It seemed every indicator was against Merlin Tonto’s support slot, upstairs at the still new and shiny Joker venue on Preston Circus. The evening sun of a glorious day had yet to descend, there was no rig for their thoughtful and mood enhancing projection and they were preparing to play a set of unrecorded material to an audience, generally unfamiliar with their œuvre.
Those obstacles were demolished with ease. It’s no secret that we loved last year’s Tano Dragon EP here, but the new material is superior. It has subtly moved away from the krautrock structures to something that is altogether wider ranging and more contemporary. Still opting to present their work as one continuous half-hour piece, there are Factory Floor-esque, techno-meets-acid-house oscillation workouts, spacious and beautiful ambient passages reminiscent of Owen’s work in Japanese Sweets and heavy basslines worthy of ESG, all anchored by Stefan’s precise, patient and disciplined drum work. The fact that we’ve seen this set four times in the last month in no way detracted from the enjoyment, so keep an eye out for their forthcoming release, it’s going to be a cracker.
As exceptional as Merlin Tonto are, we’re not sure there’s many bands in the world that could live with Follakzoid in a small sweaty venue at the moment. It’s the three tracks from their mini-masterpiece III released earlier this year that stand out as being something unique. If earlier material stepped into more obvious psych rock/Neu worship, the newer stuff has cleaned up the fuzz, removed all bar essential instrumentation, and developed a minimal techno fetish for repetitions with the subtlest of development over the course of the song. There is something genuinely spiritual and shamanistic about this Chilean band’s incantations, especially with the sun setting to remove the final traces of natural light during the gig. It doesn’t hurt that they have the aloof coolness of a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They seem to have found an audience as well; this gig being far more middle-aged-male dominated than even the last Fall show in town! We’d imagine given how good they are, this balance will be somewhat redressed the next time they visit.
Words: James McLarnon