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.
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.
Photos: Agata Urbaniak