not to be. Bats follow and provide a much better example of unpredictable, heavy music. The Irish five piece, signed to Richter Collective (the label run by the drummer of Adebisi Shank) are revelatory in how this kind of thing should be done. Managing to be even louder than Brontide, their use of three guitarists provides intricacy on levels I’ve never seen live and the marriage of this with rough, almost lo fi bass works extremely well. The use of vocals means the songs retain a greater sense of structure than other bands on their label but they’re still wildly inventive, the use of acapella barbershop quartetesque harmonies on ‘Bats Will Destroy You’ giving the crowd a genuine WTF? moment.

This weirdness is pushed further by Islet. Even now, I can’t figure out whether they’re an elaborate injoke or not. Starting out with five drummers, they all then proceeded to take turns in ‘singing’ (wailing and screeching) and added various instruments to the mix when they continue. At times wilfully obscure for the sake of it, if they decided to take this seriously and stopped arsing around they could be genuinely great. As it is, there were one too many knowing looks to members of the crowd who were clearly friends to suggest that this is more than a bit of fun to them. The musicianship on display at times shows that they’re all clearly talented players but the lack of focus was reminiscent of early Animal Collective - the middling, directionless Animal Collective. No such issues with Nedry in the Beathive. Their take on electronic music encompasses all the best elements of trip hop a la Massive Attack and Portishead but combines it with wobbly, distorted basslines echoing early, tripped out dubstep to great effect. The swirling melodies and truly gorgeous vocals of singer Ayu are unsettling but beautiful. It’s perfect for this time and people fill the tent, nodding appreciatively or sitting outside and letting the sound flow over them. Most of the music is played through laptops and sequencers with only the guitar played live, something which causes a problem for the band as it malfunctions halfway through a song. Other than that, the performance is assured and one which allayed a fear over whether they could perform to the same standard that the album had set.

Only in an alternate universe could there be fears over the live capability of Pulled Apart By Horses. Much has been written about them and many superlatives used to describe them. It says a lot when the praise for an album from all quarters essentially boils down to ‘it sounds like they do live’. It’s not big and it’s not clever to swear but we have to in this case - Pulled Apart By Horses tear the fucking arse out of the Barn Stage. Filled to breaking point, the band completely justify their live reputation and praise heaped upon them. They’re very loud, they’re very fast and they’re very, very hard. The albums mix of styles (from hardcore, punk, metal to thrash) doesn’t come through live because they don’t give you time to even consider things. All you know is that they rock like bastards. The climax to new single ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ in the hot, sweaty, stinky Barn is as merciless an experience as anyone who was there will have ever had. Even album closer ‘Den Horn’ feels vicious, it’s stoner riff laconic on record but packing a far greater punch here. They’re brilliant.

It’s a testament to Pulled Apart By Horses that we’re genuinely worried about how Future Of The Left will follow them. There are very, very few bands on the Earth you could say that about. The line up changes have seen bassist Kelson depart and the band become a four piece. Famous for their humour/heckling as much as their music, as much as it pains me to say it Kelson is missed here. The interplay between Falco and him, as people as much as musicians just isn’t replicated here. The new guy (Steve from Oceansize if you’re interested) tries, bless him. But he dies on his arse. He’s competent but Kelsons sense of menace and intensity as he prowled the stage was integral to Future Of The Left. For this show, they abandon the synths - meaning a lot of their strongest material cannot be played tonight. The inclusion of another guitarist does work well though, giving them even more of a punch. New material played sounds promising, ‘destroywhitchurch.com’ in particular showcasing some of the most brutal lyrics Falco has ever written. It’s also the first performance of theirs that hasn’t finished on ‘Cloak The Dagger’, though they still disassemble the drum kit live - which is always entertaining to see. However, the show could have been a complete shower of shit and I’d have still rated it - because they play Mclusky tracks. Hearing ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ followed by ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ is an experience I never thought I would have. Whilst ‘Travels With Myself And Another’ is the best work that Falco has produced and whilst it’s deeply tedious that people still go on about Mclusky in every interview with him, hearing these songs proves why. They’re amazing. So amazing in fact, that we make a promise not to see another band, so that our experience of it isn’t tainted. For all the issues with the lack of Kelson, the lack of synth led songs, the playing of three new songs in a festival set, Future Of The Left were still great. Not as great as usual but it took four years of fairly solid touring for them to get to that stage. They’ll get there.

Tags: Features

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