Goods Yard, Brighton Station
Brighton is extremely lucky to have a record label of Fatcat’s quality and repute on our doorstep. Started after Alex Knight and David Cawley’s central London record store of the same name was shut in 1997, their formative years were spent releasing electronic music before their move to Brighton in 2001. A quick glance at their roster past and present reveals a who’s who of contemporary music including Animal Collective, Frightened Rabbit, No Age, Sigur Ros, The Bug and Mice Parade. This late show at the ever reliable Green Door Store is a line up of some of the best local(ish) talent they currently have to offer and better still it’s free if you can handle the 11pm start on a school night.
Headliners Mazes have always had an intrinsic link to Brighton despite forming in Manchester and calling London their home. They’ve played at least 10 shows here since the start of 2011 and Fatcat is not their first Brighton based record label, having released two early 7” singles on the fantastic and much missed Sex Is Disgusting Records. Their debut album proper A Thousand Heys was damned with faint praise for it’s simple, lo fi, Pavement meets 80s R.E.M styling, not a million miles away from Parquet Courts who were lavished with adoring press this year for adopting a similar trick. Proving that they are not a band to rest on their laurels, follow up Ores and Minerals was released at the start of this year to a noticeably improved critical reception with The Quietus describing it as “the first great guitar album of the year”. Noticeably the influences had widened significantly as evidenced by album opener ‘Bodies’, which demonstrates a Neu! like flair for metronomic percussion and a Wire-ish minimalism in 6 minutes of building tension. Befitting of a band that tours incessantly, their show at the Prince Albert earlier this year was confident and accomplished, effortlessly mixing and matching between their two different sounding records.
Plenty good has been written about Traams in the pages of Brighton Noise already and deservedly so. Like the headliners they have connections with Brighton beyond their label, having risen primarily through their regular gigging in the local live scene over the last couple of years despite hailing from sleepy Chichester. Indeed, One Inch Badge had them play on one of their Sea Monsters shows earlier this year, an honour normally only bestowed on bands from the local area. This show will be their second of the evening, with the band hot footing it from supporting Toy at the Bermuda Triangle earlier in the evening. It is likely to represent something of a victory lap as this year has been very kind to them, seeing their debut album Grin released and receiving extensive airplay as well as their live reputation further enhancing through a series of gradually more high profile shows. They share sonic similarities with the headline act; both have definitely caught the krautrock bug and are clearly indebted to the slacker charm of Pavement, with Traams though you need to throw the virtuosity of Television into the mix.
Brighton based label Fat Cat Records hosted a late night party with three bands currently making waves in the British alt-rock scene at the Green Door Store in the week before Christmas. Brighton – as can normally be relied upon – came out in force and were rewarded with three performances of the highest quality.
In what seemed at the time an attempt to ensure that even the worker bees had a chance to see the most nationally-popular band of the evening, Mazes emerged first to a respectably full venue – considering the completely miserable weather – around 11:30. They played a very similar set to the one they have been touring this year in support of their underrated second album Ores and Minerals, albeit with a couple of tracks included from their more recently released Better Ghosts EP.
Perhaps it was their role as de facto openers, or a slight end of term feel after clocking up over 100 shows this year, but their technically proficient set seems to fall a little flat in comparison to the rest of the evening. Take ‘Bodies’, the opening track of the gig and their most recent record, which creeps along with its Neu! like percussion and minimal, Wire-esque ‘less is more’ guitar parts before breaking into a Television style guitar lead to end. On record, it served as a break from their previous material and an intriguing entry point to an album of different sounds, live it just seems to outstay its welcome a tad, especially considering this is a late night, party crowd. Unusually, for me, it was the shorter, catchier, punkier numbers that seemed to come across better this evening with ‘Dan Higgs Particle’s’ blink and you’ll miss it Lungfishisms, the Pavement indebted ‘Bowie Knives’ and outstanding punk-kraut closer ‘Skulking‘ in particular coming across well. The band are remarkab
ly well practiced with the rhythm section in particular standing out and it appears that vocalist Jack Cooper has been quietly improving since the last time we saw them at the Prince Albert at the start of this year.
Traams appeared to learn the lesson of Mazes’ slightly hesitant display, even though it was their second performance of the evening, having supported Toy at The Bermuda Triangle earlier in the night. They absolutely tore through their set which centred on this year’s marvelous Grin album, in a fashion that marked this out as the best performance from them in around half a dozen over the course of the year. The entire set had a celebratory feel about it, the main room now close to full with luminaries from Brighton-based bands seemingly everywhere, a good natured but lively mosh pit and even an outbreak of crowd surfing. It was no more than Traams earned, with a post-hardcore zeal in their delivery of already minor classics ‘Fibbist’ and ‘Flowers.’ The moment of the evening came from the seamless transition from the anthemic burst of ‘Flowers’ to the bass heavy, krauty, Women-esque ‘Klaus’. Confidence is clearly high in this band at the moment and whilst vocalist and guitarist Stu Hopkins remains the star of the show the rhythm section, who have tended to shun the limelight in the past, were equally demanding of the audience’s attention. 2013 has been deservedly kind to Traams, 2014 could well be even kinder.
This meant it was left to PAWS to close the night to a significantly reduced but far from derisory crowd. It was almost immediately clear that those remaining had made an excellent decision in staying for the Scottish three piece. They were urgent, catchy and immediate – their most memorable track ‘Jellyfish’ has a chorus reminiscent of Sum 41 but rocked out like Vancouvan party-starters Japandroids. It’s a formula they repeated with excellent results, merging a keen pop punk-like ear for a melody within a more traditionally grungy aesthetic. It’s the type of thing you think is commonplace and technically undemanding, when in reality it’s rare to come across a group doing it as well as PAWS.