Posts Tagged ‘glasgow’

972156_10152116601064657_1450276369_n

As soon as the beat of the nineteen-track behemoth’s opener The Lazarus Project reaches its operating velocity – by way of a poignant Jacques Fresco sample from the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist: Addendum – Loki sets out his steadfastly uncompromising stall, hurling forth bar after bar of intelligent, witty and distinctly passionate lyricism. As the elapsed track time approaches two and a half minutes, inevitably marking at least the third instance of the listener gasping for respite from the weight of the verbal onslaught, the narrator imparts:

“I retain a fresh autonomy, a skeptic obviously,

Developing an odyssey of relevant, effectual intellectual property,

That walks the plank the day I die,

When Darren says goodbye and breaks the barricades of life.”

This declaration, a manifesto delivered in ten seconds and exhibiting a grasp of language and internal rhyme that would proudly top the pedestal of a lesser artist’s track, makes up just one of the opening salvo’s numerous cues for sharp inhalations of breath.

Next up, the listener is granted a brief respite as a string section leads into what is undoubtedly the most radio-friendly (which is to say that the hook – provided by Becca Starr – is off the scale in terms of catchiness, rather than that the material is even close to being tame enough to be entertained by the mainstream) number on Edging God Out, sporting the title Sinister and thereby doing a fine job of encapsulating the overarching feeling conjured up by the album.

As impressively proficient as the lyrics, flow and production of the album are, one could be forgiven for entertaining the concern that Edging God Out may rely too heavily on the showcasing of wit and braggadocio and not enough on the conveyance of genuine feeling. Forgiven, that is, until they reached the gritty but ultimately motivational Jump which wraps complex verses laden with confessions of an unhappy childhood around a simple refrain of ‘It’s no’ me against the world, it’s us.”

Elsewhere, Arlington Road sees a genuine storyteller in his element, as the listener is pulled along through a night of drunken paranoia, and The Wall – kicking off with a Charlie Kaufman quote that perfectly foreshadows the song’s content – exposes a captivating inner monologue that seems to seep out of the speakers and surround the listener, leaving the air pregnant with the malevolent threat of imminent suffocation, especially as the narrative comes to a close and the track fades out to the sound of distressed breathing accompanied only by fading echoes of the beat.

Interesting headphone listening…

Now, to go any further without addressing what is a truly mesmerising force behind this album would be wrong and, as such, a minute must be taken to talk about just how furiously angry some of this material sounds. This sense of barely restrained rage permeates the release to the extent that, on certain tracks, the moments when Loki isn’t rapping seem to pulse with the impression that he is having to consciously hold himself back in a concerted effort to channel his rage enough, just to stay on beat. Of course, the speed at which the rhymes peel out between the beats only serves to enhance this. Don’t Gee Me That Patter sees the needle on the anger scale hovering somewhere around the “fuckin’ ragin’” mark – perfectly complimented by an truly filthy sounding bassline – but, as he seethes through album highlight Loki’s the Name, the delivery takes a turn towards the positively venomous.

A large segment of Edging God Out evidently serves as catharsis for its purveyor and this is as clear on the album’s more reflective tracks – a la Smile at the Sky and Focus – as it is during the moments of unshackled verbal chaos, such as during the passages on title track Edging God Out where betrayals past are laid bare and What Time is it in Melbourne which stands as a compellingly transparent exorcism of personal demons.

As such, there aren’t a great deal of relevant negatives to be dealt with here. Sure, there are some tracks that may not stand up to the test of repeated listening but these are few and far between and such an outcome is an inevitable consequence of releasing an album nineteen tracks long.

One could then, of course, argue that prudence should have dictated a need for a more ruthless editing process but a fair amount of the original mix has already been dropped (available here) and, as mentioned before, the work as a whole gives the impression of serving as a release for emotions bottled up for too long and to cut it down any further would perhaps be to lose some of what is so captivating in the first place.

Being brutally realistic, Scottish hip hop is still very much a niche market and, like any work of genuine passion disseminated throughout a small scene, it would be easy for the cynical to dismiss the level of effort poured into this release as a misuse of energy that might yield greater rewards elsewhere. In addition, the deliberately provocative nature of lines such as “I’m not sexist but reserve the right to call you a cow” coupled with the prolific bandying about of the word ‘cunt’ also serve to keep the risk of Loki’s output achieving mass appeal fairly slight.

For the already initiated and those with their finger anywhere near the pulse, however, this is well worth a listen or twelve. The pages of Sixteen Sixteen Six have made no effort to hide a wealth of admiration for Scots rap duo Hector Bizerk and any fans of theirs who aren’t already familiar with Loki are guilty of a tremendous disservice to themselves. If Hector embody the swagger and flash of the Scottish hip hop scene, Loki embodies the heartfelt passion and painfully gritty realism.

Overall, with Edging God Out, Loki shows himself to be a hugely gifted storyteller with a staggering ability to channel a genuinely charismatic rage. The work feels honest and the sheer volume of material comprising this project is admirable in itself.

