Bellow Below – Su Casa, Ayr – 12/10/12

Posted: 14/10/2012 in Local Music
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When last Bellow Below graced these pages, ample amusement was derived from the, at the time constant, misspelling of their moniker.

Now, two days after the release of their Hooks EP – and resultant resounding echo of wild praise – Bellow Below are worlds away from the relative obscurity that once left them at the mercy of semi-literate promoters and blasé pub chalksmiths. With the quartet’s current profile – aided by the tangible evidence of their prowess provided by the aforementioned release, a growing reputation for shows doused in volume and passion and a stalwart live following – and confidence, billing them inaccurately would be tantamount to career suicide for anyone remotely invested in the local music scene.

A quick pre-show word with Su Casa owner Lucas Barraud yields the revelation that the band are not here to fulfil a request from the coffee shop but, in fact, as a result of their opting to book the venue themselves. Given Su Casa’s status as a chilled out, cosy and almost exclusively acoustic venue, this seems a distinctly odd choice and appears to give potential rise to a drastic mismatching of artist and setting. It seems that all assembled may be in for what bassist Darren, when quizzed, jovially describes as “Diet Bellow Below.”

Nonetheless, such reservations are part and parcel of the review process and more often than not – possibly due to the same phenomenon that deems the nights out not eagerly anticipated as the most enjoyable – results in a very pleasant surprise.

For the moment comforted, carryouts are sparked, the BYOB policy is raucously praised and the surroundings begin to settle into relaxed focus. Intimate to the point of being cramped, the living room-sized venue is rammed to the gunnels and, although this lends the event a pleasing vibe of unity and kinship, the unwieldy number of seats and tiny ‘stage’ area make it clear that little movement is to be expected from the performers.

Guitarist and vocalist Jamie, whose foremost stage position seems to deign him tonight’s frontman, kicks off proceedings with the words “We’re Bellow Below and we’re usually pretty loud,” suggesting that he shares the same sense of disorientation in this setting as the more dedicated of the band’s followers in the audience.

Thankfully, from the beginning of the set, the output proves typically impressive, if slightly quieter than usual and punctuated by much less energetic gesticulations.

A moment of unwitting profundity will, in fact, come between songs, when Jamie will whimsically intimate that he feels “like Kurt Cobain except less suicidal,” delivering a musing that suggests an unsettling similiarty between this removal of Bellow Below from the sort of surroundings in which they are most comfortable and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Given how effortlessly and impressively this transition is handled this evening, such a comparison is far from inappropriate.

Image courtesy of Julie Dunabie

The guys pick their way, deftly, through a technically impressive and entirely instrumental opener which segues – via Jamie’s quip “Thank you! We are drums and Bellow Below!” which serves as an appropriate paean to Joseph’s ferociously tight sticksmanship – into their first single Southern Opal, a majestic swirl of ethereal guitarwork, complex time signatures and wistful, Scots-tinged vocals that sets the drinks flowing merrily and enhances the close-quarters nature of tonight’s musical exchange.

As the evening progresses, a positive set highlight – and undeniably significant contributor to the Bellow Below sound – is Jamie and Richard’s fulfilment of dual vocal duties, into which both guitarists throw themselves with gleeful abandon. Jamie, in particular, looks like he is having the time of his life as he barks out his contributions, occasionally leaning away, backwards, from the microphone and descending into a cacophony of manic shouts which lend the material a certain je ne sais quoi positively lapped up by the subsection of the band’s following more inclined towards the heavier, less compromising end of the musical scale.

In keeping with the boys’ renowned penchant for complexity, there are parts where intricate pedal fuckery and impeccably timed bursts of amplified mirth see proceedings take a turn towards the Mars Volta, by way of The Pixies’ Black Francis.

Over a year ago, when this bunch were just beginning to make a name for themselves, this review posited the idea that they should “continue to embrace their wide array of varying influences and strive to showcase this diversity in their own musical output … The only hurdle left to overcome is to further develop their sound, until it is distinctively theirs.” Well, tonight can be safely seen as infallible evidence that they have managed to do exactly this and both the Hooks EP and lead single Southern Opal serve both to showcase what could now fairly be described as the Bellow Below sound and to cement their reputation as formidable alt-rock Glasgow stalwarts.

As a breathless voice heralds the onset of their last song, there is the sudden striking realisation that the evening has comprised no gimmicks, dramatics or moments of outright show-offery. However, equally poignant is the settling awareness that such things aren’t what Bellow Below have ever been about.

From the outset, they’ve been concerned with mastery of a craft towards which each member is unswervingly passionate, all the while waiting patiently for the payoff they know they deserve, and tonight has been a simple hometown show that slyly tips a hat to the tacit understanding that said payoff has now arrived.

Bellow Below on Facebook

Hooks teaser on YouTube

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