Monday, 20 July 2015

Review: Mugstar, Dead Sea Apes & You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons (Cardinal Fuzz Night) @ The Cube Cinema, Bristol, 11/07/2015

When you find that your day has become oddly juxtaposed as the boundaries and assumed expectations to your evening begin to dissolve and warp you know that the psych gig you’ve just arrived at is going to be a good one.

Heading to the venue from the station after a day at the seaside (our brains were set to “build sand fort” mode rather than “melt”), coupled with the fact that The Cube was an unknown entity to us prior to this evening meant we arrived slightly late. After admiring and noting the warm and welcoming atmosphere of our new home for the next few hours, we proceeded to charge confusedly into the intimate cinema venue. Assuming to be greeted with the backs of many anonymous heads we instead found ourselves directly between the audience and long-named opener, You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.

After stumbling to some seats, at the back of the venue, adjusting to the surroundings, and distracted by the projected visuals behind the band (which I now know to be the Japanese film House (1977)), I think I’ll be forgiven for unfairly assuming the band to be a typical run of the mill, “psych” band. In fact, that’s far from the truth.

After a quick midway switch between the drummer and guitarist (now guitarist and drummer) the four piece led into a driving, acid drenched, Sabbath-esque track, which at times sounded almost Lynchian. This Lynchian influence seemed to crop up again later, Throne Control, off new album Population IV, would not have been out of place in Twin Peaks, The Pink Room scene.

You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons - Throne Control

A quick guitar change due to a broken string, left the three remaining members to provide instrumentation to an evil cat painting, arms in fish bowls and a person stuck in piano which was currently kicking off in the background. After this short interlude the group led into a more post-rock oriented track, boasting a greater emotional depth than many of their peers can offer.

I’ll confess to not being able to hear the vocals once throughout, but it certainly didn't detract from the performance.

Dead Sea Apes opt for a slower, reverb laden, albeit heavy affair. Accompanied by Fantastic Planet (1973), the slow stop motion, giant blue people somehow synced perfectly with these droney tracks. The band threw out a couple of new tracks from their forthcoming Spectral Domain. The first, starting out with drone and distortion, developed, without much urgency into a more formal, raga progression with spaced out synth. The second new airing arrived with a shimmering cymbals opening, building slowly, before exploding and gently retreating, perfectly summarising the Dead Sea Ape style.

Dead Sea Apes - Planetarium

The visual pairings throughout the show were a real joy, unsettling though mesmerising, a feast for the senses. And it wasn't just the musical and visual that offered perceptual delights, even the smell of the venue was conjuring up long since forgotten places (it smelt like the church hall in the small Staffordshire village we grew up in if you were wondering). Whilst the heat of the room just made it that slight bit more intense.

Headliner, Mugstar provide a warm and immersive fuzzy psych sound, the driving repetitive type. Unfortunately that warmth tonight felt somewhat stunted, as the band were projected starkly against the greys and browns of the theatre, lacking the visual accompaniment that the two previous acts had sound tracked. We had turned on, but tuning in was appearing to be a more difficult affair.

Serra brought the motorik groove to the evening, seeing the band take stride. A loose guitar cable somewhere meant a switching from clean to crackled distortion again holding the band back from greatness. Whist this extra-distorted sound was not unpleasant, far from it, the sporadic nature of the affair was jarring, withholding the transcendence attained only via long, repetitive, fuzzy sounds.

Mugstar – Serra

Fortunately, the essence of this heightened state of consciousness was glimpsed later in the gig. Unfortunately, this was in their final track. Settling into a swirling plateau mid-way through its duration, it subsequently locked back into its pummelling groove, finally exploding and threatening to take the roof off.

It was a fantastic evening, though if I were to make a single constructive criticism, it would be the all-male weighting of the acts on. Having seen Sex Swing (a fractal monstrosity, summoning the creation and destruction of the universe with every punishing track, and featuring Jase Stoll of Mugstar) a few weeks previous at the fantastic Supersonic Festival in Birmingham, their highly testosterone heavy stage presence was counter balanced quite perfectly by all female jazz/noise/improv, Danish quartet Selvhenter the following day. Repetition may rule, but I like my psychedelia with variety!

After leaving the venue and commencing the long walk, the delightful afterglow began to wear off as the ratio of awareness between warm feeling and sand covered itchiness began to shift.


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