And who gives a fuck about the haters anyway, eh?

Edging God Out is released on Saturday 15th June and you can catch the album launch show on Friday 14th June in Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy.

Loki on Facebook

Lokis’ the Name music video

Being that the album isn’t officially released until 18th February and considering how much effort, money and deliberation has gone into the finished work, it seems only appropriate that any seminal listen of the debut Rose Parade record be as careful, private and thorough as possible. Despite most of the songs having been publically available in live or demo form over the past couple of years, this moment is sure to be a milestone in the burgeoning Ayrshire independent music scene and deserves to be treated as such.

Consequently, one finds oneself digging out one’s highest quality pair of headphones and sitting down on a dreary Scottish Sunday afternoon to absorb the eponymous work from start to finish, the only distraction being occasional pensive sips from a mug of steaming coffee.

And one is not disappointed…

rp

Midnight Wine provides an absorbing and atmospheric opener, allowing approximately twenty seconds of gentle wavering feedback and plucked strings to guide the listener gently towards a window to the mind of the Rose Parade quartet, before an unrepentant trifecta of assured chords, jolly glockenspiel and stomping kick drum ushers in a distinctive and instantly congenial vocal, thereby hauling said listener through said window and permitting no option of escape until the boys have had their say.

—–

Now, when you have an album that flows from start to finish, as one complete and considered work – which, let’s face it, is the mark of a quality offering – it’s generally desirable to set an enduring tone, for the entire piece, with the first lines and Midnight Wine’s contribution is no exception…

“Summertime has got me crazy, sitting laying in the sun.

I took my love and we got crazy but now I’m sitting by, by my loaded gun.”

In just a few bars, the listener is handed a perfect summation of the Rose Parade modus operandi – the opening line conveying happy and contented connotations of an easy life made up of long, hot, lazy days tying in with the pleasant and cheerful foot-tapping rhythms forming the calm and measured surface of the sound, juxtaposed with a nod to an unsettled mind and abrupt ruminations on violence which point to the darker depths of the band’s occasionally murky, often longing and nostalgic, lyrical content.

As the song progresses, the continuation of this lyrical theme melds with a timeless quiet-loud aesthetic and a guitar tone harking back to the golden era of the rock scene. As well as providing a succinct outline of intent, track one succeeds in emanating what is sure to be a cross-generational appeal and giving subtle rise to the notion – in the mind of anyone within earshot – that picking up a guitar might just be the perfect idea.

On the subject of Rose Parade’s cross-generational appeal, it is impossible not to notice the similarity of the track titles A Better Pill to Swallow and The Dark Side of the Sun to those belonging to The Jam and Pink Floyd, respectively. At first glance, this is easy to interpret as either coincidence or an acknowledgement of the influence of iconic bands of the past on their own sound. However, after hearing the album several times over and feeling the resultant assurance of this band’s prowess and bright future, this nod to the work of such iconic bands begins to feel more like a subtle acknowledgement and confirmation of their own confidence that this is the first major step on an exciting and fruitful upwards trajectory.

—–

A song-by-song analysis would only serve to cheapen the first-listen experience for others, so prudence suggests that the way forward is to examine some of the more obvious standouts and then look at the work as a whole.

The majesty of the album opener aside, looking to The Sea of Lights and Grace will exhibit material destined to, someday, warrant a slew of main stage festival appearances. Grace, in particular, feels like the track people will point the unconverted to in future, as they relate the story of the time they saw Rose Parade perform in the kitchen of an Ayr flat, long before their success.

Appearing just past the halfway mark, the instrumental Friday Night Fight provides a welcome pause for reflection, while keeping the pace going as it leads towards the captivating pairing of upbeat rhythm and doleful lyrics that is Sue.

Violent Tides and closing offering The Dark Side of the Sun serving to showcase the more sparsely introspective end of the material, the latter’s claustrophobic vibe, equal parts beauty and menace, warning that “time won’t heal too deep of a wound” and closing on the cryptically chilling refrain of “totally honest, totally honest.”

To go back to the idea of an album working as a whole, the achievement of this admirable feat can be seen in the way track one tails off effortlessly into the opening of Awake Tonight and even the later inclusion of the glockenspiel is vaguely – yet knowingly – reminiscent of the opening offering. As the album progresses, subtle lyrical throwbacks to previous tracks combine with the group’s own signature melody and consistently accomplished guitar and vocal work to ensure the continuation of this seamless eleven track journey.

There are moments which evoke long nights of lonely reflection, choruses which provoke sing-along moments while getting ready for a night on the tiles with the mates and tunes that perfectly soundtrack an exhausted but cheerful Sunday teatime, looking back over a weekend well spent.

Rose Parade’s debut is the sound of Scottish Indie rock and roll ticking all the right boxes.

It would be wrong to do them the injustice of spending too long comparing their sound to that of more established acts. With that in mind, let’s just say that their pop sensibilities should appeal to consumers of the more mainstream branches of rock and indie – there are actually, as much as this is a potential bone of contention, echoes of Be Here Now-era Oasis, which are certainly not unwelcome and are subtle enough not to be derivative – while the wistfully introspective lyrical moments and incorporation of quirkier elements into their sound should serve as a draw for the more involved or refined music fan.

