My last experience of Sound Control was one of haze and magic… Tame Impala spun a show of genuine sonic delight last year with Sound Control providing the perfect setting for such Antipodean wonder. Tonights line up had a lot to live up to… But with the 8 piece bulk of new-to-my-ears Kult Country, the known explosive live show of Hookworms and the much anticipated landing of new garage psych leaders Wooden Shjips, the promise was most apparent.The buzz leading up to tonights show was blindingly evident as a lengthy stream of trendies, cool dads, sound engineer types and various fragments of the music loving public, poured out of the venue along New Wakefield Street. Great for Mr. Sound Control’s takings, but the queueing delay meant for our late arrival to Kult Country’s opening set.
A packed crowd had assembled for the 8 piece band who were well in to a grandiose and anthemic number. Squeezing three guitars, a bass, drums, a floor tom playing backing vocalist, congas and organs/ synths in to the mix, Kult Country have a full sound with a heavy impact. The Arcade Fire sized ensemble flirt with scuzzy noise psychedelia of the Animal Collective variety with nods towards a Spiritualized grandeur. The make up of their songs has a tendency to lean towards a bulky college-rock, Pavement-esque dourness which grossly weighs their extravagant set up down. I want to be blown away by Kult Country’s large projection of sounds, but the lack of energy, drive and groove leaves me reserving my head bobbing neck muscles for the Hookworms and Shjips to come.
I can’t help but think of them as a “Young Ones” of noisy psychedelic rock. A collective of post students who’ve been thrown together and don’t quite blend. The Mancunian looking-Noel-Gallagher-chopping guitarist, the grungy slacker lead singer, the curly haired and distant one, the timid girl, the other guitarist, Bez on conga’s, the big lad drummer and the beardy 60’s organ/ synth player. I sincerely don’t mean this as a needless jibe, it’s merely the type of observation that comes from a lack of connection with their music…This of course coming from a review-writing-has been drummer with a strong inability to grow a beard as good as Kult Country’s Organ player. That said, there’s the means to build something big with this bands set up and I do believe there’s more to come from them. More to distinguish their sound and songwriting from the mediocre.
A quick break in the incredibly well-attended and sold-out smoking area (Shjips fans love a smoke)… Observe students cheers-ing £6.50 buckets of beer like American teens (good idea or sickening moment?)… And back up to the front (ish) in wait of Hookworms.
The Leeds band assemble and instantly begin to build there hazy bubble of sound. Their line up has a certain symmetry and sonic balance to it which sits so agreeably with your eyes and ears. The Michael Cera looking drummer keeps an unfathomable tight beat to match the driving bass lines of his cool and steady bass-playing ryhthm-section compatriot. A solid Krautrock backbone to the Hookworms sound, allowing guitarists at either side of the stage to thrash out scuzzy chain saw riffs with a fully-committed energy. Whilst our central conductor, surrounded by synths, pedals, oscillators, samples and the like, preaches heavy reverb vocals like a mad professor leading this sonic journey.
There continuous flow of sound and abundance of energy on stage seems to be at its peak right now. Their 40 minute set worth the ticket price alone. Drawing influence from Can, Neu!, LCD Soundsystem and the Fall, Hookworms bring an explosive set I’d highly recommend.
Another quick break then. The smoking area’s now one in one out. The reluctance to buy a bucket of Fosters remains. And a struggle to the front allows for Wooden Shjips anticipation…
The four piece assemble and kick straight in to a tirade of driving noise to the delight of the crowd. Everything vibrates. A friend recalled afterwards how even his trousers were vibrating. Their sound is like a water tight and relentless rhythmic chainsaw cutting through the over complex fluff of many a psych-rock offerings… You’re blasted in to a trance like state of head-bobbing. Those neck muscles are pushed to the limit. Your mind wanders through the dream like visions of a perpetual ghost train journey. The band themselves describe their music as “transformative and transporting, the sum being greater than it’s parts… a literal and metaphorical journey into the vastness”. And as you’re sent in to a trance like state, you buy in to this schtick willingly.
The success and wide-ranging appeal of the Wooden Shjips sound stems from the bands triumphant ability to dispense a minimalist extension, to what so many great psych-garage-kraut-drone acts have built a platform for. From Suicide, to Soft Machine, to Silver Apples, to Can, to Neu!, et al, an ideology has been created. Shjips evolve these foundations into something which feels relevant and contemporary. With a whirlwind live spectacle to back up their philosphies, you can’t help but feel that they have already, and will continue to, act as the current fathers of this sound for future bands to come.
During the latter stages of the set, the demanding journey did become somewhat tiresome. A desire for a final destination began to linger. Neck muscles longing for a break. Without the means for a big finish, the tirade of chainsaw guitars and trance inducing rhyhtm section drew to a close, with a worthy applause from an audience ready for a pit stop. Tiredness however can not detract from what has been an inspiring and relentless journey of sonic exploration.
Photography by Eddie “Cakes” Furniss.