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Live / stage review

Smoky reverie: The Letrasets at the Washington

Art-rock four-piece surprise with a pedal-heavy, cinematic set.

27 September 2022 at
The letrasets

The Letrasets.

Lewis Chetcuti.

Tasteful and dramatic alt-rock lit up The Washington on Tuesday night as Liverpool-based quartet The Letrasets won new fans with their atmospheric, pedal-heavy performance. Guitars reverberated and beats sounded huge, but the group’s players were controlled under woozy and slightly gothic frontman Tom Gamble. Watching guitarists Kellan Rakkar and Iggy Fletcher keep one eye on their pedals is a balancing act in itself, and with such huge sounding songs, shoegaze acts run the risk of submerging their audiences in a wall-of-delay.

Gamble, with help from Rakkar, punctures that fog with some dynamic lyrics, which are either abstract or hyper-specific. In ‘Something’ they temper bitterness against nostalgia over drummer Elliot Halfpenny’s skittering cymbals and a propellant rhythm: “Shaking me up and I feel like I’m blind / but I don’t mind / it’s just like a memory from when I was older”, which sounds so illusory it might just evaporate under the feedback.

But ‘You Jump Weird’ closes with “You jump weird you fucking prick / it’s all a game to you / you jump weird you fucking prick / no matter what you do”, breaking narrative miscellanea into emotional debris to leave a relationship in the dust.

Their secret weapon may actually be structure. Rakkar’s sonic architecture forgoes traditional verse-chorus-verse shapes and swings balletically between his own designs. The momentum built into later tracks ‘Saltwater Swim’ and the knockout closer ‘You Jump Weird’ come courtesy of some impeccable instrumentals and staggered refrains that emerge for air between sophisticated riffs.

The latter also carries Gamble and Halfpenny’s best performances: “Glass houses will break / they’ll fall into place / then float away / it was your mistake”. His words become pointed – barbed. Better yet, it leads to perhaps his first perfect hook: “I’ll just pretend / again and again”. Halfpenny’s militant drum fills clear the way through the song’s smoky reverie, resulting in an altogether cinematic moment. There are enough interesting ideas in an ellipsis like that to keep this band busy for years.

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