—–

As far as criticisms go, for this offering very few are possible. That said, there are consequences of creating such a thematic and whole-sounding debut record which so perfectly encapsulates the sound previously plied on the live circuit.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to see where the band will go from here. As much as what is displayed in this first record is a most impressive achievement, it would be a tragic waste of Rose Parade’s talent and innovation if they didn’t now seek to push their sound in a new direction. How well this goes, only time will tell.

For now, however, the band should be riding high on a wave of success of their own making.

Such a triumphant debut must be celebrated and there could be no better way of doing this than to play the shit out of it at every live opportunity.

Rose Parade is officially released on 18/02/13 through the band’s website, iTunes, Amazon and Play.com.

The band will play an album launch show in Glasgow’s 13th Note on 01/02/13.

Rose Parade on Facebook

Rose Parade on Soundcloud

As far as energetic guitar and drum two-pieces go, the now defunct As In Bear were phenomenal. So, also, are their forebears Bronto Skylift. However, with that said, let’s give Young Philadelphia their due and try to avoid beginning the feature by drawing comparisons between them and – presumably – their influences.

An energetic guitar and drum two-piece, consisting of brothers Jason and Graham Costello, Young Philadelphia – who may or may not be named after the Paul Newman-led 1959 film – are currently making waves in the same pond previously terrorised by Bronto Skylift and As In Bear.

Aye, the operative word in the first paragraph was try, right!?

In setting up, drummer Graham angles himself and his notably sparse kit – clearly having neither the requirement nor the patience for toms, floor or otherwise – an unapologetic ninety degrees left of the position your average stick-merchant would opt to face in the quaint Soviet-themed venue.

The guitarist, on the other hand, doesn’t look to have any intention of joining him on his chosen path of radical positioning and this moves the critical mind to wonder whether this difference in stance might be a metaphor for a soon-to-be-witnessed variation in stage personae.

—–

Upon finishing farting about with his effects pedals and whipping round to face his accomplice, in the process throwing a dirty big bastard of a spanner into the works of the previous proposition, Jason shoots a glance that sees the siblings wire straight into a criminally infectious rumble of percussion melding with chords which then proceeds to crash into a furious ear-splitting din of Converge-like proportions.

Hands fumble for ear plugs – with at least one observer being seen to stuff pieces of ripped up napkins into his lugs – and thus begins a set as abrasive as it is cathartic, seemingly not least for Graham who appears to be utilising his kit as a sort of conduit through which to channel a legion of horrific personal demons. Judging, that is, by his apparent compulsion to attack each of its components with every fibre of his being, bodily flinging himself repeatedly into the meagre percussion station as though intent on actually ploughing through it.

A casual observer happening through the door of Bar Bloc would be forgiven for interpreting the scenario as Jason having taken the stage and deeply immersed himself in a solo guitar performance, which has enraged one spectator to the point where he has hastily assembled half a drum kit and set about piling into it in a sort of “this is what you’d get, ya bastard, if all these people weren’t here” type gesture.

Let’s stay with the analysis of this ferocity for a second, lest it not be done absolute justice…

Fringe flailing, Graham bounces on his drum stool – to an extent that sees him actually rising inches clear of the leather – to ensure that every thrashing blow counts, throwing so much of himself into his performance that he is, at points, close to lying prostrate atop his snare. Each time, he succeeds in regaining his composure for just long enough to scream unintelligibly in the direction of his brother (an entirely futile gesture, given the decibel level, and one made evident only by the contortion of his mouth and visible strain of his throat muscles) before the sheer effort involved in manifesting such aural terror forces his head to loll back down again.

Standing directly in the firing line of this onslaught, Jason succeeds in holding up his end of the performance by harnessing the primal force of the drums and hooking it into a groove reminiscent of that purveyed by early Rage Against the Machine. This, of course, is rendered all the more impressive when one considers how bass-dependent such a sound was and reconciles this notion with the fact that this is just one man with a guitar, responsible not only for injecting melody into the madness but also for pitching his output appropriately in order to be heard over his partner’s fury.

The brothers are an excellent pairing, appearing as a sort of Jekyll and Hyde type entity, with one thoroughly out of control and the other deftly meshing the fruits of this lunacy with his own offerings to create some of the catchiest noise currently doing the rounds.

yp

As regards the audience, reading this may conjure up images of a seething whirlwind of bodies but, although those in the frontlines of the cramped performance space alternate between appreciative nodding and Lemmy-esque devastation of their neck tendons, the crowd as a whole seems rooted to the spot in a sort of trance. So enraptured are the most recent slew of Young Philadelphia converts that it wouldn’t seem entirely outlandish to envision the guitarist passing out tumblers of toxic Kool Aid – without word or expression – and the crowd unquestioningly knocking them back in tandem.

