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Merlin Tonto
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Merlin Tonto
Sat 18th Oct 2014 @ Mrs Fitzherberts

Headliner: Merlin Tonto
In support: Negative Pegasus
When: Sat 18th Oct 2014
Time: 7:00pm
Other info: Event page

Merlin Tonto
Live kraut rave to freak out your inner ear and mess with your depth perception.

Negative Pegasus
Dense drone riffs, returning to the live stage after taking a year off due to completely smashing up all of the bones in their tiny bodies.

Soft Arrows
Woozy shoegaze landscapes and machine-gun drumming, launching a brand new album.

Blue Spectre
Surf-rock from an alternate universe where sand is made out of reverb and sea-water is, like, I dunno, like beer or something.

Mrs Fitzherberts


25 New Road

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Merlin Tonto, Negative Pegasus, Soft Arrows and Blue Spectre @ Fitzherberts 18/10

12/04/2014 By James McLarnon

Fitzherbert’s cramped confines can be advantageous on some nights, as an audience in double figures tends to present the illusion of a crowd. This won’t, however, be one of those evenings,  get there early to ensure entry and you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding night of local entertainment without spending anything on door tax. Dither and risk missing out.

Merlin Tonto’s Tano Dragon has probably been the most unfairly overlooked album released by a Brighton band this year. Featuring members of gone-but-not-forgotten Cinemascopes and Speak Galactic, they sound like rave beamed in from Cologne ’72. Krautier and dronier than Physics House Band but less obfusque than Hypnotized would be apt local comparisons.

Drone-rock outift Negative Pegasus should already be familiar to you. They released the ferocious, yet trance inducing full-length album Looming back in 2012, which received plenty of critical praise, most notably from music OMH who described it as ‘one of 2012’s strongest debut rock albums’. Their show is a ritualistic orgy of riff-noise, similar to far more heralded American outfit Oneida. Their first Brighton gig for nearly 18 months, it’s not one to be missed.

Another outfit that haven’t been seen in Brighton for over a year is Soft Arrows, the combination of former Help She Can’t Swim man Tom Denney and ex-My Device drummer Russell Eke. They will be launching their third album, our man Nick Jarrett described their previous effort Overlapping Lives as “a bed of sparse, lo-fi, DIY sound, pockmarked with confused, discordant noise”.

Breaking us into the evening will be Blue Spectre, whose Sadie Strange EP specializes in an instrumental surf-psych that’s mighty good fun live and should appeal to anyone who’s got their dancing shoes on early.


Merlin Tonto, Negative Pegasus, Soft Arrows and Blue Spectre @ Fitzherberts 18/10/2014

22/04/2014 By James McLarnon

Merlin Tonto

As predicted this was a fantastic night of entertainment at Fitzherberts, which despite the bijou venue and the lack of entry fee ran smoothly and with little or no technical difficulties.

Some Pink Floyd like chords populated the first 30 seconds or so of Blue Spectre’s triumphant set, which was a complete red herring for what was to come. They were an instrumental five-piece that mix kraut and jazz structures with crystal clear surf guitars ending in an experience that was both propulsive and psychedelic. Where this kind of affair can go wrong is for the band to get stuck in motorik territory, but that never happened. An outstanding drummer delivered economical but interesting fills and time changes aplenty, while the winding lead guitar assumed the space a vocalist would ordinarily fill. The crowning glory of this great set was the crazy space noises coming from an electronic setup that was sadly out of this writer’s sight line but sounded fabulous.

On a bill of mainly instrumental bands – Negative Pegasus’s vocals being obfuscated to the point of rendering them another instrument – Soft Arrow’s set always had a feeling of odd one out. It was unhelpful that in the two-piece’s quieter moments, the vocals were all you could hang your hat on, and perhaps due to the lack of onstage monitors they were a little off kilter and slightly out of tune. The repeating pattern was the frantic post-hardcoreish crescendos being the best moments, with Tom Denney’s excellent guitar work clearly standing out. But it’s difficult to shake the feeling that these songs could do with a little more accompaniment to get their point across.

Negative Pegasus

Negative Pegasus

18 months since Negative Pegasus last played and it was like they’d never been away. A brave decision to play a set consisting of all new material, barring the corrosive finale of first album highlight ‘Floating Omen’, was vindicated in the quality of the unfamiliar. Opening with a track in familiar Neg Peg territory – slow, grinding, methodical battery with the noise generated by those fearsome guitars mounting gradually – the other new tracks demonstrate progression. The second number had a faster tempo and closed with a howling lead, while a riff sounding like a ray gun gave it a techno feel throughout. The penultimate track’s groove was in no hurry to get anywhere allowing ridiculous noise levels to fill the room in a manner not unlike those masters of slow-and-heavy Sleep or Electric Wizard. A ferocious set which bodes extremely positively for their forthcoming new album.

Following that set was a gauntlet that Merlin Tonto picked up with relish. It should be a matter of utter shame to Brighton that this band has a paltry 106  Facebook likes. Their Tano Dragon album is a master class in mixing clinical metronomic beats with synth wizardry to create something totally danceable, yet with the space and freedom for your mind to go on a journey. Live, it is spectacular. The monumental groove machine of the ex-Cinemascopes rhythm section appear to have such a feel for each other’s playing that their bass and drum workouts alone would be worthwhile, but here they just provide the perfect rhythmic foundation for Speak Galactic/Japanese Sweets man Owen to show off his immense talent with keys and sequencers. The journey in sound they traveled together was perfect. If there really is a heaven this should be the ascension music. Delightful stuff.

Words: @brightonjames2

Photos: Agata Urbaniak