So, another trip over Pont Hafren to the Cube. This time though, somewhat disappointing.
First off, I’m in a quandary. In my last review (also my first) I was critical of Group Doueh. When it came to Doueh though, I’m generally in awe but just didn’t dig it on the night. I thought I was fair in my personal assessment.
This time though I actually thought the main band kinda sucked. I don’t like the idea of just writing negative reviews (especially when the very nice promoters were kind enough to let me in gratis) but it really didn’t happen for me last night.
First off was Sleeping States. Opening with looped voice creating a shifting chord underneath song poem with a kind of vegan hip-hop feel and occasional vocal harmonies. Quite lovely, even to an old cynic like me.
For the second song guitar and bass entered the fray. Frontman, Markland Starkie, has an interesting guitar approach. It’s not really anything technical I can put my finger on but he’s not just playing in that standard way teenagers pick up playing Oasis covers. It moves quite fluidly and isn’t afraid of being a little jazzy or blue or even dissonant in places. The lady on bass played a simple riff underpinning the songs movements. For me though, this went a little awry. The bass was looped, in my mind unnecessarily, but it went wrong (hey, I’ve had my own fair share of looping disasters) and kept throwing the song off a little each time. The bass player had nothing to do during this process leading me to wonder why she didn’t just play bass? Anyway, turns out the song ends with a crescendo but with the fucked up loop they couldn’t quite catch their cue. The song was abandoned and started again from somewhere near the end. The bass was looped again and this time the rhythm was fine (though there was a weird open note at the end of each loop which was distracting, especially now I was focussed on this bloody looping situation), cues were hit and we find out why the bass player didn’t just play bass. It was so she could hit a cymbal and shake a shaker for about 10 seconds marking the end of the song. Seemed like a waste of time to me, there’s got to be a better way of accomplishing the same thing.
Anyway, things got back on track after this. The whole thing was a shambles but I was reminded of Pavement a little at times and it was definitely endearing. I also heard echoes of Arab Strap and even Bark Psychosis. There were nice moments where noisy toys, field recordings and radio static were introduced to pickup coil. These moments never quite hit their full potential but it was nice to see a band playing around, taking little risks and keeping things interesting. If you haven’t come across them before they may be worth a punt.
Next, Disappears. I was looking forward to this. I knew nothing of them but with Steve Shelly and, on paper, a lot to get excited about I thought I was in for a treat. They were pretty boring though I’m afraid. Having never heard anything of them previously I don’t know if this is just me, a blip on their part or something else entirely. First off, the frontman’s guitar sounded weak. I don’t know whether this was an aesthetic choice or a technical problem but I’ve never heard a Jazzmaster sound so thin. The bass player walked the numbers and the lead guitarist rocked the fuzzed up wah too much for my comfort. There wasn’t much stage vibe. Maybe the Cube wasn’t really the right environment for them and some sweaty little club with the repetitive riffage really pummelling you would work better. The volume never took you over, you never got lost in the noise, it all seemed a bit weak and arrogant.
About halfway through things opened up a little, Shelley’s drumming seemed to have a little more room to breathe and some of the songs lifted above the murk.
Overall I didn’t dig. The audience seemed to enjoy it though and were calling for an encore. I’m sorry to say I left before they came back on stage.