It is obscenely difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins but by the time the performance is halfway through, not a single intelligible word has been spoken. Going by the aforementioned way in which the Bar Bloc patrons stand transfixed by this sensory assault, however, this is an omission that goes entirely unnoticed or unfelt by the majority of the crowd.

Somewhere towards the end of the set,  a list of thank-yous – the first clear oral offering of the evening – paves the way for a segment of pedal manipulation and atmospheric fret-picking, coupled with a sparse series of snare raps, which soon enough careers into another cavalcade of chaotic volume.

As far as the music itself goes, as catchy as it is, it wouldn’t be the first choice for the soundtrack to a long drive or a run. In a live context, however, Young Philadelphia are an awe-inspiring force and positively worthy successors in the Bronto-Bear bloodline.

And what an awesome name!

Young Philadelphia on Facebook

Young Philadelphia on Bandcamp

Churches aren’t really an unsigned act. Their line-up comprising members of Aereogramme, Blue Sky Archives and the Twilight Sad, they are a group who have enjoyed keen label attention since day one. Add to this their purposely sparse online output (one song made available, to date) and secretive demeanour (reportedly under instruction to limit the amount of interviews they grant) and you have a recipe for frenzied hype and extensive expectations.

As such, the excitement proves difficult to contain as the descent of the staircase leading to the Stereo basement culminates in the discovery of a venue already packed to capacity, giving rise to the feasible musing that support act Churches have perhaps served as more of a pull for tonight’s gig than headliners School of Seven Bells.

The cavernous space buzzes with eager chatter and excited conjecture, as skinny-jeaned obscure indie t-shirted types swig from cans of Foster’s and wait for what they clearly hope will turn out to be their very own version of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 Lesser Free Trade Hall gig.

—–

The electro pop trio emit fairly nervous vibes as they make an entrance completely devoid of aplomb, pausing for a second in front of their keyboards and microphones to furtively take in the swelled audience before them.

From the moment Iain and Martin begin to bash out the first notes of the group’s synth-based ditties though, frontwoman Lauren appears to find her ease and sink into the relaxed pursuit of matching her undeniably excellent vocals to the atmospherics provided by her male counterparts.

For reasons which will be outlined later in this feature, it wouldn’t be appropriate to describe any of the members of Churches as being in possession of an onstage persona, per se. However, in saying that, Lauren has certainly made an effort to look the part, resplendent as she is in Lily Allen-esque dress and gold chain combination with eye make-up paying homage to the likes of Adam Ant and David Bowie.

Unfortunately, Lauren is where any regard for appearances or aesthetics comes to an abrupt halt, the other two members clearly preferring to let the music do the talking. Drably dressed and seemingly uninterested in their outward appearance, the guys could easily be two audience members who entered through the wrong door.

It’s not until the second of the songs that Lauren’s Scottish accent begins to shine through and this is one of Churches’ definite positives. Although the vocalist’s origins are plain to hear and she makes no attempt to modify or conceal them when she sings, it is subtle enough that it compliments rather than defines the music of which it forms a part.

It is hugely refreshing not to have the same old clichéd Scottish accent aurally foisted upon you (something numerous West of Scotland bands have recently been guilty of) throughout every song, with all the subtlety of an ALBA bumper sticker, to the extent that the artist actually seems to be putting on their native twang. For their refusal to participate in this despicable crime against the Scottish music scene, Churches are to be applauded.

For the crowd’s part, they appear rapt throughout the performance. However, even the most basic powers of deduction would provide one with niggling doubts as to the trigger for this state. Given that, by the end of the third song, no one onstage has spoken a word and the trudging tempo has remained stiflingly monotonous, it seems that either the crowd are simply ecstatic to be at the epicentre of the Churches hype machine or patiently awaiting the rendition of the one song they’ve already heard and approved.

To return to the aforementioned absence of onstage personas is to highlight the biggest gripe with tonight’s performance. It isn’t just that the members of Churches don’t transform into modern-day Ziggy Stardusts when they take the stage; it’s that their collective performance is bereft of any stage presence whatsoever. When the fortune and speedy rise to fame of the threesome is considered, this lack of vigour feels like an insult to the multitudes of other unsigned Scottish acts who have been plugging away for years in hopes of gaining this sort of profile. Lauren, Iain and Martin should be ecstatic tonight! They should be bouncing off the walls of a room charged with crashing synths and the feeling of a grand unveiling. As it is, this feels more like a shoegaze resurgence for the iTunes generation.

As lacking in momentum or volatility as the performance may be, the first few songs are still fairly enjoyable and, from this, one is spurred to consider that perhaps the chagrin being experienced is just the inevitable disappointment that comes with seeing an enigma made flesh.

After the generation of such mysterious hype, limited interview exposure, secret live appearances under different monikers and the restrained decision to release only one (absolutely mind-blowing) song, the in-person unveiling of Churches – replete with beards, baseball  caps and Sub Club chic – is a sobering sight indeed.

Perhaps if the group hadn’t been so hyped up by all and sundry – before they really got their foot in the live performance door – tonight would be a much more impressive spectacle.

Fuckin’ music bloggers, eh!?

