I walk into the downstairs room in Clwb Ifor Bach 5 minutes or so before Islet are due on stage. It’s empty. Worrying. The band shuffle stagewards and by the time they get there a crowd has appeared out of the woodwork behind me. Phew.
The threesome of Emma (ex Victorian English Gentlemens Club), Mark (Attack + Defend, Crimesss) and JT (Attack + Defend, Them Squirrels) kick things off sounding like the spooky country post-rock of Sophia, Emma and JT sharing vocal duties. Marks is tapping the drums with his hands. The sound then explodes and continues to explode until it ends with him smashing the drumkit like a methadrone fuelled fraggle. Good start.
This band aren’t going for any look or to be part of any scene, JT takes the stage in a sweater that any geography teacher would be proud of (it gets discarded before the second song ends as he clambers behind the second drum kit). Their mix of post-rock atmospherics, frenetic (double) drumming, Pixies backing yelps and skewed indie rock melody means that they’re as likely to appeal to Jonny and Will indiekid, as they are to middle class All Tomrrows Party going Robert W James and Pippy Stocking Love-Muffin (or any other of Paula Yates’ children) as they are to John Cale. Or even fans of John Cale. Music for all.
Aside from the actual music, they’re incredibly entertaining to watch. There is instrument swapping at every turn but this isn’t stop start, it flows fantastically well (‘seamless’ as a punter exclaimed afterwards) even though all three members take turns drumming. Mark has turned into a proper frontman too, from his guitar wanderings to his wild hand gestures and slightly disturbing, rodent up the arse, vibrating. He’s come a long way from looking a bit like a Scouser from The Zutons in the early days of A+D.
This band have the imagination, talent and tunes to at least hit the Radar section of the NME, I can’t predict they’ll be any bigger than that because the record buying public seem to like Kings Of Leon. Fucking idiots.
On to the headliners then. Right Hand Left Hand take to the stage in band t-shirts. Yey! InteriorMonologue’s lazy journalism is given a lifeline. Drummer ‘Bernie’ Plain is sporting a Battles shirt, bandmate Rhodri Viney has plumped for Explosions In The Sky. As a reference point for this band’s sound this is pretty fucking good.
Rhodri actually looks like a member of Carter USM, long sleeve top underneath the t-shirt and a King Of The Mountains polka dot cyclists cap. The cyling theme continues throughout with songs dedicated to Tom Simpson (30 November 1937–13 July 1967. Simpson was an English road racing cyclist who died of exhaustion on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 13th stage of the Tour de France in 1967. The post mortem found that he had taken amphetamines and alcohol, a diuretic combination which proved fatal when combined with the heat, the hard climb of the Ventoux and a stomach complaint.), Djamolidine Abdoujaparov (born 28 February 1964 in Tashkent, Abdoujaparov is a former professional road racing cyclist from Uzbekistan. Abdoujaparov was a sprinter, nicknamed “The Tashkent Terror” as he was so ferocious in the sprints. His unorthodox and often erratic sprinting caused a number of crashes.) and Mark Cavendish (Fast Isle of Man dude).
The music itself is layer upon layer of guitar chords, riffs and effects on a bed of mechanical and amazingly tight drumming (see Battles t-shirt). Half way through the set the two members swap instruments and Rhodri becomes the fifth drummer of the evening. Despite the fact that there are only two of them and one is staring down at a bank of guitar pedals, they are agsin, captivating to watch. Even when both have their backs to the audience and are actually playing the effects pedals at one another, they can still hold your attention.
RHLH were born while the two members heard Trans Am for the first time in a dingy club in Groningen, they pay their respects by covering the band’s song Slow Response, it fits perfectly into their set. The evening then ends in fitting style with Rhodri screaming into his guitar strings and looping it to create a cresendo of spine tingling, wailing noise. Good finish.
As the gig was billed as a boxing bout I’m going to call it a draw and wait for the rematch.