23 November
Eagle Inn

A drizzly Monday night on the cusp of December is never going to be a great time to stage a gig, but Gizeh Records hit the bullseye by placing the Canadian producer Loscil over the Irwell in the intimate climes of the Eagle Inn.

Touring an ambient set performed by hunching over a blinking circuit board and laptop, Scott Morgan’s silhouette is secondary to the film screen and its nautical themes on which pupils are trained. His songs have been a hit with filmmakers, who’ve twigged his potential for inclusion on numerous scores, but this time Morgan can construct a narrative of his own.

Listening at home to a wordless sound carver like Loscil, it’s easy to conjure your own imagery, so in a sense a live show with visuals is akin to seeing the film of the book, projecting set pictures where previously your mind’s eye could develop visions independently. But then again, witnessing what the artist envisaged can crystallise what was once fragmented, so frothing waves are an apt guise for last year’s Sea Island LP.

Watching through the wiry mesh of the venue’s balcony, there’s the added sensation of entrapment and imminent capture as gentle sirens reel you into pulsating bass lines. The introductory steamy, shuffling slumber is pierced by shuddering rib ticklers to stamp his mark on the evening and anchor the set. In the audience there’d be a tendency to drift with the minimalistic rhythms, but for an hypnotic, beacon-like circle in the centre of the screen, evoking The Prisoner’s policing bubble and fluctuating in intensity to match the sonic ebb and flow.

His set seems short at the end, but perhaps this reflects a desire to continue onwards, engulfed by the voyage, rather than walk away to drier pastures.

Ian Pennington


15 November
Fuel Café

It's a dark, wet, blowy Sunday night as winter draws ever closer, one on which, thankfully, we can go to a gig without wondering if we will get out of the place alive. The red-painted walls of Fuel provide the background for a delay to the working week, but only in the mind. The clock will tick down to the Monday morning alarm call, but squeezing drops of enjoyment from the last seconds of the weekend is always pleasurable. Well, only at the time.

There seemed to be a number of like-minded individuals witnessing a packed schedule of seven performers crammed tightly into a four-hour slot, deserving a more high-profile blitz of publicity. This Black Kite promotion was free entry as well.

Rosalie Warner, aka Rosalie 23, performed seated before an expectant crowd of supporters, who made the trek to Withington only to leave immediately after her set. Caressing the 23 strings of her harp, she exposed her inner emotions to a rapt audience, asking rhetorically, “Would you have stayed?” She knows the answer, and that’s why her listeners are here – to bear witness to her personal tales of lost dreams or broken hearts. There’s beauty in a voice that could break glass, but in a venue as intimate this it could be considered overpowering.

Anyone thinking the event could fade peacefully into the night has never encountered three bands which thrive on putting the ‘I’ into intensity. The first of these is Shitlips, featuring one of the night’s promoters, Brandon Smith. Not wishing to overstay their welcome, they blast out ten minutes of noise that annihilates brain cells.

A series of brutal beats from Saltwater Injection ups the levels. The bare-chested drummer, Paul-Joseph Soames, offered to play Beyoncé before the ensuing blitzkrieg of noise, during which bassist Joseph-Paul Nuttall stood with his feet apart to provide the rock-solid foundation to attack his low-slung instrument. The melee ended with the surreal image of Soames tickling someone's chin before lying on the wooden floor.

Shortly after 11pm, a few people emerged from the crowd, walked across to the few remaining instruments, exchanged knowing glances, then began delivering one of the most intense sets I’ve experienced in a while – well, since Saltwater Explosion.

If Saltwater Explosion are like a fireworks display that can take off in any direction, then Locean have the methodology of demolition experts who each know their role is and how to go about their task. It’s an unrelenting aural attack, especially as the first element is well over seven minutes, if my video recording is anything to go by.

One guitarist stood at the front with his back to the crowd, whilst Lauren Bolger screamed out visceral urgings, including “die” at least six times in succession. Violent drumming, along with a second guitarist who seemed to be trying for a world record number of chords played within 10 minutes, were further supplemented by a keyboardist who channelled all amp outputs via the distort setting.

Is it Monday already?

Ged Camera

Photos of Saltwater Explosion (inset) and Locean (background) by Ged Camera.

TV Wonder

7 November
Fuel Café

Short, sharp blasts of annoyingly infectious, raw sounds from the first band of the night, Duds, drew a crowd rapidly up the stairs at Fuel. These musicians have no connection with the duo who went under the same name back in 2008. This group would have barely been able to get a soft drink in a pub back then but, spookily, one guitarist does know the other bands’ members.

There is a saying that it’s all about quality rather than quantity, so the 15-minute set, meshing vibes from Talking Heads with The Cramps to pleasing effect set the evening off to a good start. Perhaps the band wanted to catch the Smith versus Fielding fight on TV – another affair that didn't last that long.

In keeping with a typical Grey Lantern presentation, the next band, Sprinters, bore little musical resemblance to the previous one. Sprinters opened their set with an instrumental, something that could be interpreted as a loosener, but is actually a deftly melodic and warm affair. On a wet November night, their songs are anything but miserable, instead conjuring up welcome memories of summer sun and lazy days.

Fuzzily distorted and intricate, TV Wonder are playing their last gig of a four-venue tour in the UK. It's anything but an end-of-season dead rubber to merely fulfil an obligation. This gig started off with a sound engineer, myself and the glow from the nearby Canadian Charcoal Pit in the deliciously low-key venue, and finished off with standing room only at the back.

Based on the evidence of their sound alone, you would think the band had grown up living next door to such positive influences as Dinosaur Jr. The reality is probably a bit more mundane, in that they enjoyed the buzz from abroad within their home city of Amsterdam and decided it was for them. Mind you, for this performance the band requested that the lights were turned off, so it was an unusual sensory experience.

Their efforts were enthusiastically appreciated by those present, and the fireworks outside were well matched inside Fuel.

Ged Camera

Photo by Ged Camera.

Metz + Protomartyr

4 November
Sound Control

Protomartyr began their set sprinkled with tracks from last year’s critically acclaimed Under the Color of Official Right and others that are newer or a little older. They are a band whose prowess in both playing and writing seems to have garnered only a fraction of the repute it deserves.

In a live setting, they are something special, but the lighting let them down tonight as it drowned the stage heavily. Consequently, the atmosphere they would thrive on also suffered. Vocalist Joe Casey’s performance style is somewhere between Tory uncle and convoluted poet. He may be dressed in a blazer, half-drunk and rambling mumbled lyrics, but he completely captivates the audience.

Metz are a completely different band, although touring together suits them both well. They balance and, more than anything, offset each other to create a full show. Immediately after emerging from the shadows, Metz asked for less light, allowing for a more atmospheric show. It began to feel like a proper punk gig – dark, dirty corners and the adoration flowed towards a group who were basically unseen, but for silhouettes and a few lights behind them.

Along with a few other American bands currently touring the UK, they are leading a punk resurgence that is much-needed in a rightwing climate. But rather than being performed by out-of-it 50-year-olds harking back to glory days, this is a new thing. A new fight and a new music infused with stoner rock and thrash to create something wholly compelling.

Wes Foster

Photo by Wes Foster.