All such ruminations aside, by the penultimate song the hipster melancholia has become inescapably wearing. This is a rainy Sunday night in Glasgow and, the performers being natives of this fair city, they ought to be as aware as anyone that people require a soothing and uplifting antidote for the imminent onset of the Monday comedown. What they don’t need is hipster posturing and post-emo phrase-mongering, à la “there is no violence in your heart.”

The absolute highlight of the evening comes when Fix Up, Look Sharp… – Sorry… Lies – kicks in. The performance of this absolute party-starter of a tune is almost worth the entry fee in itself and very nearly makes up for the drudgery that preceded it, as the volume and impact levels ramp up and the room-quaking bassline and carefree vocal-play see this finale stand in stark contrast to the rest of the set. The motions of the crowd make it clear that this is what everyone here has been waiting for and, if Churches can produce more material of this standard, they are onto a definite winner.

Infinitely superior to the rest of their output and undoubtedly destined to top any ‘Best Newcomer of 2012’ list, this portion of electro pop genius – witnessed in a live setting – makes the move to only release Lies seem suddenly all the more shrewd. Was the limited availability of material actually because they knew that Lies is, to date, their only exceptional song?

There is certainly no denying that it is an absolute banger but, if tonight’s recital can be used as a legitimate marker, the live Churches experience is simply below par for those who like their stage shows lively and their musicians awake.

The vast majority of the material showcased would be better experienced as part of a background playlist in the car, rather than as filler for a live show based around one (albeit phenomenal) hit.

Of course, it may well be the case that Churches are destined to unleash many more hits like Lies and that they’ve naively succumbed to the demands generated by their own hype and embarked upon a stint of live performances before being equipped with enough strong material to back them up.

For now though, the earlier comparison to the ’76 Sex Pistols gig seems like an outright slap in the face to the punk icons (even considering Mr. Rotten’s latter-day transformation from aural terrorist to purveyor of margarine) as, in contrast to the much-documented danger and excitement of that performance, this one is entirely benign.

To invoke Public Enemy’s Chuck D…

“Don’t believe the hype!”

Churches on Facebook

Lies Music Video

Upon reaching the peak of the well-trodden King Tut’s staircase, the first thing that strikes you is how much more open than usual the venue feels, as there are no barriers in front of the stage or guarding the steps up to the sound desk. This gives the already very intimate setting an even more personal feel for the evening and the Hector Bizerk logos adorning every wall serve to remind you exactly why you’re here.

Tonight is the official album launch for the, of late, hotly-tipped duo’s freshly-pressed Drums. Rap. Yes. offering and, as such, now seems as good a time as any to provide some coverage of how far the pair have come in the eight months since their last appearance in these pages.

“Are you ready to go Hector!?” challenges frontman Louie, instigating a deafening chant of “Hector! Hector! Hector Bizerk!” which reverberates around the room until the group see fit to strike up the first track from their new album, also titled Drums. Rap. Yes. Although this – along with selected other cuts from the album – was only leaked this week, both crowd and entertainers immediately enter into a flawless call and response routine which sees the set’s first offering quickly metamorphose into a sort of rallying call for the ferociously fanatical fanbase which has amassed throughout the group’s journey towards where they currently stand. Even at this very early stage in the proceedings, it is perfectly clear that King Tut’s belongs to them for tonight.

By the time the second number (the inimitable Burst Love) punches into life, the aforementioned lack of barriers has become absolutely impossible to ignore, mainly due to the onstage presence of Louie. Exercising his customary command of the room, tonight he immerses himself in a performance that evokes a persona even more captivating and confrontational than usual, seeming to push further into the collective face of the audience with every beat. With no barrier between frontman and crowd and such a volatile atmosphere of barely-restrained mania, the interaction – visually, at least – bears more resemblance to a street brawl than a gig.

Meanwhile, Audrey weaves her typical effortless mastery of the beat, with a resolutely self-assured and professional air. Where Louie is the born frontman of the two, Audrey is the calm and collected driving force to match, and this idea echoes in their stage positioning which sees Louie launching his lyrical assaults from the frontlines as Audrey maintains rhythmic control from the rear.

—–

Already, a couple of developments are apparent since last time. For one, the self-referencing which permeates their set suggests a massive progression in self-belief. No five minute segment of stage-time goes by without a chant of “Hector Bizerk” or the tossing around of the “Drums. Rap. Yes.” credo and, although this would be an embarassingly limp display if the crowd’s response wasn’t up to scratch, Louie and Audrey’s loyal subjects do exactly what is expected of them with absolute gusto, each time positively roaring back whatever the moment calls for.

The other, perhaps even more blatantly obvious, change from the Scottish hip-hop outfit’s earlier days is that the duo appears to have – in some instances, at least – become a foursome. For selected live dates (tonight included) and some of the tracks featured on their new album, Louie and Audrey are joined by Jen Muir, for keys and percussion, and Fraser Sneddon on bass. The original impetus for these additions was a result of the confirmation of T in the Park and Wickerman appearances, where it seems the duo were concerned their original line-up wouldn’t sound sonically full enough. As such, the occasional inclusion of these other members appears to be more the equivalent of taking a backing band on tour than a genuine alteration to the group’s permanent set-up.

Nonetheless, it would be easy to succumb to a mixture of feelings, as regards this – albeit tentative and impermanent – shake-up of musical personnel. The intention behind it is understandable enough and, if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, it seems to work in a live context. However, when it comes to recorded efforts, it could be suggested that moving away from the admirable and innovative ‘one MC, one drummer’ set-up also acts as a movement away from their roots and the raw, visceral sound that came from such a stripped-back arrangement.

Drums. Rap. Yes.  works just fine, without letting it turn into Drums. Rap. Keyboards. Bassist. Etc.

In fairness, if looked at objectively, it is plain to see how the Hector Bizerk blueprint could generate fears of a sound that is a bit sparse or empty but, subjectively, Louie is a gifted enough lyricist – and Audrey a talented enough stickswoman – that each bar hits with such unparallelled force, as to make any other input – however adept – surplus to requirements.

—–

The crowd has become a seething, frenzied rabble by the end of Burst Love and, as Let it Go strikes up, the ominous shaking of the second-floor venue is becoming more than a niggling concern. As the song progresses, though, unperturbed and kind-hearted volunteers begin to work their way through the uproarious throng of bodies, distributing Hector Bizerk masks which are willingly snapped up and immediately held aloft by all recipients.

The remainder of this already treacherous task is rendered completely futile, however, when there is a sudden furious surge backwards, as Louie – seemingly out of nowhere – brandishes a flag that is simply much too large for the confines of a space like King Tut’s, bearing the legend:

DRUMS.

RAP.

YES.

HECTOR BIZERK.

This heralds the arrival of what is undoubtedly the evening’s most poignant and uplifting moment, as Louie alternates between waving the flag with reckless abandon and standing rapping with with it propped up over one shoulder. Against their best intentions, all present are immediately part of a moment of pure patriotism and pride as the forerunners of Scottish hip-hop literally fly their flag. It is the poetic nature of this scene, coupled with the sight of a frontman so utterly devoid of the slightest shred of self-doubt or inhibition, that turns the already insanely rowdy crowd almost feral and gives rise to a certain excited concern that the good-natured swaying and stumbling of the more inebriated contingents could turn slightly nasty. This is not to suggest that the atmosphere becomes unsettling, so much as it is an acknowledgement of the materialisation of the familiar, and almost welcome, sense of danger that comes with the emergence of anything exciting from the underground to the mainstream.

—–

You can almost hear the hearts of the crowd sink as Louie announces that The Rhythm Theory will be “the last tune of the night” and, likewise, feel the elation as the voracious requests for “ONE MORE TUNE!” are granted.

As Audrey jumps back astride the drums for a solo that sees the metaphorical spotlight focussed firmly on her, Louie takes the opportunity to introduce each member onstage in a gesture of professionalism that exceeds the group’s years and experience. The audience are then treated to an encore of Sometimes I Wonder, which feels as though it was made for this exact moment of triumph, dripping as it is with cocksure lyrics – “sometimes I wonder what other people’s problem is” – and knowingly faux-arrogant posturing, courtesy of the “what? what? what?” refrain.

At this precise juncture – with crowd in a seething uproar, drums reaching a crescendo, Hector masks waving frantically and frontman standing before his subjects, replete with billowing flag – Hector Bizerk feel like an act that long ago outgrew this size of venue and have merely returned to pay homage to their humble beginnings.

The conduct of the performers and response of the crowd make tonight feel like the inauguration of Louie and Audrey as bona fide superstars and it would be easy to attribute this boost in confidence and fan loyalty to their recent high-profile support slots and festival appearances. However, to do so would be to take away from how tirelessly the pair have worked to get to where they are. The Hector Bizerk legend has been built through their own sweat, toil and dedication and tonight sees that legend take the headlining slot it rightfully deserves.

Perhaps the most telling moment of the evening, in this respect, comes with the line “we like yer tunes but you sound like a ned” in the track entitled Niche II. Back when the twosome were starting out, this seemed a candidly astute observation of their biggest hurdle. Now, however, it seems like a whimsical throwback to an obstacle that’s been brutally kicked to pieces and then smashed in the chops with a Bucky bottle for good measure.

Listen to Drums. Rap. Yes.

Hector Bizerk on Facebook

First impressions of tonight’s headliners having been derived entirely from the experience of listening to their track Cynthia on a late-night drive home from a gig in Pivo Pivo, during which the atmospherics of the music seemed to perfectly tie in with the passing darkened scenery, a very high level of expectation has already been cemented.

With this in mind, there lingers the consequent concern that the live performance simply won’t be able to live up to this pre-set standard and said fear isn’t at all abated by the levels of hype that have quickly built up around the instrumental output of the post-rock four-piece.

In recent months, Vasa have been hotly tipped as ones to watch, but seemingly only in more involved musical circles. As a result, the boys seem to be the generators of a subtler buzz than others in the Overlook stable, coming across as something of the connoisseur’s choice of Glasgow Indie.

As bassist John, drummer Alex and guitarists Blaine and Scott ready themselves to perform, one microphone stand remains conspicuously on the stage. Presumably, this is intended to be used for nothing past introductions, between-song banter and pleasantries. These early gigs might, however, posit a stronger statement of intent and exude a higher level of confidence in their set-up if the idea of on-stage mics was dispensed with entirely.

Of course, the accuracy of such a musing remains to be seen…

Without an introduction, Vasa spark up their set and instantly succeed in establishing both a mellow tone and an atmosphere that seems to simmer with a sort of expert restraint, subtly suggesting the deluges of distortion that will soon flood forth. The ability to create an engaging atmosphere is, of course, something a strictly instrumental band could not possibly survive without and, although this first song holds the small crowd enraptured, there is the distinct impression that the absence of vocal hooks and post-10pm stage-slot on a Thursday night (the spiritual start of the Scottish weekend) mean they will have to pull something else out of the bag pretty soon.

Happily, they soon do just that as they lead wordlessly into a second song that eviscerates the previously mellow vibe with a veritable crash of sheer noise and lighting-rig insanity, which lasts just long enough to assert that this is not a set during which to rest on laurels, before the onlookers are just as abruptly lulled back into a calm slumber-like state.

This same transition is soon orchestrated again, as The Art School is pulled gradually but assuredly into a particularly grungy segment which soon sees eardrums assailed by guitars that whistle maliciously and seem to goad those gathered into downing the remainder of their drinks and crusading deeper towards the front of the crowd.

The next song is vocally introduced and, as predicted, this undeniably acts as an unfortunate detraction from the hitherto established mystique. As if in a conscious effort to counter this, however, the songs have been becoming gradually more atmospheric – undeniably aided by the simplistic yet striking lighting dynamics – and cavernous venue.

At one point in the proceedings, the drummer sees fit to dispose of enough garments to facilitate a scenario where each enthusiastic drumbeat threatens to set chebs a-shoogle and each break in rhythmic proceedings grants the opportunity to flex and set the ladies’ pulses a-quiver. Although this noticeably contrasts with the plaid-shirt and sensible t-shirt aesthetics of his bandmates, it serves as a gentle but decisive nod towards a rockstar mindset. This is echoed when the last song sees one of the guitarists abandoning the stage and backing a determined path through the small crowd, thereby exploiting a renowned Sixteen Sixteen Six soft spot and certifying a positive response with regards to Vasa’s capacity for showmanship.

In terms of professionalism, the guys handle their share of the technical issues – which have unfortunately plagued tonight’s gig – admirably and without any diva moments, even when a cymbal crashes from its stand and comes worryingly close to decapitating Alex.

It is notable that this same decorum was distinctly lacking in the members of one of the earlier acts on tonight’s bill who succeeded in sullying the evening with a disappointing display of supercilious twattery, in which other performers were openly belittled. As such, the maturity of the Vasa contingent wound up seeming all the more admirable, as their performance managed to neutralise the negative tone that could easily have continued to permeate the event.

If a band opts to entirely omit vocals from their repertoire, they have to ensure that the rest of their output does enough talking to compensate (as intimated in 2011’s As In Bear feature) and, judging by tonight’s performance, it seems safe to say that Vasa have given this careful consideration and prepared accordingly.

The fact that they choose not to make a song (no pun intended) and dance out of their instrumental tendencies shows they don’t feel they owe any explanation for this choice and this plays hugely in their favour. In all honesty, the inescapably haunting atmospheric guitar work that threads through their performance serves as a perfectly sufficient vocalisation of both meaning and intent.

Further to this, a definite upside to the lack of a vocalist in their line-up lies in the scope this allows for the challenging of the traditional stage set-up. Given the absence of an ostensible frontman, Vasa’s bassist doesn’t seem at all out of place in his centre-stage position and, visually, this provides a very welcome break from the norm.

This is, however, not to say that certain precautions should not be taken. Although tonight’s gig worked very well, it has to be considered that it fell on a night when the audience were free to move on to their choice of club afterwards. This is fortunate because Vasa definitely don’t work as the crescendo of the evening.

By no means is this intended as a slight against their performance, which was outstanding. It is merely an acknowledgement that this is not music to go apeshit to. Sure, there are blindingly heavy moments but they’re utilised as part of a running theme of intelligent musical contrast, rather than as a call to arms for the exorcism of the week’s pent-up rage through flailing limbs and thrashing heads.

The material, although proficient and engaging, comes across more as something to be enjoyed pre-night out, whilst one readies one’s self for a chaotic trawl of some seedy club, or post-night out, as heads nod through smoky senses and trance-like mind states.

As such, Vasa should continue to monitor their placement on prospective bills and ensure that they continue to be given the chance to perform in segments where there music will function best.

That said, tonight was exactly what one would expect from Vasa – based on their recorded work and growing reputation – and, as a result, it seems currently safe to believe the hype.

They should definitely dingy the microphone though!

Vasa on Facebook

Listen to Vasa

There’s a scene in the pilot episode of The Sopranos where Tony confides in Dr Melfi that he feels it best “to be in on something from the ground floor.” That line holds particular resonance in the context of this long overdue feature on the currently ubiquitous Glasgow outfit known as Crusades.

Imagine, if you will, that you first became aware of Crusades when you noticed they were sharing a bill with The Darien Venture in The Captain’s Rest at the beginning of April. Imagine you were at this gig and toyed with the idea of reviewing this early performance. Then imagine that an unfortuate coupling of youthful excitement and contraband tonic wine intervened, leaving you present in body, but not quite in mind, and you consequently failed to pay the attention required to complete such a heady feat of wordsmanship.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and you’re now relieving yourself in a Bar Bloc toilet cubicle when your eyes wander to your immediate left and you’re greeted with the sight of a familiar moniker emblazoned above a crudely scrawled iron cross:

Your first reaction is to peruse the resultant graffitied argument about the – most likely misconstrued – racist overtones of the etching and your high-tops are very nearly doused in your own urine as derisive laughter ripples forth, inspired by the sheer redundancy of directing moral outrage at something daubed on a toilet wall.

However, when the mirth generated by this exericse in futility eventually subsides, it strikes you that you’ve missed a chance to be in on the ground floor here…

The fact that these guys have only been gigging since March and already have some guerrilla toilet promotion to commend them suggests that it’s too late to tip them as the next big thing. There is also the very real concern that they have now been too hyped up to be viewed from a truly impartial standpoint and that the expectations that have already amassed can only lead to disappointment.

It is what it is, however, and you decide to strap on a pair and head to the delightfully dilapidated basement dive that is Nice ‘N’ Sleazy for their next gig.

Crusades are opening tonight’s bill and their early starting time finds them sitting around a table in front of the stage, in a room that is close to deserted, with five minutes left until they’re due to perform.

Possibly as a result of this disappointing initial turnout, the evening’s itinerary is delayed slightly and a slightly more respectable crowd has amassed by the time the guys have taken the stage and offered “We’re Crusades!” as their formal introduction.

A cacophony of feedback heralds the beginning of their set and a throng of bodies dutifully, almost instinctively, surge forward and arrange themselves in what quickly becomes an auditory firing line as the basis for Crusades’ burgeoning reputation for seismic volume is made abundantly clear. Sonically, the four-piece resemble self-titled era Alexisonfire, except with vocals that inescapably resemble those belonging to Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz and an aggression and urgency more reminiscent of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Visually, though, Crusades are something of an anomaly. The Dillinger comparison can be extended to the physique of their heavily-tattooed frontman, who cuts an intimidating figure as he finger taps and screeches his way through what is devastatingly brutal opening salvo. Supporting this aggressive stance, the guitarist – who seems the most volatile of the bunch – positively rockets around the stage for the duration of the song. On the other hand, sharing a stage with this frantic coupling, drummer and bassist seem to favour much more reserved personas and keep their movement levels fairly moderate at first.

This isn’t quite the instant all-out explosion initially expected and this is where those insidious expectations begin to rear their ugly head and the worries begin to set in.

Have they become lacklustre?

Is that golden period of innocent enthusiasm and unbridled aggression already over?

Are they becoming too full of themselves and feeling a sting of indignation at being on first?

Mercifully, these concerns prove to be unfounded as the boys’ stride seems to ride in on the wave of tonight’s first breakdown, which proves to be the first of many. It is the pristine execution of these insanely heavy moments that show how strikingly tight and well-rehearsed the outfit are and, by the time they near the end of this first number, the room is positively shaking.

As they take a second to tune up between the first two songs, they address what they label “a bit of a crazy start” and there is a palpable hope that this is not a sign that they’re about to tone anything down.

All such fears are instantly allayed as the second unnamed song proves to be shorter in length but definitely equal in violence. It is now clear that those in search of regular helpings of melody are in the wrong place entirely. The word “pummel” seems to flash relentlessly across the field of subliminal vision throughout the set, as Crusades proceed to crank up the aggression and fire forth their wonderfully cathartic post hardcore assault.

Although the majority of their material feels quite similar, this isn’t necessarily a negative in itself. Their output is less about variety and more concerned with sheer ferocity and, with this considered, a little more vigour from the rhythm section could only serve to further enhance the live experience. To be fair, though, they are at a very young stage in their development as a band and it is perfectly plausible that the members in question have opted to focus on cementing their groove before they start to segue into the ferocious kinetics exhibited by their guitarist. There is certainly no question that everyone is pulling their weight musically.

As a concise but captivating five-song set comes to an abrupt close, it becomes clear just how unfounded any initial concerns were and just how unfair it perhaps was to arrive at a gig expecting an opening act to ignite from the first chord. As it was, the boys positively combusted from the second song onwards and this stands as testament to the sheer force that is Crusades.

It all just adds to the regret of not having paid more attention to that Captain’s Rest performance…

Crusades on Facebook

Listen to Crusades